Monday, January 15, 2018

Where We Climb Like Mountain Goats

I often tell people that we go to Los Angeles nearly every year, and when I am asked what we do while we're there, they're usually surprised when I tell them that we enjoy hiking in nature. Yes, Los Angeles, synonymous with Disneyland and Hollywood and fame, silicon, extravagance, and excess... it also has some wonderful hiking spots.

We arrived on Friday afternoon to sunny skies and a lovely little suite in Van Nuys, complete with the ubiquitous Californian swimming pool. Yes, I like nature, but I am pretty high maintenance when it comes to accommodations:

The next day, we set out to explore one of the canyons we had not yet been to before: Las Virgenes Open Space Preserve. You can see how dry it is out here, even after the rains they got earlier last week. It took me a while to adjust to it, having come from rainy Vancouver Island. I have always hated climbing hills, but the hubby always seems to convince me to go just a little bit higher. I'm pretty sure he's part mountain goat. Having said that, we are rewarded with some spectacular views:

Luckily, we also rewarded ourselves handsomely for all the hard work of that climb later at Brent's Deli, where a sandwich ain't a sandwich unless it has 18 slices of pastrami in it:

The next day, we explored the Encino Farmer's Market. It was cool to see Californian produce available fresh from the farms in Fresno and the San Fernando valley:

Later on, we went up to the Santa Susana Pass to do more goat-hiking. You can see this is NOT where fruit is grown:

But it's a pretty cool place to sit and eat an apple:

After that, we moved onto an area called The Garden of the Gods, which was part of the Iverson movie ranch where many of the Western "B" movies were filmed between 1912 until the early 1960s. My dad is a big fan of westerns, and I bet he would recognize a lot of the views:

Today, we walked around the King Gillette Ranch, owned by the famous razor guy. I can't figure out if he was really a king or if King was actually his first name, but regardless, he sure lived like a king. The stable house has been converted into the visitor's centre, which wasn't too shabby-looking at all:

And after that, we made our way to Malibu Creek State Park, which we have hiked many times over the years. I never get tired of the views there. I'm so used to being the only ones on the trails there, but it's Martin Luther King Jr. day here today, so there were loads of people out and about... not that you could tell in this photo. It's a vast enough space to share, I guess:

It looks like we've been running around the whole time we have been here, but in truth, we've really only been out until just after lunch. The afternoons have been spent back at our little suite, reading and watching videos and napping, with the occasional adventure on the inflatable swan in the pool. No, this is not nature either, but it's kinda close:

And yes, I've had a few blissful hours of knitting. I've made some great progress on this improvised cowl that I'm making with an alpaca/merino/cashmere blend. It's a bit strange to be knitting something snuggly and warm in a place where I've been sweating buckets, but goodness knows I'll need it for when I get home, because the forecast back on the Island sure isn't for days upon days of sunshine:

It's been nice to get a few days away from responsibilities and from the things that have been monopolizing my brain lately. I usually live a pretty regimented life: work hard, exercise hard, eat right, sleep early... but right now, I feel like it's all I can do to sit quietly and breathe. I've decided not to beat myself up about it, and as I sit here in my stretchy pants and contemplate another dinner of lots of smoked meat, I feel grateful to have had some rest. Regimens can wait... rest and healing can't.

We're flying back tomorrow, and while I'm sad to leave the sunshine, I'm ready to go home. Maybe I'll be finished my cowl by the time we land. It'll be nice to feel the soft squishiness on my neck...

... just as soon as I wipe the sweat off it first. Have a good week!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Waking Up In January

January is the giant of months. Partly because it seems to begin after Christmas and go on for ever; but also because it can strike blows that disorganize one's life, and transform the familiar, welcoming garden into a strange black-and-white Brueghel world. -- Dorothy Hammond Innes, Home is My Garden
I realized a couple of days ago that I clean forgot about writing a blogpost last weekend. These holidays really throw me off. Part of the problem was that we flew back from Winnipeg to Vancouver Island last Saturday, then New Year's Eve was the next day, and then the next thing I knew, I woke up on the couch and looked around and decided it was a good idea to make some vegetable soup. Yes, that's what a New Year's party looks like around here. Par-tay.

I had another week at home and took advantage of it by treating myself to a few vintage treasures I'd been admiring, like this beautiful tin. I could not stop thinking about it, and when I found that it was still available this week, I decided it belonged in my home. I think it was originally a chocolate or toffee box, but I have yet to decide what should go in there. I might put some of my special pens in it, or maybe line it with some fabric and put some jewelry in it... not really sure. For now, it lives on the ledge by the stairs for me to stop and admire each time I go up or down:

I also decided it was time to buy this book from the second-hand bookshop. It's a reproduction of Edith Holden's sketchbook from 1906. She worked as an illustrator, and as all artists do, she kept a sketchbook of her musings. It looked familiar to me when I saw it earlier this week. I remember seeing something like it in a Chapters a few years ago, and I regretted not buying a copy then. As soon as I saw this one, I thought I'd better not miss the opportunity:

I'm always so enchanted by people's sketchbooks. I keep buying some of my own, but I'm not in the habit of doing anything with them. Perhaps, if I was prone to making New Year's Resolutions, that might be one of them. For now, I think I'll treat myself to looking through a year of this lady's sketchbook as inspiration:

And then, of course, there's the knitting. I finished this cowl early last week. It's a very simple pattern called Copilot, and it is a lovely pattern to make use of variegated yarn. It took me a few tries to get it done because I thought I'd be creative and try to make the centre section slant the other direction, but it turns out that my slip-slip-knit stitches really don't lie as flat as my k2tog stitches, and the result looked so awkward that, even though I was nearly at the end, I decided to rip back all the way to the start of the second section to work all of the stitches at k2tog, just like the original pattern was written. Sometimes, my adventurous knitting-nature gets the better of me:

The ripping-out phase wasn't finished then, though. Just as I was reaching the last two rows before bind-off, I realized I was going to run out. I ripped back and did one fewer eyelet row and worked to the last garter stitch section... only to find out I was going to run out before the end of the section. I ripped back again and decided I'd do one fewer garter stitch row... and I STILL was going to run out, with about 40 stitches left in the bind-off. That was when I put the project in the time-out corner while I fumed for a few minutes. Finally, I got up and hunted out some scrap yarn that mostly matched and completed the bind-off with it. I dont think you can tell at all:

Incidentally, this is one of the skeins of yarn I bought the day I broke my foot two summers ago. Maybe it was destined to be difficult to work with. I'm glad to say that it was worth it. I'm loving this cowl:

Meanwhile, I'm working on yet another cowl, this time in with this alpaca/merino/cashmere blend... and I've already ripped it out three times. Maybe this is the theme of the year: I'm going to have to do things over and over until I learn. Oddly, that sounds like every, single year of my knitting life.

I've decided not to have any resolutions this year, because I've decided not to believe that I have so many things that need "fixing. Instead, have a few "commitments" to this year:

  1. Eat protein and vegetables at every meal.
  2. Move a little every day... yes, even if it's raining or it's -28 degrees in Winnipeg.
  3. Take three deep breaths before I get out of the car to go into the office.
  4. Never read the comments to YouTube, Facebook, or indeed anything posted on the internet. Life's too short to give airtime to trolls.
I have to say: that last one is the toughest. I think it's because we think we're connecting to people when we leave or read comments, and so I yearn to read them, but it usually means I end up feeling sad or frustrated by people's negativity. And right now, I really feel like I need protection from any of that kind of energy.

It's raining here on the Island this week, which is good and not-so-good in its own way, but I'm looking forward to a change of scenery later this week. I won't say where I'm going, because that will mean I will HAVE to pay attention and write a post about it. So... until then, have a great week!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Triple-Craft Blogpost

I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures. --Geronimo
I'm sitting here wondering how we got to two days after Christmas all of a sudden. It's as though a giant hand swooped me up and dropped me here, blinking and in shock at the sudden change of surroundings. This happens to me every year: the anticipation of the holidays starts a couple of weeks before, and then: wham! I'm sitting on my parents' couch, full of treats, wading through the holiday hangover.

One of the other odd things about this is the time of year is that I suddenly get all fired up to finish lots of little projects, like this little family of felted owls. I actually started them this time last year when I was new at felting. After accidentally stabbing my fingers a couple of times, I decided it was time to give it a rest. This year, I pulled out those three blue blobs of felted wool and made them into a little happy family of owls:

I'm glad I didn't try to do full pupils on the adults. I'm not very good at eyes (things tend to turn out cross-eyed in my hands). I think they look much happier like this:

I also did a last-minute crocheted Christmas ornament with some leftover cotton from my Over and Over Top:

I used an old ornament from the thrift shop, one of those covered in a layer of nylon thread. After I cut it off, it looked like I had scalped Strawberry Shortcake. It was sorta disturbing, I gotta say:

Then, the night before we left for Winnipeg for my parents' house, I decided my backpack needed a bit of personality. It's amazing how much a bit of felt and some embroidery thread can cheer you up:

We flew out last Saturday, the 23rd of December. They say it's the busiest travel day of the year. I've done it so often that I hardly notice the difference. The scenery is always nice, though:

Every time I tell people I'm going to Winnipeg for Christmas, I get sort of a blank look and then some unimaginative (and usually rude) utterance about the one thing they know about Winnipeg: that it's cold, why would I go there? I'm getting kinda grumpy about it, because yeah, it's cold, but it's also my home. I wish people would be more respectful. And those wimps will never know the joy of a winter hockey game on the river:

Meanwhile, I finished my Pincha Shawl. I'm half-and-half about it. It's beautiful, but man, that yarn sheds a lot. I had seven balls of the stuff, but I quit after I six-and-a-quarter because I was so fed up with it.  I'm hoping that, after a couple of washes, it'll calm down:

I did have to do an emergency repair on the inner edge, which unravelled for some reason. I'm proud to say that I didn't panic... not too much. And the repair is completely invisible... for now. I'm hoping it holds up:

I do love its wing-like appearance. It even kinda looks like a bird from this angle:

That makes a triple-craft blogpost this week: felt, crochet, and knitting. Man, I'm good.

We're here for another couple of days, and I'm grateful. It's nice to be close to my parents, and it's nice to just put down all of my normal worries and relax a bit. It's like being given a blank canvas: it's clean and clear and a little bewildering, after trudging through the cluttered brain of my normal life. 

And yeah, it's cold. And it's home. And that's that.

I hope you had a Happy Holiday. Onward to the New Year.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Wings vs. Whinge

And then one day I realised I had scars the shape of wings. --S. C. Lourie
This is not what I had planned.

It was an impulse purchase. It was on a day when I hadn't planned to be near a yarn store. I was there with a friend who needed some materials, and I just came along for fun. My stash is of such a size that impulse purchases aren't exactly exciting as they are stressful. And yet...

It was the colours that attracted me at first - soft, gentle tones of beige and cream and grey... colours that I normally pass over, but this time they tugged at me to look more closely.

Then, it was their softness. Loosely plied and puffy, rounded strands held together with a thin nylon thread. It was acrylic, which some knit snobs turn their noses up at, but each ball was so smooth and cool to the touch.

Then, it was their price. They were in the bargain bin. Discontinued yarn, marked down, and in short supply. How could I resist (insert snerky sarcasm here)? I dug through the bin pulled out as many balls as I could find, seven in all.

I had visions of a loose-knit cardi or vest, long and drapey, worn over a cream-coloured long-sleeved t-shirt... elegant and comfortable, with some soft 80's lighting and bossa nova playing in the background.

Yes, my knitting dreams include music and video effects. Don't yours?

I held onto the yarn for a while, pulling it out of the bag every so often to muse over it before tucking it away again. A few weeks ago, I decided it was time...

But nothing would work. I cast on and ripped out and cast on and ripped out over and over again. I tried some experiments with short rows, then some simple garter stitch squares, then a short stint with the Ten Stitch Blanket Pattern, which I thought I could somehow twist and turn into some kind of garment.

Nope. Nothing.

I can't remember how I decided I'd try the Pincha Shawl pattern. It's designed to make the best use of more variegated yarn, but something in me decided to try it with the long colour changes in this yarn. I struggled a bit with the stitch counts and the wraps-and-turns, and was pretty sure I was just going to through the whole lot into the garbage.

After the first repeat, though, I was surprised to see how much it looked like a feather:

And now, I have a group of feathers... nearly a wing:

I can't help but feel it is all somewhat symbolic. I'm at a time in my life where I'm forced to look at familiar things differently, to shed old ways of doing things, and to try to see things in a different light. I suppose I'm growing. Even my legs hurt right now, mostly because I've been doing a lot more walking lately than I have been doing over the last few months and my muscles are a bit shocked, but even so... they remind me of the growing pains I had when I was a teenager going through my awkward growth spurts.

This project has been difficult: each repeat is different, the stitch counts are out, and I've had to fudge it over and over again. And the yarn is shedding, which is odd for acrylic, and it's pretty annoying to get up to brush myself off each evening. More than once I've wanted to give up on it, but I haven't. After all, growth is not easy, and it sure isn't that easy to grow a wing.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to grow in other ways. I've been playing around with watercolour pencils:

Trying my hand at some folk art (I don't think it's for me):

And sustaining my growth with just a few homemade ginger and molasses cookies. Growing takes energy, after all:

By the way: that cup was handmade by a local artisan, Blackbird Studios. I was so excited to land one at a market yesterday that I had to show it off. Thank goodness I had the cookies to test it out.

The holiday season has snuck up on me, and it's only just hit me that it's only just over a week to Christmas Day. I have some things I need to get ready for the holidays, but I'm loathe to put my project down to do them. I think I'll have to grow up a bit and gather my wits together and get on with it. I might be whining. Just because I'm growing wings doesn't mean I have to give up whining, does it? Is it ironic that winging and whingeing have such similar spellings?

Onwards, I suppose... and Happy Sunday!