"The World is but a Canvas to the Imagination"
~Henry David Thoreau~

April's Tender Nest....
Where the Creative Spirit is nurtured and cared for.

April Martin-Ko
Creativity Consultant, Holistic Life Coach and Educator.

Tea Time at April's Tender Nest

Tea Time at April's Tender Nest
Tea Time at April's Tender Nest

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

what's so special about eastvan?

last week my friend and poet, sachiko murakami launched her new book of poetry with talon books, rebuild. the launch was in toronto where sachi is living now, but the book, i believe to be.... very vancouver. http://talonbooks.com/news/sachiko-murakami-s-launch-of-rebuild.  last year sachi asked some of her poet friends (myself included) to translate a poem she wrote on vancouver specials, as part of a project associated with her forthcoming book. if you are from vancouver you know exactly what a vancouver special is, but for all those transplants and other folks out there, a vancouver special is a type of house that was built in mass numbers from approximately 1965-1985. they were and are seen by some as ugly, but those in vancity have now embraced this house and tried to funkify or even upscale it.  i believe they are loved by many in my generation right now, like much of the 'retro'  80's style.  here are some cool links to check out the vancouver special,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vancouver_Special  http://www.vancouverspecial.com/ .  there is even a cool design store on main st. in vancouver with the namesake "vancouver special" http://www.vanspecial.com/.  my partner, who is an architect and builder really enjoys this "vancouver special" store; his opinion on the actual vancouver specials.... he believes when they were built they utilized space efficiently and thinks they probably have 'good bones', but aesthetically speaking, they don't appeal to his design sense; however, he thinks it would be a lot of fun to renovate one.
A recently renovated vancouver special in my hood

in regards to my poetry translation of sachi's vancouver special, somehow mine became very 'east vancouver'.  check-out my poem and translations of it on the project re-build website  http://www.projectrebuild.ca/ , you click on the little vancouver special house and a poet's name will pop-up and then you can read the poem. you are also able to renovate or translate these translations on the website . it is true there are more vancouver specials in east van, but other east van elements  popped up in my poem, and i guess because... this is my neighbourhood and where i feel truly most at home in this city. i have and may in the future, live in other vancouver neighbourhoods, but eastvan feels like it fits me most, my artsy, subversive, inclusive, community feelin' ways.  on that note, i thought i would add another poem to the mix about eastvan, it may come across as sentimental, but that's me i guess...what can i say, i love my hood.

east vancouver special
bike polo parties
caution crochet
moose walking underneath window ledges
wood shavings left on the sidewalk
#20 transit therapy
dyke marches, bike marches and
midnight marching bands
saxophone serenades 
accordions at the liquor store and
guitar parks
children carried close
to the heart
walking down streets 
wearing p.j's in the middle 
of the day 
jesus and his disciples' fashion shows
walking to 
the beat of many drums
a black dog, a rio and a
very wise hall
pink volkswagon vans 
the 'east' van
chili trucks
crazy cats
coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee
a lake right in the middle
plums falling in backyards
earth school
raised vegetable beds and
community plots and corners and 
every available space to
the light 
on the hill 
at the corner of 
clark and east 6th ave
i've heard they even scrawl this 
on burning man bathroom walls
pink houses
yellow houses
and vancouver specials
with lion statues out front

april martin-september 2011

recent yarnbomb at the bike polo court: knitting contribution, karen martin, photo by holly hames
caution crochet by chacha

my friend celeste's bird yarnbomb; she was here from mexico for the summer she left her mark in the lovely park

Saturday, April 30, 2011

april showers and foolish flowers

as my namesake month comes to an end i am reflecting upon....spring, and if it will ever really arrive.

 i've heard spring is being hampered by a la nina year. during a period of la niƱa, the sea surface temperature across the equatorial eastern central pacific ocean will be lower than normal by 3–5 °C. this translates into....brrr.... cold and has us throwing up our hands questioning "is spring really here?" the plethora of cherry blossoms blooming in the city does fool us into thinking spring is indeed here, however,  this april i was still wearing a scarf and a toque most days.

the cold april weather inspired me to continue knitting..... 

on the eve of april 1st i thought it would be fun to adorn my neighbourhood with some yarnbombing; a tribute to the day of fools, in honor of spring and homage to the month whose name i bear.  but the joke was on me, as it began to rain that day and did straight for two days after, but as they say....."april showers bring may flowers". this proverb has been traced back to about 1557. first attested in the united states in 'colonial american poetry:

"sweet april showers
do spring may flowers"

thomas tusser, a hundred good points of husbandry, april husbandry
From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

 in many parts of the world april does indeed bring rains to help encourage those blooms and plants emerging from the soil, but there isn't anything written about april sweaters.  i know as a resident of the west coast of canada i shouldn't complain, as many other parts of the country actually still receive snow in april.  however, i am used to donning a spring dress in april rather than a thick sweater and tights.  my recent obsession with knitting and the crisp april weather inspired me to knit more cherry blossoms for those trees pushing themselves to bloom, as well as little sweaters to keep those daffodils and tulips warm.  i felt sorry for these flowers who were probably thinking they were foolish to emerge from the ground.
this one i did in downtown vancouver right in the middle of the  fashion district, the girls in the window were looking out at me puzzled as i knit on this little daffodil sweater

we are now on the door step of may; belatane according to the celts.
this translates as "bright fires", lets hope the bright fires of the sun decide to bestow warmth upon us this month!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

grandmother university

today marks the 100th anniversary of international women's day. on this significant day i had the privilege to participate in an aboriginal women's conference. the theme was... building success through education and wellness.  i had the opportunity to listen to well known aboriginal leader margaret harris, who is a respected cree elder from northern manitoba who has lived in prince rupert and vancouver throughout her adult life. starting in prince rupert she founded the we yah hani nah coastal first nations dance festival which was instrumental in reviving first nations culture in northwestern british columbia. she and other elders, who are part of grandparents group from raycam community centre came to share songs and dance.  i was inspired by grandma harris' (as she is known in her community) teachings today that emphasized the importance of connecting to cultural traditions and how they must be passed down among the generations.

warrior woman:  haida wolf and moon

she also emphasized that elders can learn from the vitality and creativity that is held by children.  this reminded me of why it is important that i share my sewing, and crafting skills i have learned from my mother and grandmothers with adaryn.  vedana shiva actualized this through her "grandmother university". she argues that passing down women's skills, which have often been labeled as craft, is an act of feminism "three centuries of marginalization of women's traditional knowledge needs to be corrected. The correction is vital for gender justice and women's empowerment and vital not only for women's equality, but for planetary health and humanity's survival" she argues for this last point because women's traditional knowledge is based on a holistic system, just like biodiversity. read more about the grandmother university at:   http://www.navdanya.org/diverse-women-for-diversity/grandmothers-university
on my way home after the conference i stopped by a used bookstore and as i usually say...' a book found me',  no idle hands: the social history of american knitting by anne l. macdonald. i thought this book was fitting regarding my renewed interest in the craft; i look forward to learning how women of the past used knitting to express themselves and mark their place in history... i hope it continues to feed my desire to keep this craft, which my fraternal grandmother loved to spend her time doing, alive.

Monday, March 7, 2011

cherry bombs

it feels like spring is about to bloom. today mr. and mrs. finch serenaded me as i surveyed my garden, making plans to get the fallow soil ready for bulbs.

yesterday crafters, knitters, authors and artists all gathered at the historic joy kogawa house to bestow some early spring in the form of wool and yarn on the cherry tree that inspired naomi's tree, read more at  http://www.fitzhenry.ca/detail.aspx?ID=10126.

the event was a partnership with the kogawa house and authors of yarn bombing: the art of crochet and knit graffiti, mandy moore and leanne prain http://yarnbombing.com/. it was a wonderful event of community art bringing together people from different areas of the city, diverse generations and backgrounds to string up hundreds and hundreds of knitted, crocheted and in my case, a felted cherry blossom, on the tree.  the local fire department even lent their ladder and i was told they were quite serious about where they were placing the woolly flowers. it was an inspiring experience to see all gathered lending their artistic hand to decorate the tree.

i felt especially inspired to attend this event, not only because of my love of cherry blossoms, spring, crafting and eagerness to learn how to knit again, but....also to re-connect with my childhood friend and author, leanne prain.  leanne and i grew-up on vancouver island playing together when our parents would have social gatherings; our parents being long time friends. both leanne and i had mothers who sewed; i think their interest in craft has seeped into our psyches and evolved our own passions.

unfortunately the knitting skills  i learned from my grandmother have been forgotten. i tried to learn crocheting from youtube before the knit in's but all i'm able to do at this point is make a chain, but that was all i needed on sunday to help string up the blossoms.  instead i made a needle felted a cherry blossom, which was welcomed.  i hope to re-learn my knitting skills with a stitch and bitch group so i can be ready to knit hats for next winter and maybe even yarnbomb my own yard this spring.

Friday, February 18, 2011

hearts, flowers and fairy tale moments: a valentine epilogue

my friends and family would confirm without a doubt, i am a hopeless romantic.  i blame it on my early exposure to movies like "gone with the wind".  but i think wistful thoughts of romance will always be a part of who i am.... as a girl they were carefully acted out with my barbies, of course.

i was watching one of those daytime television programs the other day, they were featuring a special relationship expert for valentines day. she talked of an interesting study about women's misconceptions and unrealistic expectations regarding romance.  the example she gave was one of a survey done on a group of women who watched the romantic comedy 'serendipity'.  these women were asked a week later about their belief in the idea 'there is only 'one' person out there for you'; they all agreed and said yes. they were compared with another group of women who had not watched the movie, these other women expressed they did not believe in 'fate', or the idea that there is only one true love out in the world for them. interesting..... life thus far has definitely taught me we can love in many forms; however, i have to admit this will not cause me to no longer believe in finding one spellbinding true love....i'm much too romantic to give up on this belief.

i think this is just part of the world vision i hold...  that our lives do indeed follow paths based on opportunity, chance and fate. when i met my true love it was serendipitous, so many circumstances presented themselves to us that caused us to stop in our tracks and give our heads a little shake. our story is one of magic. this leads me to the other point the relationship expert made.... life is not a romantic comedy or jane austen novel, but we can relish in those fairy tale moments when they happen, like when my love and i were dancing our toes off the other night, or when i opened up a box beautifully embellished with birds and flowers to reveal a turquoise raw silk cheongsam; a family heirloom..... or the look on ed's face when i gave him my carefully stitched valentine.  these enchanting little flashes, like dreams or tiny films in our minds are ones we can return to when we hear a familiar tune, catch a wift of a particular aroma, or brush our hand across an acquainted piece of fabric.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


well, today is officially the start of the new year....because my spouse is chinese and i hold to the traditions of jewish and celtic calendars the lunar new year represents more significance in our household. in chinese culture this is the year of the metal rabbit. the rabbit year is to be one of peace, calm and love. metal in chinese philosophy is associated with the planet venus, intuition and yin energy; yin energy is marked by sensitivity and a readiness to receive. it is  a very quiet symbol, linked to thoughtfulness, resting. according to feng shui it is about looking west, round shapes and the colour purple (this may explain my fascination with this colour recently).  overall, the bunny year is one i feel very ready to hop into.

whenever this time of year comes i reflect on my beautiful chinese 'long dress' ed gave me when we had our first lunar new year together....the cheongsam.  I had always loved the cheongsam, so elegant and classic. the cheongsam's history is one from shanghai during the 1920's where women, in so many words... wanted to look more chic.  some of my favorite images of the cheongsam are the old chinese advertisements of the 1930's; paintings of women so delicately portrayed, known as shanghai ladies.  in the early decades of the 20th century, advertising came to china. beginning mostly with foreign companies that wished to sell their products more effectively in china, advertising posters became a fad among many corporations. these posters were usually produced by in-house art departments and given away free as calendars or wall hangings to clients around chinese new year. (fr. squidoo.com)  reproductions of these are easily found in china town shops today.

the other images of the cheongsam that have also inspired me came from watching wong-kar-wai's film in the mood for love and the portrayal of hong kong during the 1960's. these cheongsams are accentuated so beautifully in his film by his choice of colour pallet, sets and use of lighting in the cinematography. 

adaryn received a new fuscia cheongsam this year. the original one ed gave me is a more non-traditional blue colour but with lucky gold and red.

this year my modern ways have lead me to a velvet shorter version (though red) found at a vintage shop. i hope it will bring me luck as i wear it to welcome the year of the rabbit.

gong shi gong shi.

an interesting link with photos and uses of the cheongsam

history of the cheongsam

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

new moon

it seems appropriate that i would be entering my moon time on the new moon; a time to reflect, shed away the old and start new projects.

i always think of the book the red tent by anita diamant when my moon time arrives....this book is a favourite and i even gave a copy to my cousin for her bat mitzvah this last summer; seemed an appropriate gift to give a younger cousin as she enters 'womanhood'. many see this book as the old testament written from a woman's perspective, but what i loved about it was the celebration and ritual of what it means to be a woman regarding menstruation, birth and really bonding through gathering.  i wish it was a part of modern society's mores that women could take time off to work to rest, take care of body, mind and spirit during moon time; gather the important women around her so they may impart their wisdom and allow hers to open.  in aboriginal culture women are not allowed to take part in smudges or sweats because she is seen as 'too powerful' during her moon time.  but alas, our modern culture sees taking time away for this as a weakness, worrying that we may be viewed as frail in comparison to men. these days when a woman enters her moon time she is lucky if she can squeeze in an extra hour of sleep with all the demands and pressures put on her.  so as i mourn the loss of these rituals no longer integrated into our daily lives, i carve out time in my life to pitch the canopy of my own red tent.... baths with clary sage and geranium, herbal teas, chocolate, as much sleep as i can fit in, intimate talks with my women friends and lots of time to reflect... think about how i can be wiser and more powerful as i move through life.

"finally, she spoke with careful words about the moon. she told me how much she loved the white light, and how she spoke to the moon and called her by name every month. Leah said the moon was the only face of the goddess that seemed open to her because of the way the moon called forth the filling and emptying of her body. "my sister is wise" said zilpah. "she stopped and faced me and took both my hands in hers and asked, 'are you ready to swallow the moon at last?'

excerpt from the red tent by anita diamant

willow and ruby

last night our cat willow was on the prowl...keeping us awake. she wanted to go outside, because i think she heard some of her frenemies skulking about. since moving to our new abode willow as enjoyed the freedom to go outside, meandering about on the roofs, in the backyard and sometimes getting into scraps with our neighbours' big black cat downstairs, rupert or puff daddy as he is sometimes called.  lately its been a little white and grey cat from next door who keeps making an appearance at our window and putting willow into a hissing frenzy.  willow is a bit of a sensitive cat, scaredy cat some would say. but i think she had a hard time in her early years, which may be a clue to her bent little tail.  another reason why willow is tiring of the young cats around town coming to bother her might be her age....she is approaching retirement age now and may just want to live a peaceful existence here on out. willow will be 11 years old this year, adaryn tells me that is 65 in cat years, which i have never been able to figure out how to calculate. willow has been through some dark times with me and was a cozy comfort, sleeping with me in the curve behind my knees, purring and vibrating healing love. she would give me a gentle tap on the nose in the morning, no claws, just the soft pad of her paw waking me up to give her some food. willow is a russian blue cat, and they are said to be shy of strangers, but bond with their owners and family members.  they say  it takes time for them to adjust to change, but when they do they become happy and playful. some people say a person will choose a dog because it looks them or matches their personality. perhaps that is what happened to me when i went to the spca 11 years ago after reading a story to children about a cat whose fur was the colour of a pussy willow. i found willow and she found me.  adaryn has noticed willow doesn't always want to be friends with other cats; we thought we should make a cat with whom she might have a chance of accepting and so we created.... ruby.  willow didn't hiss at ruby or try to scratch her. when they first met she sniffed her, rubbed up against her and then went back to sleep.

ruby is a poised cat who loves flowers, the colour purple and is feels grateful willow is around so the other neighbourhood cats won't get the best of her.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


miss adaryn still had a sore throat today so i said she could stay home from school. she was profoundly happy as the constraints of the school routine wear on adaryn at times due to her free spiritedness. so we had the opportunity to spend a day just the two of us. soup and tea and crafts and....
anne, anne of green gables.

when i was a little girl i fell in love with lucy maud montgomery's, anne of green gables, a classic canadian read; but even more than the books (which was unusual for me) was my love of the movie (or cbc mini series,  as it was then) i loved it so very very much i watched it every chance i got.  as we got older, my brother and i used to make it a tradition to watch it every xmas season.

upon discovering anne, for the first time in my life i really identified with a character, a person whom i felt was like me.  being a highly sensitive child i always felt a little strange and out of place, but when i met anne i felt there might be others like me, and fortunately as life goes on, you do realize you are not the only one who feels like the odd duck out from time to time.  anne's flair for the dramatic, sensitive and empathic nature,  belief in the power of imagination, longing to belong, eagerness to connect with 'kindred spirits', fiery temper, love of books and literature opened up my heart as a girl and teen....to myself.

my parents traveled across canada this past year and when they made the special trip to pei and the museum dedicated to anne, they made sure to take many pictures recording the homage for me; they have a special 'anne' token to give me when they return to bc in the spring.

during our courtship ed gave me a book called looking for anne: how lucy maud montgomery dreamed up the literary classic by irene gammel  http://www.keyporter.com/lookingforanne/ its a very interesting book about montogomery's life and intriguing inspirations that helped her write about anne.  to me this gesture was his romantic poem to me; he loved my 'anne self' and wanted to honor this part of me. every time ed catches me watching 'anne', which by now is only at least.... once a year, he will chuckle.."isn't it april, april of green gables".

here is a link to my parent's photos in pei:


Thursday, January 27, 2011

the magic bag

today ed called me at work; he was looking for something. something adaryn needed. she was not feeling well,  so he went and picked her up from school. when he called me he was making her some soup, cozying her up in a blanket. she wanted him to call me to ask where the magic bag was.  the magic bag is a warming pillow i discovered about 10 years ago. at that time i was still using a hot water bottle for my moon time or when i wanted to warm up on a cold winter's night, but then i found.... the magic bag! well....it was magic. it has some sort of grain inside and you can pop it in the the microwave  to warm it up in minutes and it stays warm for a long time.  being a slight sensitive one i am often cold in the winter and it is my 'magic' friend when the nip hits the air.

so adaryn was in need of some magic today to chase this flu away.  i gave her a bit more stepmamapree magic when i got home...miso soup with rice, tea and a temp check.... a wee bit high so lots of liquids and off to bed with a kiss and snuggle.....some magical stories with daddy and my magic bag.

just the other day, being the crafty artsy girl she is, made her own magical bag out of one of my old sweaters. it is bound to hold much magic i'm sure.

bathing beauties

this christmas the love of my life gave me a whole assortment of stuff for bathing. he noticed that i take a lot of baths and thought "what kind of gift will make a big impact on her daily life..." and so he bestowed on me lovely candles, mineral bath, and a beautiful bath caddy to go on our large claw foot tub.... and so i can relax and have my 'private' and 'relaxing time' as adaryn calls it... in my bath....

i think i have always liked sitting in the bath.... i think i learned this from my mom. i always remember that she (and my dad actually) would have a bath before bed, a way to end the day, to wind down and relax after their hectic tasking all day long..... and so i have carried on the tradition.  it is a simple pleasure and a place where i can truly be alone with myself. currently with an energetic 8 year old around, these moments can be few and far between. she has even made a little 'do not disturb' sign for me so when i'm in the bath she understands that i am having a little bit of 'alone time' when the door is closed and sign is hung.

when i think of baths i am also reminded of the city, bath in england which i was able to visit when i was in grade 11 on a school trip. i remember it being one of my favourite cities on the leg of our journey because of all the charming book shops and pubs. i also remember the grandeur of the roman baths built there. at my young age i thought how remarkable it was that there was still evidence of them from the roman period. i was struck by this many a time on this trip... cathedrals, stonehenge, tintern abbey, it planted the seed for my love of history.

i am also reminded of my grandmother speaking about the healing power of milk baths, and indeed in the city of bath these roman baths were know for their many healing properties; some would come from all over england and even drink the water to heal themselves..... for me the milk bath would conjure up images of cleopatra and how she is said to have taken 2 milk baths a day to preserve her beauty.... i'm sure she lounged about with attendants bringing her grapes and other delicacies.....instead i am often greeted by little knocks on the door 'can i come in yet' instead of bowls of fruit and luxurious rub downs by servants. however, i can take a little time each day to be surrounded by rose water, candles and  feel like a queen in my private bath....at least for an hour.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


i guess it seems a bit stereotypical that my next entry would be about eggs, but they have been on my mind lately...

mostly because i seem to be eating a lot of them lately. i have been trying my hand at this no sugar, no yeast diet and one of the things i can eat is eggs and i have been eating them with avocado. my body seems to want alkaline foods right now, the no sugar is killing me....which i always thought ' i really don't eat that much sugar'...but when you look at the ingredients of many things, including sauces there is a lot of sugar.... so for now it will be a bland diet void of all the things i love to eat, soft brie cheese, olives, tomatoes, wine..... by spring i hope to be ph balanced again and able to feast on all these things in time for my birthday....but for now, it's avocado, asparagus, rice, coconut milk and .....eggs.

eggs also remind me of when i was a small child finding a robin's nest with those precious eggs so blue that they looked painted by hand, so fragile and unimaginable that a little bird could be hiding in this tiny beautiful object ....but now i have learned that many things in life transform into something that can take flight and be carried on the wind will start small, fragile and precious.

Monday, January 24, 2011


i always think of winter as a 'nesting' time....fall too....these seasons seem to be condusive to hunkering down eating hearty food, cozying up, reading good books, drinking wine and hot cocoa....

and so january is when i have chosen to launch my blog.  a time when sometimes all i really want to do is sleep for most of the day and.... make things.....

lately i have taken to making little stuffies again. i think i started this about 5 or 6 years ago, making a little 'guy' for my friends' birthdays, i would create a creature whom i felt like summarized his/her personality (soon you will see these little ones made from scraps of materials, old dresses and sweaters,each will be featured here photographed as they take a little trip with me to a fave place they would choose to hang-out at if he/she didn't have the cozy life with their chosen adopted parent.....more to come)

as of late i have been creating these characters with my step daughter and these co-created ones will also make an appearance here, stay tuned...

i am very excited to have this venue to show whomever is interested .....what gives me joy....as i collect and weave and form april's tender nest.