Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Knitting and Crocheting......

If you know me really well, you know that I learned to knit when I was a child.
My paternal grandmother "Nanny" taught both Lynda and I to knit, as they say, practically before we could walk.

Over the years I've knit everything from Afghan's to sweaters, hats, mitts, gloves, scarves and slippers
Nothing hard like socks, never could get the hang of using 4 needles.

When I was in my 30's, my sister showed me that she had learned how to crochet!
Someone had showed her a simple Granny Square, which you just kept going around and around and around until it got to the size of blanket you wanted.

So simple, so fast!  I tried my hand at it and found that it was indeed very simple and VERY fast.
Much faster than knitting and I really liked it.

From the simple Granny Square, I picked up some patterns for other Afghans or blankets and I taught myself all of the stitches other than the chain and double crochet used in the Granny Square.

The more I learned, the more I liked crocheting much more than knitting!

My sister Lynda, preferred and remains a great knitter.  Her 4 daughters and 6 grandchildren can attest to that!

One year I found a pattern for a thigh-length crocheted coat.  I made one for myself, one for my sister and then about 4 more for friends.  Wish I still had that pattern..........

I didn't make any other clothes that I can recall.....crochet patterns just don't have the same styling that knitted patterns do for some reason.  I guess crochet is to "square" and I don't mean old-fashioned kind of square.

As the years went on, I made all different patterns of Afghans for everyone I knew and they all loved them.  If people wanted a particular colour, I simply asked them to buy the yarn and I would not charge anything for my time.  See how much I love crocheting?

One year I entered one of my Afghans into the Markham Fair......I didn't win any prize but I was so proud when I saw it under the glass cabinet at the fairgrounds!

Fast forward to 2001 when I met my future husband John.  I didn't crochet much at this time because I was too busy doing other things (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Over time, we travelled to places such as the Dominican Republic and Mexico.  We would either rent a car or hire a taxi for a day and travel off the resorts and into the "real" D.R. and Mexico and see the "real" people of those countries.

I was always sad when we'd see these "real" people, because they were so very poor it was heartbreaking.  But I did notice one thing with each and every person we saw........they always had a smile on their face!  Made me realize that even though they had what we perceive as "nothing", they had the most important thing and that was was a beautilful realization!

After John and I got married in 2004, I started to crochet once again......I made many, many Afghans and blankets........lots of happy friends and family later, I wanted to make something that was quick, easy and small so I could work through the summer without sweating with a heavy warm blanket on my lap.  I started to make Granny Squares......4" square.  Then I would sew the squares together to make.....BABY BLANKETS!

I found out that if I went to Walmart and bought the big balls of baby sport yarn, they were only about $8.00 with tax then, that one ball would make one blanket....not a great expense for an entire blanket!

Thus began my baby blanket era.........I made square, upon square, upon square.....I had squares everywhere in the house.  When people came over they would say "oh look at all the cute squares"......then I would sew them together and have lots of wonderful baby blankets.

Small sample of my blankets and squares.

John and I retired in 2007 and the day after Christmas that year, we said goodbye to our friends and family and drove 5 days to Mexico.  I had taken 10 or 12 baby blankets with me on that trip.

When we got to the bungalows where we were staying for 3 months, I asked our landlady who was a Mexican married to a Canadian, if she knew anyone that would need a baby blanket for free.

The town we were staying in was called Los Ayala, a very small town with dirt roads, no sidewalks, no streetlights, etc.  We were living in "real" Mexico.  Most of the people in that town were very poor but as I said, very happy.

Some of the Mexican families in need.

Romy sent the word out that a "Gringa" from Canada was giving away handmade crocheted baby blankets to anyone who was pregnant or had a baby and was in need of a blanket to come to her Casa on such a day at such a time.

That day, there they were.....10-12 women, some with babies, some with big bellies soon to be babies.....they were so grateful it thrilled me to no end.  I thought there would maybe be 1,2 or 3 women, but there were as many women as there were blankets.  Perfecto!

(You may be wondering, why would babies in such a hot climate need blankets?  During the winter, when we Canadians and American love to travel to the warm south, the local people find it cool during the day and very cold at night, especially those who live up in the mountains away from the ocean. While we are in bathing suits sweating in the sun, some local people wear jeans and sweaters!)

The following year, we changed locations and were living in Bucerias for 4 and 5 months at a time.  Our landlady at these bungalows introduced me to a lady doctor who ran a free clinic in town.   Our landlady had been donating the worn out sheets from the bungalows to the clinic to put on the stretchers for the patients so it would be a bit more sterile.   I met Doctora Nilda and she told me through our landlady, that she was sending new mother's with babies born at the clinic home with just a sheet to wrap the baby in.

When I handed Doctora Nilda  a huge pile of baby blankets, she started to cry and just repeat "Muchas Gracias Senora".........she was just thrilled for her patients.

All, in all, I think I made and gave Dra. Nilda over 35 baby blankets.

My heart was fingers were sore............the babies were warm!

Baby Delphine....snuggly warm in her blanket!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


I know some people liked hearing my memories of my young life and I tried to continue but had to stop.

I started a post about my Mom, actually got quite a long story going but it was causing me a lot of stress.  I loved my mother so dearly and she had such a hard life.....I don't want to blog about bad things that bring me to tears so I deleted it.

Too many bad memories.

So, for a change, I'm going to back to my original reason for this new little business "The Baby Crow".

I may go back to memories later, we'll see.

I hope no-one minds.......if you want to unfollow me I totally understand.



Sunday, 19 June 2011

Why I love the "Original Six"..........a tribute to my Father

My father was a sports fanatic.  Not because he watched it, because he was involved in it.

He was a speed walker, hope you know what that is.  In 1929, when he was 19 years old, he won the Toronto to Guelph speed walking race.  Yes, he walked all the way from Toronto to Guelph and did it in the fastest time.

Unfortunately later that year he was pole vaulting and had a bad accident, breaking his hip.  He wore a body cast for months.  He would never be a participant in sports again.

But that didn't stop him from being involved.

In his spare time, away from his regular job as a Sheet Metal Worker, he was a sports trainer, for numerous sports teams, both baseball and hockey.  He was not a doctor but he was the next best thing to it if someone got hurt on the field or the ice.  And he was loved by "his boys" as he called the athletes he worked with.

He was involved with The Toronto Maple Leafs of the old International Baseball League down at Maple Leaf Stadium which stood at the foot of Bathurst Street.  They tore the stadium down years ago and there are town houses there now but the street is still called Stadium Row.  He met all the great baseball players, coaches, scouts, etc.  One of his best friends was Bob Prentice who was a scout for the Detroit Tigers and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He was the trainer for The Toronto Maple Leafs Inter-county Baseball Team who play out of Christie Pits.  When he died in 1971, they honoured him by awarding "The Forbes Walkey Memorial Trophy" which goes, each year, to the MVP of the team.  Over 40 years later, they still award the trophy to "his boys".......the guys weren't even a twinkle in their mother's eye when he was with the team but they are honoured to receive it just as if they knew him.  Every once in a while we go down to Christie Pits to watch a game and soak up the memories from yesteryear.

Dad's jacket

My Dad was also the trainer for several minor hockey teams over the years and would take Lynda and I along to some of the games.  By the time she was 16, Lynda had a boyfriend she was smitten with so she  told my Dad she didn't want to go to hockey games any more, but me being younger, I still went and loved it!  I would even get to sit in the dressing room (after the players were dressed in their uniforms of course).....and can still remember the noise and smells and excitement in the air!

In the Summer of 1959, when I was 12, my Mom and Dad told me we were going on a trip to North Bay for a long weekend baseball tournament and that Dad would be the team trainer.  We didn't have a car but we were going with the coach of the team. Mom, the coach's wife and I sat in the back seat while Dad and the coach sat up front.  Such a long drive.....but I loved it and we would be staying in a motel which I had never done before!

What I didn't know but learned on the drive there, was that the team was called "The 7-Up All-Stars", the sponsor was 7-Up and the players were the All-Stars........THE N.H.L. ALL-STARS!!!!!

Hours later, we pulled into the Motel in North Bay and the entire Motel had been reserved for the team.  We had full run of the place!  It was late when we arrived, so I had to go to bed right away so I could get up early the next day to meet "the boys" I ever got to sleep is beyond me!

When morning came, the first thing we did was go to the motel restaurant for breakfast.  This fellow was sitting by himself eating and asked Mom, Dad and I to join his table.  Dad introduced him to me as Brian Cullen of The Toronto Maple Leafs!  Wow!

Other guys started to come in......and as they did, they stopped at our table and introduced themselves to me and shook my hand (I of course, didn't know that this had all been pre-arranged the night before by my Dad)........Ed Chadwick, my favorite Leaf goalie, Carl Brewer and Bobby Baun!  I couldn't believe my eyes!  The next fellow's name was Cal Gardner, I didn't know the name but my Dad quickly told me that Mr. Gardner plays for the Boston Bruins.......What????

Brian Cullen
Carl Brewer
The last fellow from the Leaf's to come up to me was...........The Big "M"!  Frank Mahovlich!  I thought I had died and gone to heaven, he was EVERYONE's favourite and he was holding on to my hand!

Me and The Big "M"
We spent most of the weekend attending games and it was so much fun seeing all these hockey players playing baseball!  They didn't win a lot of games but I think they raised a lot of money.

On Sunday morning, Dad asked me if I would like to go and watch some of the team play Golf.  Cal Gardner had his two sons with him, and he would be looking after the three of us kids so Dad said it was okay to go while he and mom stayed back and rested at the motel.

I heard a loud voice say "hey kid, wanna ride in my convertible to the golf course?"  I turned around and it was Bobby Baun in a beautiful, brand new red convertible.  I picked my jaw up off the ground and walked over to the car and Bobby came around and opened the door for me as if I was his date!  I know I was only 12 but I felt so much older being in this gorgeous car with this good looking guy, scars and all!  Luckily my Dad was right there to get a picture of it!

Me and Bobby Baun in the
Red Convertible!!!!
Frank Mahovlich couldn't play golf that day because his kid brother Peter was sick so he had to stay at the motel with him.  I liked Peter too, he was a tall gangly kid and it would have been fun to hang around with him.

The rest of weekend was spent watching baseball, buying souvenirs, eating and sitting in one of the motel rooms with all the guys (and their girlfriends or wives).  Whenever someone would start to tell an interesting story, my Dad, or one of the other guys, would send me to the store to buy something for them.  I know now that they were most likely jokes not meant for my young ears.

Before we left on Monday afternoon, I made sure that Dad got a picture of me with all of my favourite players.  52 years later I still have most of those pictures, although they are pretty worn out from showing them around.   That weekend meant the world to me and that's why I love the Original Six!

Happy Father's Day Dad and thanks for the memories!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Father's Day 2011

My next Blog post will be on Sunday in honour of Father's Day.

Dad and I in 1965 on my (1st) Wedding Day

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A New Chum........

When I was 3 or 4, I was walking up the street with my Mom, when a small dog jumped out of the bushes and bit me on the wrist.  It didn't break the skin, just a scratch, but it scared me badly.  My mother tried to comfort me by telling me that she too had been bitten by a small dog of the same breed when she was a child.  She hated that breed because of it.  I won't name the breed because I love all dogs and don't want to tarnish any breed's reputation because of something that happened so long ago.

From that day on, I was scared to death of all dogs.  If I stepped out of my house, onto the sidewalk and saw a dog 3 blocks away, I would start to shake and cry because I was so afraid that it would run down the street and bite me.

This was a real fear, a deep fear and it ruled my young, innocent life.  Any dog, big or small was a monster out to get me.  No-one could tell me that it was just a one-time thing, not all dogs bite, dogs are good, etc. etc. etc.  I knew that they were all going to bite me no matter what anyone said.

They told me if I act afraid, the dog will sense it.  Well, the dogs were right, I was afraid, more than afraid I was terrified!

After we had moved to our new house, one day my Dad said we were going out for something.  Mom was staying at home, it was just Dad, Lynda and I.

We got on one streetcar, then another, then yet another.  When we got off at our final destination, we saw a huge sign that read "TORONTO HUMANE SOCIETY".  I, at 10, didn't know what that meant.

We went inside this Toronto Humane Society place and were greeted by a man who showed us to a big room in the back.  Suddenly we could hear dogs barking!!!  I was terrified!  My Dad told me that the dogs were in cages and they couldn't get near me, no matter what.  He promised.  Crossed his heart and hoped to die if he wasn't telling me the truth.

Tears started to come to my eyes as we entered this huge room full of cages of dogs.  Big dogs, little dogs, hairy dogs, smooth dogs.  So many dogs I couldn't believe my eyes......and Dad had told the truth, they were all in cages and couldn't hurt me even if they wanted to.

We walked around and around to each and every cage and once I was used to them, Dad announced that we were here to buy one of them.  Really?  I started to cheer up at the thought that maybe a dog of our own would like me and not be tempted to bite me!

Dad showed us one cage with 3 Beagle pups and said that we should pick one of them to take home.  When we had been walking around, Lynda and I had spotted one dog that as soon as we got near him, he jumped up on the cage door and had asked us to take him home.  We loved that little dog already.

We showed this dog to Dad and he said "are you kidding?  That dog is ugly.  These Beagles are beautfiul, pick one and we'll take him home."  Lynda and I protested and said that we really, really wanted the ugly one because he had told us he wanted us by jumping up.  The beagle pups had just curled up and gone to sleep.  Our dog was wagging his tale and smiling!

Dad gave in.  We went to the front and bought a collar and a leash and gave it to the man.  Dad did the paperwork, paid for him and the man went back and brought out our dog with the collar and leash on!
We were so thrilled and so was the little ugly dog.

When we got home, we shouted with joy "Mom, we have a puppy!!!"  Mom took one look at the little ugly dog and said "Oh My God, what is THAT?"  He had really wirey looking hair, sticking out all over the place, he was smelly and they had fed him so much he looked, as Mom said, like he had swallowed a football!

We took him to the bathroom, gave him a bath, combed and combed his hair.  Dad was drying him with a towel and this little dog was so happy!  We put out his bowls of food and water and he found them and had a taste and then started to run through the house like a madman.

We took him for walks, he peed on literally every bush and tree there was.  Later that night, all 4 of us had on our pyjamas and housecoats and sat in the living room with our new best friend.  We were trying to think of a name and Mom said she didn't care what his name was, that dog was not coming near her.....she still thought he was ugly.  We thought he was beautiful.  We decided that his name would either be Buddy or Chum.  After much discussion, we settled on Chum.

Chum had made a decision of his own and that was that he loved Mom.  When she wasn't expecting it, he jumped up in her lap.  She looked shocked at this but started to laugh and said "well, I guess he's not so bad".  Right after she said that, he made a little pee in her lap!  Mom wasn't very pleased at all.

My Dad said it was just that he was excited, took Chum and put him on his lap.....yup, he peed on Dad too!  Lynda was next, you guessed it, turn was last, where the heck did all this pee come from?????  We laughed and laughed and Dad said he had marked his territory and that it meant that he loved us all.

Mom wasn't very happy as you can imagine with all this laundry to be done.

We all changed our pyjamas, and went off to bed, Lynda and I were told, "the dog sleeps on the floor".
When we got in bed, he laid right beside it on the floor, happy to be in his new home.

The next morning, we got up early and were very quietly calling " Chum"....he didn't come when we called him so we went looking for him.

There he was, sound asleep right beside Mom, and right up on her bed!

Our beautiful Chum!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

New Beginnings...........and some oddities

When we were all settled in to the new house, Dad decided that the place needed decorating.
There was horrible wallpaper in each room and the floors weren't in the best of shape either.

Dad suggested that Lynda and I should invite our friends over for a wallpaper removing party!
I invited my best friend Penny Boyd, and Lynda invited her best friend Patsy Baird.
This was going to be fun!  (Keep in mind that we're still 10 and 14.)

We had all the equipment we would need, buckets with warm water, sponges and scrapers.
Since Lynda was 4 years older than me, she decided that her and Patsy would do one room and Penny and I would do another room.
Dad thought it was a good idea that we be separated too, so there would be no fighting and we'd get lots of work done.

Dad showed us how to soak the paper with the wet sponge in a section, wait for a few minutes, soak another section, wait a few minutes and then go back to the first section and start scraping.  Easy!

Since Dad had showed us in the room Penny and I were working on, we got a head start and let those other girls know it by taunting them "we're going to finish first, we're going to finish first".  A loud "Shut up" came out of the other room and Dad told them not to say Shut up, it wasn't nice......and everyone should get back to work.

No fancy chemicals or scrapers back then!
We started to scrape the wallpaper off and found out that it wasn't going to be very easy as it was not just one layer of wallpaper, there must have been at least FIVE layers!  If this was my Dad's idea of a good time,  we were in trouble.  Lynda and Patsy soon discovered that their room was the same and they weren't too happy either.

We kept at it and scraped and scraped and finally got a small portion that was down to the bare walls!  This was going to take forever!!!

After a few hours of this it was time for lunch.  After lunch, Penny and Patsy announced that they really wanted to stay, but they had to go home.  Lynda and I looked at each other and then looked at Dad and he said "it's okay girls, I'll help you with the walls."  He had been in yet another room and had made a lot more progress than we had.

By the end of the weekend, all the walls were bare and ready for whatever decorating was coming up.  We prayed that it would not be more wallpaper!

I must tell you now, that before the war, my Dad had been an artist....a painter.......and you know artistic types can have some odd ways of thinking (no offence but it's true).

Dad decided that tiling the floor with linoleum tiles, would be the easiest, quickest and nicest way to go and he could just glue them right over the awful sheet linoleum that was on the existing floors.  They would be easy to keep clean too.

When he was finished, they looked amazing!

After he was done with the floors, he had to decide what to do with the walls.  The artistic part of his brain told took over and he came up with an idea.  He decided to put the same linoleum tiles on each and every wall, from floor to ceiling in every room except the kitchen and bathroom!!  What????  My Mom was mortified at the thought of it, but there was just no stopping Dad when he got these ideas in his head.

It took him a few weekends of working all day Saturdays and Sundays but he finished and there it was, just like he had said, floor to ceiling in each and every room.  You couldn't tell the floors from the walls!  But you know what?  It was easy to clean just as he had said, and since he did most of the cleaning (remember I told you about Mom not being well).....he would get out the mop and go from floor to wall with one swipe!  He was so proud of what he'd done.

Mom, Lynda and I were embarrassed at first but after awhile, when you got used to it, it really wasn't that bad and when our friends came over they simply said "I see you've been climbing the walls again!"

One thing I'm grateful for is that those walls and floors stayed exactly the same for all the years we lived there.  God Bless whoever bought the house after us and had to remove those tiles from the walls!

Miniature Rose painted by my Dad....maybe 80 yrs. ago

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Big Move........

Well, finally the day came when we would move from Nanny's house to our very own house!
How thrilled and excited we all were.
We all had jobs to do and mine was "special" to me at least.
We lived on a street with parking on one side only, which happened to be the side of the street where our house was.
So, my job was to stand on the sidewalk (too young to be on the road) and if any cars came to park where the moving van was going to be, to kindly ask them not to park there.
I was very good at my job.
Whenever a car would come to park, I would tap on the window and wait for them to either roll down the window or step out of the car and explain "could you please not park here, we are moving today to our very own house and the moving van needs to park in these spots."
Some people were very kind and just moved along, others thought it was their right to park wherever they wanted.  For the ones who didn't want to move I would tell them that it would be best to move the car because I wouldn't be in the neighbourhood anymore and that would be good for them!
They kindly obliged but I didn't know why they were laughing.

Waiting and waiting for the moving van, I was so excited I thought I'd burst.
Finally here it came down the street and I ran back and forth and back and forth yelling "here comes the truck, everyone keep back!"

They started to load up our furniture and then Mom came out and said that we should leave and go to the new house and wait for the moving van there.  We said goodbye to Nanny and she looked very sad but, I haven't told you yet.....we were only moving 3 blocks away!

Our new house was at 4 Emerson Avenue which wasn't far, but it was on the other side of busy Bloor Street.  Mom, Lynda and I easily made the 10 minute walk to our new house and on the way, we stopped at the Real Estate Office and picked up "The Key"!  To me it was a magic key because it would open the door to the rest of our lives!  We could eat popsicles or gum or anything else that our parents would allow!  Imagine!

Mom had the key and off we went, across Bloor Street and over one block to Emerson.  We were so happy Lynda and I kept running ahead and Mom was saying "don't get too far ahead, I have the key so you can't get in!"

We were finally there and we walked up the 3 stairs to the front porch, Mom turned the key and we were home!

4 Emerson Ave (right hand side) the new owners have turned it into a  Triplex
We were so excited we ran through the house from front to back screaming with excitement.  Mom told us we had to be quieter because (we didn't know) there were tenants living in the apartment above us.  That was one of the ways they were able to buy the house, having rent money to help with the payments.

We quieted down as much as we could at 10 and 14 and waited for Dad and the moving truck.  Not long after the truck arrived and Dad took control telling the moving men exactly where to put things.  The house wasn't very big and Lynda and I would share a bedroom but we didn't care because we shared at Nanny's house too.

It seemed to take forever until the moving men were gone and we were left on our own.  We put away as much as we could, Mom made sure that all beds were made first and then we went to a restaurant for dinner which was a very special thing!

I don't remember much after that as I must have fallen fast asleep exhausted from all the excitement.

As my Dad used to say "Night Mare, hope you don't have any"...........

Monday, 13 June 2011

Allow me to digress, if I may....

Before I get on to the "better life" we had.........

One of the good memories I have of living with Nanny, was that in her backyard she had a huge Double White French Lilac tree.....just at the top of the vegetable garden.

French Lilac

Funny how some memories stay with you because of the look and smell of things......this Lilac tree has always been there in the back of my mind.

I feel bad speaking negatively about Nanny.  After all, she tried her best to help out my parents with my sister and I when our Mom wasn't able to.........not really her fault that we didn't like the way she handled some things.

I think I challenged her more than Lynda did.  Like the time she came upstairs to use the washroom and saw me in the living room dancing around with one of my Mom's cigarettes!!  I think I was about 8 at the time.  She was so upset and I felt so ashamed.  She chose to deal with it in a way that would mean more to me than getting a spanking.  She had a beautiful watch that had a blue sapphire on the part that winds the watch, and she stood Lynda and I in front of her and said that she was giving the watch to Lynda because she didn't smoke.  I was so upset I cried for hours.  But, being the defiant one, I went back upstairs and at the first opportunity, danced around with another one of my Mom's cigarettes, but made sure that the door was closed this time so I wouldn't get caught!  And this time I actually puffed on it!  I sure showed her!

This morning I went off to the nursery in Barrie, and I bought a Double White French Lilac which I am going to plant in our backyard in her memory.  I will call the Lilac "Elizabeth", after Nanny.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Today I write.......

Welcome to my Blog!
I don't exactly know why I'm doing this, but here I am.
All my life I've been told "you should write a book".......well this isn't a book, but I'm writing!

Allow me to tell you something about myself.
I was born in Orangeville, Ontario 64 years ago.

My father was Forbes Walkey, my mother was Dorothy Jones Walkey.
Unfortunately, both of my parents died in their early 60's and I miss them both but especially my Mom.

I have one sister, Lynda Mills, who is my life's blood.  I love her more and more everyday.
My sister has 4 daughters, Natalie, Lisa, Kim and Stacey.  These girls are my beloved nieces and the only children who have been as close as my own children you can possibly get.
Natalie has a daughter Charly.
Lisa has a son, Taylor and a daughter Brett.
Kim has two sons, Ben and Zachary and a daughter Emily.
Stacey, is like her Aunt and has no children of her own.

More about this part of the family later.......

During our young life, we were raised in Toronto at Lansdowne and Bloor, not a good neighbourhood now, but back then it was a good,  ethnic (Italian mainly), family neighbourhood.

Nanny's House
My sister and I didn't have the greatest lives when we were young due to the fact that our mother was very ill during most of our childhood, our father was very strict and for a long time we lived with our paternal grandmother who was the strictest woman I have ever met.  I guess we are grateful that she helped to raise us, but most of my memories of Nanny are not very pleasant.  No abuse or anything like that, don't get me wrong.  Just so strict with everything.  Example:  my mother would go grocery shopping (when she wasn't in hospital) and buy us popsicles which she would have to hide in the bottom of the grocery bag so that she could sneak them past Nanny on her way up to our part of the house on the second floor.  Nanny didn't believe in buying sweets like that for children.  So, you get the idea.

When I was 10 and my sister 14, our Mom went out on her own and bought a small house.  She had had enough of living with Nanny.  Ever grateful for the help but wanting to raise her children herself, her own way.

This would be the start of a new life for us be continued.............