Monday, November 23, 2015

When Cookies Keep You On Track

The alternative to a vacation is to stay home and tip every third person you see. ~Author Unknown
Sometimes, all I yearn for is a day to myself at home: nowhere to be, no one to bother me, just me and my hobbies and a warm place to sit. For me, that is the best kind of day off.

I also secretly yearn to watch daytime television, but I don't know if I'm just getting older or TV is just getting worse, but the squak box just disappointed me today. It's just a reminder that there are better things to do with one's time, I suppose. It would've been better if Oprah was still on... but I digress...

It's a cool, rainy, and possibly slushy day out there. I got up this morning and went to the gym like a good girl, and after I came home and took a shower, I made myself a cup of coffee and started a batch of Guinness and beef stew in the slow cooker. It's a perfect meal for a day like this. I loved watching the ingredients going in as I washed and chopped:

It's also a good excuse for using some of the fresh rosemary that our landlord planted in our front garden. I went out and cut it and stripped it straight into the pot, freshly washed by the rain. Our landlord spoils us, you know: they planted the garden, and they come over and weed it for us. They sweep the parking lot, salt the steps if it's icy, clean the gutters, give me free plants for the back garden. I don't know if I can live anywhere else now.

While the stew bubbled away in the slow cooker, I kept myself occupied with my current sweater project. I keep falling in and out of love with it. I'm loving the colour of it, which reminds me of the lillies in the bouquet of flowers my family sent me for my birthday last week:

I'm modifying Bristol Ivy's Svalbard to have a more traditional raglan front. It was a good choice to switch to this yarn. The tone and shade of the rose colour is really showing off the definition of the cartridge rib. I'm a bit worried about it, though. It's so brilliantly designed that it seems a sacrilege to mess with it, and I'm unsure if my modifications will give me the result I want. Thus, I knit a few rows, loving the look of it, then I knit the next few rows, worried that it will look really awful in the end. This is a true test of trusting my instincts:

My stitch markers are keeping a smile on my face, though. The sweater is knit in one piece from the neck downwards, and has a lot of things going on at the same time. I chose the markers carefully to help me keep track of where I am. From the edges to the Oreo markers are the fronts:

Between each Oreo and the macaroon are the sleeve stitches:

Between the two macaroons are the back stitches. And then, between those two markers are two jade snail shells, which are marking a chevron stitch pattern:

If your cookies and macaroons can't keep you right, well, there's clearly something wrong in the world.

I have the whole week off this week. So far, the first day is making me feel like a child with a bag of sweets... eagerly savouring each one, but looking carefully, almost anxiously, at how many I have left. I'm so grateful to have these days that I don't want to squander a single moment. On Thursday, we are going to Victoria for a couple of nights for a change of scenery, which I am also looking forward to.

I'm still hanging on tightly to every moment at home. Tomorrow, I have a couple of appointments, but I'm looking forward to coming back to the couch to knit and drink tea and nap. It's not glamorous, but it's perfect right now.

The stew is almost ready. Must be off. Have a lovely week!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Neon Races, Frosty Shawls

Whoa, another two weeks flew past. What the what? Are we nearly in the middle of November again? Huh?

I'm beginning to think that this time of year has a weird hex on it for me. Perhaps it is the time change: suddenly, I've been plunged into darkness, and therefore, I feel sleepy as soon as I get home after work, and therefore, I feel like I'm walking in a dreamland. Time seems to fly past.

But dreamland or not, I have still been busy. Last weekend, I ran a 10k in Vancouver for the inaugural Great Climate Race, support of solar projects in British Columbia. It was a good run: I could have fuelled better, and I could have paced better, and a guy running in a hot dog costume was faster than me, but it was a beautiful run on a dry day with a very good crowd for a good cause. I can't complain. I felt privileged to be there:

My friend took this shot of me at the finish line. The neon makes me faster:

And the week before that, one of my friends (the same one that took the photo above) asked me if I might be able to repair a hole in a sweater for her. She wasn't worried about matching the pattern: she just didn't want a cold elbow anymore. I'd never done it before, and it was a bit daunting:

But with a bit of thought, I think I came up with pretty good solution. Not bad, eh?

And the other night, I finally finished my Moonlight Sonata shawl. I am actually in awe of it. I was not prepared for how beautiful this thing would be. I think it looks like the delicate frost that you see on your windows on a cold, bright, winter's day:

In a rare moment of forethought (or paranoia), I actually decided to bind off early for this shawl. If I'd actually thought about it a bit longer, I could have tracked how much yarn I was using for each repeat, observing the ratio of growth per repeat, and then extrapolated how many more repeats I could have worked before I ran out of yarn...

But what actually happened was that I freaked out and bailed early.

Turns out, I probably could have done at least one more repeat before I running out. When I finished the final stitch, I sighed and thought it would be too small to wear. Before blocking, as is the case with all lace projects, it looked like a crumpled heap of used handkerchief. I still wasn't sure about it after it was all stretched out and pinned and drying on the blocking boards. But then, after I took it off the boards, I stood there, staring at it in silence. Oh yes...

It was difficult to photograph the colours in the yarn. There are subtle tones of lavender and grey throughout. I was a little afraid they would create weird stripes, but they just seem to add depth to its ethereal nature:

And, as a bonus, I most likely have enough to make a pair of cafe mitts. I lost one of mine recently, and it's made me a bit tetchy for another pair... but we won't talk about that just now...

My next project is one that I've been working on in my brain for a while: Bristol Ivy's Svalbard. I'm not keen on the way the front is designed - the swingy front cardigan is just not flattering on me. It seemed like an easy calculation at the time, but there are a lot of clever things going on in this pattern, so I eventually had to sit down and plot it out on paper. I was feeling quite clever about it...

... except that I woke up at 4:00am this morning with the realization that this yellow yarn is just not right for this pattern. So, this afternoon, I wound a ball of Cascade 220 in colourway 2412 Rose, which is a dusky pinky plum colour, and I'm about to knit a swatch to test the gauge. I think will work much better. I didn't think my colour instinct would wake me up in the middle of the night, but there you go.

So, that's two weeks in a nutshell for you. I hope the next week doesn't fly by like that again. I'd sort of like to enjoy it, because it's my birthday on Tuesday, and it's true what they say: the older you get, the faster time flies. It'd be nice to slow down enough to at least enjoy a mouthful of birthday cake.

I've just looked out the window, and it's gone dark again. Sigh. Wake me up in spring, would you?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Staring at the Roast and Other Activities

I'm not sure where the past two weeks went. Last weekend, I reached Sunday night and realized that... well, it was Sunday night, and that I hadn't written a blogpost, and that I needed to get to bed to get ready for a busy week. And I suppose that's just how things go sometimes.

It's not to say I wasn't still doing my usual thing. I just missed the blogpost. But I was doing my thing: knitting, running, daydreaming, cooking.

Yeah... cooking for sure. This time of year sends me straight into the kitchen, especially on the weekends. Some people party, some people sleep in. Me? The kitchen is my rave house, obviously.

This weekend, outside round beef roasts were on sale in the supermarket, and I'm trying out a new recipe called Mock Prime Rib with it. It's in the oven right now, and I can't wait for it to be done. When meat goes on special, one should take advantage, even if it means cooking nearly seven pounds of meat for two people. At least we won't starve:

Last weekend, pork tenderloin roasts were on special in the supermarket. I cooked in the slow cooker with this recipe and finished it in the oven. Mmm... meat...

It hasn't been only meat I've been cooking. I made an apple and blueberry cake from a muffin recipe that I altered to use up some yogurt and milk:

And this weekend, I made some tomato soup and a fresh batch of peasant bread. This time, I put raw sunflower seeds and flax seeds into the bread to make it a bit more hearty:

But it hasn't all been food. On Thursday night, I took a class with some workmates where we made splatter paintings under UV light. Here's what mine looked like in the UV light:

And here's what it looks like in regular light. Cool, huh?

And, speaking of painting, I painted my face and put on some kitty gear to go play volleyball with the local club on Friday night, the night before Halloween. I'm not one for face paints, but it's amazing what you can learn if you but Google the question:

And, of course, I've been knitting. I've been wrestling with a ball of Whisper Lace from Fibra Natura. It's beautiful: 70% merino and 30% silk... soft and cool to the touch, so luxurious that I want to bury my face in it. But MAN, is it fussy...

I've tried about four different patterns with it, and I eventually settled on Moonlight Sonata by Shui Kuen Kozinski. It's lovely, it truly is, but I am mastering the art of fudging stitches when the stitch count goes out because (and you'll pardon me for saying this) this yarn is a b*tch to rip out. Seriously. You tug it with just a tiny bit of force, and snap, it breaks. Pah. Annoying

But it's turning out lovely, truly lovely. I'm loving the little "moons" that appear after each repeat. I really can't wait to see how it blocks out.

So apparently, I miss one blogpost, and I am simply bursting with things to share with you. I suppose it is true what they say: life goes on, even when you miss a blogpost. Well... I'm not sure anyone actually does say that, but well, I've said it now. You can use that quote for free, if you want.

I'm off to go stare at the roast in the oven. Have a lovely week.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

What Happens at the Cabin

There are good ideas, and then there are great ideas.

It was a great idea to book a weekend out at our favourite cabin in Cowichan Bay this weekend. I've been reluctant to go back for a while... the last time we were here, it was with Rascal. Somehow, his memory is attached to this place. It was one of the last places we went with him before he died.

But, recently, I've needed some time by the woodstove. And, as soon as it was lit, I was mesmerized by it, and I felt warm and relaxed. It was a great idea, after all.

This morning, we went for a two-hour hike up Mount Tzouhalem. I never used to be one for uphill hikes: I am a prairie girl, after all. While it was my idea to go, I forgot about the windy, bendy, make-me-car-sick roads on the way. As soon as we got there, I just started walking to get some fresh air into me and to shake my light-headedness, and let the hubby catch up.

Soon, we were deep within the forest, and I felt better:

And and hour later, when we got to the top, we got a beautiful view:

Once we got down, we went to Genoa Bay for some lunch and a little stroll around the marina:

I found my new cooking spoon set:

And then, we went back to the cabin, where I promptly fell asleep. Two hours on a mountain and then a lamb burger for lunch does that to me.

When I awoke, I sprung out of bed, put this dress on and brushed my hair. You see, I'd been saving my latest finished project for the cabin, because I knew I wanted to take photos of it here on the deck. I planned the outfit and everything:

I think I looked pretty good for someone who just woke up from a nap (and, I'm realizing, needs a haircut):

The pattern is from Azure, and it makes use of a grapevine lace pattern. I cast on a bunch more stitches (I honestly can't remember how many now) and kept knitting until I reached the end of the skein. I'm pleased to say it turned out to be a nice length: not too short, but not so long to be floppy and unwieldy:

And wide enough to cover my back:

The yarn is hand-dyed alpaca from Twist Yarns in Manhattan Beach. I'm so glad that neither the lace pattern nor the subtle dyes over the natural colour of the alpaca were lost in the finished object:

Anyway, we're here at the cabin until tomorrow. I'm sitting here with my next knitting project next to me, thinking of my little Rascal and how much I miss him. I miss him every single day. I guess it's true: what happens at the cabin does stay at the cabin. And maybe that's not such a bad thing... because I suppose I know he'll always be here, somehow:

Sigh. I miss him. I think I always will.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

On Gratitude

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. -- William Arthur Ward
It's Thanksgiving Weekend here in Canada, which means a three-day weekend for me, which means I'm busy doing all the things I want to do when I only get a regular weekend. Still, it's been a good weekend, with plenty of rain. If there's anything I'm thankful for right now, it's this rain. After the drought we've been through this year, it makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief, even if the sudden change in humidity means that I am currently doing my best Lion King impression with my hair. Life is about trade-offs, after all.

Sunday morning, we went out for a hike on a trail we'd never been to before called Stocking Creek Park. I like exploring these new places. The ground is littered with the gigantic sycamore leaves that you find here on Vancouver Island, which makes these little rambles all the more pretty.

I was delighted to find this little waterfall on a trail so near to our house. I think we'll be back:

After that, we went out for lunch at one of my favourite bistros called The Dayliner, which is in an old train station. Afterwards, walked through the little vintage store next door with the most fantastic name: Redneck Collectibles. It makes me smile every time I see it, but this was the first time I'd ever been inside it. There, we met a man resembling the 1970's detective McCloud, which I've watched enough times with my dad to know for sure that this guy was legit. He even had the shiny belt buckle and all.

And he had a small collection of the usual stuff I expect to see in these places: old crates, bottles, tools... and when I came upon a set of three Pyrex bowls, I stopped and cocked my head like a fascinated terrier. I knew I wanted them, and when I asked him how much he wanted for them, he said, "Oh, bowls aren't my forté. Maybe 20 or 25 dollars?"

He didn't seem to be packing a pistol, so I asked tentatively, "So... will you take $20?"

And yes he did. And he was very nice about it indeed:

I got them home and put them straight to work and made a batch of lemon poppy seed muffins:

And a batch of Peasant Bread:

I've got a turkey in the oven right now (well, not exactly. I've got a turkey roll in the oven right now, which should save us from a month of turkey leftovers). All weekend, I've been thinking about this whole Thanksgiving thing, because of something I heard visiting a yarn store the other day. I'd been having kind of a low week: sort of low and unmotivated and generally uninspired. I had an appointment after work, so I left early and decided to stop in to see if I could cheer myself up. As I wandered around, a man and a woman entered to store and greeted the two people working in there. I have a bad habit of eavesdropping: when I was a kid, my brother constantly told me to mind my own business because he could tell I was doing it. But anyway...

The man greeted the owner of the shop, who promptly gave him a hug. As I stood there, carefully studying a couple of skeins of wool with my ears pricked, I learned that his aunt had passed away recently. She was a knitter, and they knew her well in the shop. She must have been quite independent, because, even when her health failed, she insisted on carrying on living in her trailer and her car. The knitting group there took turns going out to check on her and visit with her while she sat in her trailer, surrounded by her yarn and her finished objects, as she knitted and coughed and carried on living.

And then, she was found dead in her car, with her knitting by her side. I don't know who found her, but I am guessing it was one of the knitting group, because I gathered that it was because of them that this man, her nephew, and possibly her only living kin, found out about it. And he was grateful to them for it.

Since then, I've been wondering myself about this kinship I have with other fibre artists. I have no children, and as I get older, I wonder who will look out for me when I get older. And after hearing this story, I wonder if it's my yarn people who might look out for me as well. I am grateful for the people who come here and read my words and leave me kind notes after reading them. And while it's unlikely that you'll all pop out of the woodwork and appear in the flesh, it is comforting to know that there are folks out there that care about what happens to me.

Time to check on the turkey. Happy Thanksgiving.