Sunday, October 14, 2018

Pumpkin Swirl, No Milk

My favorite word is 'pumpkin.' You are a pumpkin. Or you are not. I am. ― Harrison Salisbury
I opened the freezer the other day and realized that it needed a bit of a clear out, which is a bit of a job. I mean, I had to commit to finishing up the ice cream and to dig out bits of frozen fruit I had lobbed in there from the summertime in an effort to preserve resources. I also forgot all about the two jars of applesauce in the fridge I made before we went away on holidays. So... I got to work and made a bunch of banana bread using the bananas and applesauce and scarfed down some ice cream while I was making it. Commitment, they name is Adriene:

We've been using our fireplace quite a bit since the weather cooled down, which has been a pleasant switch of routine. Yesterday, I found these at the supermarket and decided it was high time I did some experimenting:

Behold: s'mores with built-in chocolate:

Taste-tested for quality assurance:

Meanwhile, Seymour has been doing a good job of standing guard over my projects while they are blocking. He hasn't yet tried to lie right on top of them... not YET...

With all the rain last weekend, it took a couple of days before I could trust that the blocking had set for this shawl. I pulled it off last Wednesday and was very pleased with the result. I've called it the Pumpkin Swirl Shawl. It sounds so much like a fancy latte, but there's no milk in this creation. Just wool, lovely burnt orange wool:

The stitches opened up beautifully with the blocking. All those twisted stitches were a lot of work, and I never quite developed the rhythm of the pattern, but it was worth the struggle:

These curl shawls are so striking to look at, but a bit hard to imagine on a person, but they really do sit beautifully once you have them on:

I think I will get plenty of wear out of this one:

Meanwhile, I thought I'd zip through a quick hat and have it ready for the weekend. What I neglected to remember was: there is no such thing as a quick hat. Not for me, anyway. Three cast-ons and a week later, I have about one-fifth of a hat to show for it. Luckily, the sun has been shining the last few days, so I've been sitting outside on the lawn chair stitching away on it. The wool/silk blend is so lovely and soft that I hardly begrudge having to work on it over and over again. It's like butter between my fingers, and I can't wait to feel it against my forehead when it's done:

In the meantime, I've got chili on the stove and it's going to be another cool evening, so I think a fire is in order. Best get going here. Happy Sunday!

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Finished Shawl and a Milkbone Mailbox

What's the autumn? A second spring when every leaf's the flower. -- Albert Camus
It's raining today. It always rains in the autumn here: days and days of rain when you strain to remember that time when, in the heat and extreme dryness of the summer, you uttered words to the effect of, "Man, I can't wait for it to rain." Just who the heck said that? Was that me?

In truth, rain is such a nice excuse to find a cozy place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea and a movie with knitting and a warm doggy on your lap. I'm grateful to be able to enjoy those things without much distraction these days.

It's Canadian Thanksgiving today, which means a bit of turkey and stuffing and a day off to reflect on the stuff you're grateful for. I feel fortunate to even have time for a quiet moment to reflect these days. I can't help but think back to last year when things were so difficult at my job that I was just concentrating on keeping it together. This year, I sat back and took deep breaths and felt safe and sound. And those are the most treasured feelings on this Earth.

Unsurprisingly, rain means an excuse to bake at our house. I tried out a new bread recipe, which turned out perfectly. We've eaten almost half of it already, so I made a second loaf today. I have yet to meet a person who possesses the restraint to get a homemade loaf of bread to last more than a couple of days. Such people are not of this planet:

I'd also been daydreaming of some orange and cranberry scones, and well, it's important to make your dreams come true:

It wasn't all rain this weekend. We went out on a little impromptu trip out on Saturday while the sun shone and had sandwiches in the park. I was delighted to see the change in colours around me. I will never tire of red leaves in the autumn. They're always the prettiest when they're still on the tree. Many's the leaf I've taken home in my pocket only to be disappointed in their faded glory when I got them home. Better to appreciate them where they belong:

I was stopped in my tracks by this combination of Oregon blueberries against its own red leaves and the green leaves of the ivy entwined in it. That looks like an interesting colour experiment to try out sometime:

Seymour has been busy as well, charming the neighbours with his cute face and waggly tail. One of the old fellas around the corner loves to spoil the neighbourhood dogs with Milkbones, and he has a couple of "biscuit mailboxes" outside his garage for his regulars. This week, Seymour finally got his own mailbox, which he makes sure we stop at daily to check. He's moving up in the world, our wee Seymour:

Meanwhile, I finally cast off on my latest shawl project. I'm very happy with it, even though it took me two days to get the cast off right. I kept thinking I'd have enough for one more repeat, and then I thought, "Well, maybe only half a repeat..." And then I started the cast off a row early, only to run out for the last twenty or so stitches. Well, heck.

So, after ripping back half a repeat and slowly getting all of those flipping twisted stitches back onto my needles, I finally got the finishing rows completed and cast off. It was surprisingly small when I finished, but in classic blocking magic, this thing grew like a miracle pumpkin after I soaked it for a while. I thought I'd only need one blocking square, but I kept having to get up to get another and another as I pinned it out. I simply cannot wait for it to be dry enough to wear...

...which may be a while... maybe after the monsoon finishes...

Meanwhile, I fancied making myself a new hat, so I've pulled these little skeins out of the stash to play around with. They're a wool/silk blend and I'm very curious to see how the colours knit up. In the skein, it looks like a sort of dirty gold, but it knits up, the darker tones seem to be jumping out at me. We shall see...

Meanwhile, the world seems to be a harsher place these days. I feel like everyone is shouting, telling everyone else how wrong they are, and the ones who can shout the loudest seem to be winning the argument. I wonder to myself how much longer it will be when people remember that having an opinion on something isn't necessarily a reason to lord it over someone else. And I wonder how long it will be when we can simply live instead of react all of the time. I feel the need to hide away and watch the hummingbirds in my window and wait for the real world to come back again. Maybe that's cowardice. Or maybe it's my own way of exercising patience. I will continue to refuse to give air time to the selfish people in this world and will always push the good in the world to the surface. I hope we can all do the same.

And also: I'm grateful for you, whoever you are reading these words. Thanks for sticking with me, especially over the last couple of years when I have been a bit lost in the wilderness. Your company means more to me than you know.

Gobble gobble.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Successful Scones and Other Autumn Things

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
   This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long. 
   -- Sonnet 73, William Shakespeare 

Last week was one of those strange weeks you have when you're fighting jet lag while trying to get back into your normal routine. I will admit wholeheartedly that there are a few hours of my workday that I can not account for, but everything seems to have added up properly and nothing seems to be lost... at least, not at the moment. We'll see what Monday brings.

We had some lovely weather this week, almost summer temperatures some days. I was totally dressed incorrectly for a couple of them. I was so excited to wear boots and long sleeves that I almost gave myself heatstroke one day. Such are the pitfalls of the "Indian summer."

We awoke today to the sound rain on the roof. I was glad to hear it because I put some plant food down for one of the flowering shrubs yesterday, and I really needed it to get watered in. It's also a very, very good excuse to fire up the oven. Today, I made some glorious lemon and blueberry scones. They're possibly the tallest scones I've ever managed to make, and they're light and fluffy to boot. The secret? Dumb luck... and maybe an extra teaspoon of baking soda:

I spent some time thumbing through these two books today, which I got from the second-hand bookstore in town. We have a running credit with that shop these days... it's practically a library for us, as we keep bringing in books to sell and coming home with new ones to own.

I wanted a copy of Shakespeare's sonnets, because I watched a documentary with Judi Dench where she recited a couple and I fell so much in love with the sound of it that I knew I needed to have a copy. Dame Dench should be sent around to all the schools to inspire the dreamers into studying Shakespeare. If there was anyone truly suited to the task, it would be her.

The other book is one by my favourite storyteller, Stuart McLean. When I laid eyes on it, I knew I wanted to take it home, as it is full of stories about people from small towns. These days, I feel hungry for people's stories, to get to know people rather than make assumptions about them, as most of the world seems to be doing these days. Reading them feels like a necessary gulp of fresh air in a room full of the hot air of people's opinions.

The rain today and the temperatures outside signal the first day for us to try out our new fireplace. We have gathered up bits and pieces from the garden to burn:

Added Mr. Seymour for scale. I hope he enjoys it:

Lately though, Seymour seems more inclined to seek out the comfort of my lap than to sit on his own. It's interesting because he was never so cuddly before. Indeed, when we first brought him home, my heart ached a bit because he wasn't all that keen to be near us. Since we've returned from our vacation, he just seems to need contact with us all the time. It seems that absence does actually make the heart grow fonder...

... or maybe he's just cold:

I spent a good amount of time today working on this shawl. It's coming along rather well. I'm really loving the colour of it:

And I'm also loving the texture of the cables and dropped stitches. This high twist yarn really sets them off well:

I am enjoying knitting it much more since I finally wised up and changed needles. I had started off with some run-of-the-mill bamboo circulars, but all those twisted stitches were just too difficult to catch with the blunt tips. I think I must have chosen them because I was taking them along with me on the plane, and I'm still never sure if security will confiscate any metal needles. It's been much easier with the Nova Platina Needles below. It's so much easier to catch the stitches and the stitches slide along them much better as well. I'm going to have to get more of those sometime:

Monday, September 24, 2018

And Then We Went to Munich

People don't take trips - trips take people --John Steinbeck
I marvel sometimes about time... You can spend a lot of time looking forward to something in the future, and then all of a sudden, you find yourself on the other side of it, remembering the thing you looked forward to all that time. A couple of weeks ago, I was here on my couch. A couple of weeks later, I'm back on it again. In between that time, I was on the other side of the world. Now you see me, then you see me again, a bit older and a bit weary.

After being in Belfast the week before, seeing familiar things and visiting with familiar people, we boarded a plane and flew to Munich, a city we only knew from its massive airport from past trips. Travel by plane is predictably blah and tiresome for me: the banality of having to stand in a queue for everything really gets to me: lining up to check in, lining up to drop off bags, lining up to go through security, lining up to get on the plane, to go to the bathroom on the plane, to get off the plane, to go through customs, to get on a train... I know this is what civilized society looks like, but it's during these times that I can see myself running screaming through the crowd just go change it up a bit. Man. Get out of my way.

We stumbled off the train in the centre of Munich and trundled along the streets towards our Airbnb which we couldn't check into until later in the day. The hubby had researched a place to stop and eat and hang out until then, since neither of us were particularly interested in dragging our bags around the city. And well, the beer was predicatbly good, but the food was even better. And, while we're at it, I may as well get all the food shots out of the way. Here's dinner the first night:

Dinner #2:

Dinner #3:

Afternoon tea and cake on Day 2. We had more on Day 3, but I was too famished to take a photo of that. More on that later:

Having never spent any appreciable time in Germany before, I didn't really have any huge expectations about what Munich would be like. I knew it would be a European city, so I had some ideas of what I would see. The streets were lined with bicycles absolutely everywhere, as well as bicycle lanes adjacent to every sidewalk. Being a relatively flat city, it means that many people cycle to and from work and school. I liked that a lot. I'm not super comfortable on a bicycle, but maybe I would be if I had a protected bike lane and a flat route:

We decided to walk to one of the town plazas, Marienplatz. It was about a half hour gentle walk from where we were staying, with plenty of sites to take in:

We knew we were close when we came upon the Viktualienmarkt. If you follow this blog at all, you know how much I love a good market:

Just past the market was the plaza, complete with a gothic cathedral (St. Peter's) and mounds of tourists everywhere:

We had no agenda, so we just wandered around and took in the sites, stopping in at shops and in museums along the way:

The next day, after much deliberating, we decided we'd make our way out to Neuschwanstein Castle, which is the castle upon which Disney modelled Cinderella's castle. I say we deliberated because it was going to be a two-hour train journey to get there, and we weren't sure we wanted to join the hordes of tourists in pilgrimage to it. But how often do you get to see a fairy tale castle?

So, we got onto a very full train full of very aggressive Japanese tourists (they're supposed to be the most polite of all tourists, but man, NOT TRUE on a train), and travelled out to the little town of Fussen. As soon as you step out of the shuttle bus, you can see the castle in the distance:

On the way up, we learned that big, imposing castles are pretty much normal in Bavaria. This is Hohenschwangau Castle, the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and was built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria. It was just after the ticket centre for the other castle, and I felt a bit sorry for it looming off in the distance, as everyone was clamouring to see "the big one." If a centuries-old castle can't get any respect, I mean, what's the point?

But King Ludwig II decided he wanted a bigger castle, and so he decided to build one, and unlike many other kings in history, built it out of the funds from his own pocket, just because he could. The hubby and I started trudging up the hill to Neuschwanstein, as we'd elected again to avoid the hordes and forgo any tours. And as we approached, it just got bigger and bigger:

As did the crowds:

When we got to the foot of it, I stood there and thought, "Well, how's that for a fairytale castle."

There was scaffolding up around parts of it, because we all know that big houses always need a lot of work, and this was one hell of a DIY-job:

But the views required no alteration:

So, after all that, the hubby and I looked at each other and said, "Well, we've seen it. Now what do we do?" After getting pushed around by the masses, we really didn't feel like hanging around with them for much longer.

So we took the train back. And it was honestly the best part of the day because the train was virtually empty:

And we got to properly enjoy the landscape, which is way more my style:

I was so tired and hungry by the time we got back that all I could do was gobble up some tea and cake and lay down for a nap, hence no photo of the second tea break.

We arrived back on Vancouver Island late on Friday night after a series of flight delays and sleepless travel, and while I am grateful to have had the experience, I am even more grateful to be home. I don't have any knitting to share today because I'm fighting jet lag and a bit of a cold, but it's just as well since crowded trains and cramped airplanes are not my favourite places to knit. I've also learned that I think I'm coming to a point in my life when I have no desire to follow the masses on holiday anymore. I think the next vacation will involve a bit more relaxing and a lot more naps... demonstrated below. I think I'll join him. Have a great week!