Sunday, August 21, 2016

Peter Pan, Pink Flamingos, and Applesauce

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
I am in battle with my body these days. Each muscle has been taking turns in protest. It means I end each day feeling tired and sore. It has been a very tiring time.

When I broke my foot last May, I had no idea that it would be this difficult to get back to my normal self. It's not that the bone is bothering me: it's the effect of wearing the air cast for three weeks. The muscles in my right leg are taking a long time to regenerate, and the rest of my muscles are taking a long time to re-adapt to moving normally.

I've been able to walk and swim and do a bit on the elliptical and row machine since about mid-June. I've been seeing a physiotherapist since the middle of July. Last week, I started training myself to learn to run again using this program given to me by my physiotherapist. I've been alternating each day with other activities: swimming, walking, rowing, cycling... whatever I can think of. When I wake up in the morning, my right hip and glute are so tight that I have to spend half an hour warming up and stretching so I can at least walk without a limp. This morning, I ran the fourth program (6 minutes of running in total). By the end of each program, I can feel my foot tightening up, which means that's a good time to stop. It loosens up as I walk for the 5 minute cool down.

The rest of the day, hips tighten up, then my IT band, then my psoas, then my glutes, then my hamstrings. At least they're considerate enough to take turns trying to cripple me. It's quite civilized of them to give each other a chance to express their opinion on the matter.

I've set a reminder to get up and stretch every hour. I spend at least 30 minutes each evening rolling, stretching, and massaging each part so I can go to sleep without any discomfort. I also have been doing lots of balancing and conditioning exercises to encourage the muscles to re-learn some muscle memory so they won't freak out so much every time I try to move. I spend so much time balancing on one leg that I'm considering getting a part-time job as a flamingo... as long as I don't have to wear pink.

It has been a lot of work, but I'm trying to keep my mind open to notice the good stuff through it all. I was entranced by the sun coming through the window before I left this morning. The cut glass made this pretty pattern on the curtain, which I think I might try to knit into some lace sometime:


And I met this deer on the trail early on Friday morning at the start of my run. I gave her lots of room, the sweet little thing... not that she would have had any trouble getting away from limpy ol' me:


I have been further distracted by the bounty that the summer season brings. I got a bit excited last week when one of the local farms offered a "Pop Up Produce" box. I could not resist the opportunity to bring local organic produce home.  That rhubarb is just ridiculous, isn't it?


I've been slow-roasting the tomatoes on the barbecue with each meal this week. It goes great with the basil from a plant that came in my veggie box earlier in the season:


And the apples have been put to good use. I took advantage of a cool day today to try making some apple turnovers with some puff pastry I had in the freezer:


I had no idea what I was doing, but it was a pretty good result. They tasted the part, even if I did burn my mouth during the taste test:


I decided to make some applesauce with most of the other apples. I found some tips on making it with my slowcooker, which meant that I wouldn't have to stand by the stove and fret about burning it t. I decided to leave the skins on because 1) I am too lazy to peel all those apples and 2) the pectin in the skins allow it to congeal just right. Thus, a crowd of apples started out like this:


And then they puffed up into this after two hours on high with 3/4 cups of water and a sprinkle of cinnamon:


And then, it turned into this lovely caramel-like stuff after I blitzed it with a hand-blender. 
How do ya like dem apples, hey?

I was sitting on the floor the other day after yet another stretch session, feeling tired and defeated, but I know that there are people out there dealing with a lot worse. Right now, it seems impossible that I could ever, ever run for 10 minutes, much less do anything like a 10k again. But, as Peter Pan said, the moment I believe I can't do it anymore will be the moment I WON'T be able to do it anymore. I guess I just have to go and have my good cry each day, and then get up and try again.

But first, I think I'll have an apple turnover and go find my knitting. I don't want my knitting muscles to wither away next. THAT would be a disaster.

Have a good week!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

When You Hide the Burned Bits

When it's brown, it's cooked, when it's black it's "fooked." -- Gordon Ramsay
It's been quite warm here recently. When it's warm like this, we usually spend our weekends either swimming at Lake Cowichan or kayaking in the nearby harbour. Today, I didn't really feel like either. Instead, we went for a walk along the trail that I normally like to go for a run on. I hadn't been on the trail much this summer, so it was lovely to be there today, under the cool shade of the trees, listening to the creek trickling past:


It's amazing how many more things you notice when you're not concentrating on your breathing or on your footing. It's the first time I noticed these dome-shaped spider webs:


I have no idea what kind of spider spins them, but they were fascinating:


I've been cleared by my physiotherapist to start running again... and when I say "running," I mean jogging for one minute intervals, interspersed by one minute of walking, and only for a maximum of three times. Three whole minutes of running.

I'm ecstatic at the prospect.

It's not that I'm one of these people that gets the "runner's high." Running is hard for me... always has been. It's never, ever been what I would call "fun." It makes me tired, hungry, and sore. I curse it while I'm doing it.

But, the thing is: I've been feeling like an utter failure without it.

See, the thing is: I lost a bunch of weight. During that time, I became really physically active. People started calling me an athlete: me, the life-long chubby girl, the one with the "pretty face and great personality." Being an athlete was never a possibility, ever. And then, suddenly: I was.

But what I also found out was that people were expecting me to fail. People went up to my parents and said things like, "Oh, she'll probably gain it back. Most people do." My parents balked at them (because they are better human beings), but knowing that it had been said stunned me.

People were expecting me to gain it all back.

So, when I broke my foot, I got really, really depressed. I went through the cycle of comfort eating, and then getting more depressed about eating, gaining weight, and getting depressed about gaining weight, and then really, really hating myself. My trousers are really tight at the moment. How could I let it happen? Why can't I just control myself? I'm going to fail... just like everyone said I would.

I haven't talked about it here... but today, I feel compelled to spill my guts... to prove that life is not rosy for anyone, no matter what face they put on for people.

Everyone's hiding their imperfections.

Case in point: I decided I'd take some apples that I got in my veggie box this week and make something with them. I don't know what kind of apples they were, but they looked like cooking apples to me:


So I made some apple pie filling (I used only a 1/4 cup sugar, by the way - I hate overly sweet filling):


I took some thawed phyllo pastry and folded them into samosas (which was really easy, by the way. I've watched enough tv chefs make them that folding them felt somehow instinctual). I brushed them with some butter and put them on a tray and put them on low on the barbecue, because it's so hot outside that I didn't want to turn the oven on:


And, bim bam boom, I had apple samosas:


But here's the thing: they're burned underneath. I had one of those moments while standing by the barbecue when I said, "Hmm, they're doing alright, but I'll just turn it up a touch..."

Famous last words.

They still taste great (they're nearly black, but not charred), but I had visions of some lovely, brown, crispy, perfect things, and I would take the photos, put them up on the blog, and make people drool.

My ambitions are a bit low, I know. But I'm still not showing the burned sides. I bet even Nigella Lawson has burned bits. I should email her and ask her.

Meanwhile, the spinning project from my last post is well... gone. It was just not working out: it was overspun in places, snapping every time I tried to straighten it out, while some places were falling apart where I had tried to join the roving sloppily. It was just awful.

So yeah, I'm hiding that, too. (Actually, I threw it out. Not showing that either).

In the meantime, I have picked up the Silk Handmaiden I had started knitting a few months ago. I was not at all happy with the pattern I had chosen, so I gritted my teeth and ripped it all out. I think I'm happy with this choice. It's called the Going Places Shawl, and I think it's suiting the yarn much better. I think this might be the fifth pattern I've tried with this yarn, but this one doesn't work out, that's it. It's going in the naughty corner:


Also: I cropped the heck out  of this photo, hiding all the stains and crap lying around on the deck... just like everyone else's deck.

Ain't nobody perfect. No-bah-dee.

So yeah, this is the post where I showed my burned bits... the shame and the insecurity that has come along with a summer of being injured. But, as Brené Brown says, "Shame cannot survive being spoken." So it's out there, and maybe somehow it'll start to wither and not have so much power over me. And maybe it'll be a way to combat the perfect Facebook lives we all see around us.

First run day tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Phone vs. Life, and Zucchini Challenges

And just like that, another week has passed, and here I am sitting on a Sunday evening, thinking about where the heck the week went.

I can't say it was a particularly productive week. I'm finding myself sitting around more and more, scrolling through my phone like all the other phone zombies out there. It is a horrifying thought. To combat this, I attempted a bit of knitting, but for whatever reason, my head just was not in it. thought it would be better for me to leave it than to try and force it. That's just a recipe for a lot of mistakes, ripped out stitches, and pouting.

I am determined not to become a slave to my phone.

Possibly the most productive thing this week was to organize the top drawer of my desk at work. It had gotten to point that, every time I opened it, I would shake my head, and close it in disgust. It was a disaster in there. I had been given an "organizer" that had wrong size compartments for all the stuff I had crammed in there, and as a result, I would just toss things on top of all the other junk that didn't fit. One morning last week, I'd finally had enough. I went wandering around looking for smaller containers, then dumped out the whole drawer and put stuff in actual PLACES. I felt quite proud of myself after that... so organized, so efficient, so adult:


And then, that afternoon, I dropped salsa onto my lap. So much for victories. And thank goodness for Tide To Go pens.

As an aside: There was a period of my life (from age 15 to about age 22) when I only drank clear drinks (either water or Sprite/7Up) simply because I knew I would spill them. Also, in case you're wondering: milk will stain. It is not a spill-safe drink.

But anyways...

I woke up on Saturday morning with grand intentions of hitting the gym, but I got up, walked over to my gym clothes, then turned around and went back to bed. My track record has not been great these days, and my rehabilitating foot is not helping, but I'm trying to live by the 80% rule: If I'm on track 80% of the time, that's pretty darn good.

I plodded down to the kitchen with intentions of pouring myself a bowl of cereal and then settling down on the couch with it to yet again mindlessly browse through my phone, but my eyes caught the crowd of vegetables I'd picked up with my veggie box the night before. I looked at my phone and then back at them.

Phone will not win.

It's zucchini season (courgettes, if you're British), that time of year when they grow so quickly that you'd swear they multiply on the counter. You find yourself with so many that you seriously consider leaving them on people's doorsteps, ringing the doorbell, and running away. For me, I am also contending with all of its relatives: patty pan squash and summer squash - basically the same veggie in different forms. I decided that, instead of eating cereal for breakfast, I'd cook up something fresh and interesting:


I softened some deseeded summer squash with some diced fresh tomatoes, then removed them from the pan to brown the chopped up bacon. I drained out some of the fat and put the veggies back in, along with a handful of chopped up fresh basil leaves, which I have been receiving by the bagful every other week:


I added a bunch of whisked up eggs and milk, poured it in, and I had a large, fluffy omelette to share... kind of like a frittata. We always say, "fritataaahhh" when I make one:


Veggies: 1. Phone: Zero.

I did pick up the phone to browse through Pinterest figure out what to do with another zucchini later on that afternoon. It's the glut of zucchinis that inspire ridiculous recipes like chocolate zucchini cake... or double chocolate zucchini muffins. I figured I might as well join in with all of the ridiculousness. Besides, this is the best vegetable dish I've ever made:


When I finally worked through a few zucchinis, I decided I'd tackle some spinning. I simultaneously wanted to and didn't want to work on it this week. I guess I was stalling because I don't have the tools I want to work on it. I still have grand designs of making myself my own lazy kate, but in the meantime, I decided to make do with this:


This is what comes of sitting at the dinner table drinking coffee and letting my eyes wander around the room. I think this is along the lines of what I want to make out of wood, but I would make it slightly wider to accommodate "bobbins" from longer spindles. In the meantime, cardboard contraption it is.

I can truly say that spinning this roving has been a learning experience. I spun it using one of my Golding spindles, which rotates SUPER fast. It's really designed for shorter-stapled fibres that need the extra twist to keep them together, but I was so eager to use it that I started on the material I had closest to hand. As a result, I think I overspun these singles a bit: they keep kinking as I pull them off the bobbins, and when I try to straighten them out, they sometimes break. I think it'll be ok once I wash and set the yarn, but I don' think I'll try to spin silk blends on such a quick spindle again.

In the meantime, I'm going to go put away the mountain of beets I roasted this evening. Between them and the zucchinis, they have me exhausted. I'm the only one around here who likes beets... and I LOVE them roasted slowly on the barbecue. I decided to cook them all up and eat them throughout the week as a snack. I could always eat them with one of these. That would practically be a salad:


I'm off to NOT look at my phone and perhaps enjoy some evening yoga and some actual conversation. Imagine that. Happy weekend, all.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Why the Chicken Crossed the Vineyard, and Other Weekend Activities

The chicken does not exist only in order to produce another egg. He may also exist to amuse himself, to praise God, and even to suggest ideas to a French dramatist. ― G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World
It's a holiday here today. It's mostly known as "the August long weekend," but it has different names in different provinces. I think it's called "BC Day" here, but whatever it's called, I was grateful for it. It was a good time to have a day off.

It's funny how everything slows down just before a long weekend in the summer. Things at work suddenly got a lot quieter: my phone didn't ring so much, my inbox wasn't filling up, and the office became gradually quieter until Thursday afternoon, when I decided to give myself an extra long weekend and took the Friday off. It's best to take these opportunities while you can...

I've been gloating over my latest vintage find this week: a set of mugs from the 1950's, printed with ads from the 1800's. They're from a company called Ceramique de Beauce Inc., and these pieces are a part of the Abenakis collection. I got them from a local vintage group I joined on Facebook. The hubby had been talking about getting some new mugs at some point, and, lo and behold, these popped up:


I paid $10 for all four - almost the same price as the factory-churned out versions out of Walmart... but way more interesting:


I say, if you're gonna buy a mug, get one with with an ad for a pail factory.


Or a pump factory, for that matter.


And if you're going to get coal, you may as well pick up some groceries while you're there.


Another reason I wanted to take Friday off was to give myself time to get my act together to attend a wedding on Saturday. After a couple of years of running, my toes were in no state for public viewing, and I knew it was going to take me a few tries to make them presentable. I felt like a 5 year old trying nail polish for the first time: it took me three tries to get it looking halfway decent. Fortunately, the venue was far more distracting then my toes were:


This is the wedding that I made my 2Hundert Shawl for a couple of months ago. It was perfect for keeping the cool air off my back as the sun set during dinner time. The dress was from a consignment store here in town, made from knitted cotton. When I saw it, I thought to myself, "I could probably knit that," but I knew that it would be easier if I just bought it and took it home. I would probably never get the fit right:


Yes, that's me taking selfies during a wedding. The hubby thought I was actually taking photos of his shoulder. I blame the champagne and the jelly beans:


On Sunday, I met up with my friends, Linette and Dee, who were visiting from Winnipeg on a last-minute vacation. It was so nice to meet up with them. We had a lovely, relaxing day, driving around the Cowichan Valley, getting lunch at Duncan Garage, and then heading over to the Teafarm to enjoy some tea-infused treats during their monthly Jazzy Tea Sunday event:


We also stopped off at Unsworth Vineyards, which I knew Dee would love, because not only is it a vineyard, but there are chickens there. Dee has an ambition to hug a chicken. And well, if you're going to have dreams, what better place to have them come true?


They chickens keep the bug population down, and, if you look carefully at the left side of the photo, they like to perch on the lower vines and eat the low-hanging fruit. This concentrates the sugars in the fruit growing higher up. Very helpful chickens, I think.

One of the fellows working there saw us crawling outside the fence, trying to take photos of them, and he said, "If you had breadsticks, they'd love you!" 

To which Dee said, "Where do I get breadsticks?!"

And he said, "I'll be right back."

And when he came back, he opened the gate to let us in, and then he dashed away, breadsticks waving, gathering the birds. We were in tears with laughter:


Yeah, we went to a vineyard and hung out with the chickens. A better sentence has never been written:




Of course, we eventually found our way inside and tasted a few samples, which is, ahem, what the rest of the adults were doing. It was a struggle, but we persevered:


Linette and Dee were busy ordering a case when I got distracted by this doggie. I was furtively trying to get him to look at me so I could get a photo. Luckily, Linette's whistling skills are very good... or maybe we still smelled enough like chickens to make us interesting enough to be around:


I drove home thinking how fortunate I was to have such a lovely weekend. Tonight, I finished spinning the last of my merino-silk pencil roving. I slid the cop off the spindle onto a second double pointed needle, and sat and admired it for a while:

I have an idea in my head to make myself a little lazy kate, but I haven't quite decided how I'm going to do that. It's going to involved dowels and pieces of wood and drilling and gluing... I figured I should have a cuppa while I mused on it a little longer. Stay tuned... this could get interesting.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Flying, Plying, Cooking, and Puppies

I know that if odour were visible, as colour is, I'd see the summer garden in rainbow clouds. Robert Bridges
I'm going to say it out loud. Get ready. Brace yourselves.

Summer is not my favourite season.

I find summer kind of overwhelming: bright, long days, open windows letting all the noise in, and so many more things to do outside that you end each day washing the sweat off before trying to fall asleep in a bright, warm room.

But... it sure is a pretty time of year.

It's amazing how much colour comes into your life during the summer. I was looking through all my photos this week for this post, and I was struck by how much vibrant colour is in each. It makes me feel so fortunate to have the ability to see them all.

Yesterday, I decided to accompany the hubby down to Victoria for his pilot medical. I figured we'd go for a walk afterwards, have some lunch, and then pick up some groceries on the way home. I brought along one of my Golding spindles, and I divided my waiting time between spinning more of that merino silk blend and doing some of the exercises that my physio has prescribed for my foot. I can't tell which of those attracted more stares, but I'm guessing I'm not the usual type of person that hangs out at Victoria Flying Club:


We drove into Sidney afterwards to walk around a bit. I've never spent much time in Sidney, but it seems like a nice suburb with lots of boutiques and cafes, with lots of places to walk by the water. It was a sunny day, with a cool breeze to take the edge off the heat of the sun:


We stopped into a restaurant that served Swiss food... I had a salad... not very Swiss, but it was tasty. I loved this herd of cattle sitting next to us. It's not often that cattle make for good lunch neighbours:


On the way home, the hubby stopped at a shop to get something for his bike, and I wandered into a shop and found this air popcorn popper. It is in perfect condition, even though I kinda-sorta almost broke it when I kinda-sorta got water inside it when I was cleaning it. I opened it up and dried it thoroughly and it still works, thank goodness. That would have been a real waste of three dollars, and an awful blow to my popcorn plans:


Today, we decided to go down to the beach for a swim, but before we went out, I got a bunch of jobs done. I pulled this curly lettuce from my weekly veggie box. It was so pretty, and I was determined to do something with it, since lettuce tends to get forgotten inside the fridge here:


I made these two jar salads for lunch, layered with tofu marinated in sweet chili sauce, some cucumber, some of the curly lettuce, more salad greens from the veggie box, and a tablespoon each of sunflower seeds. I don't usually enjoy salads all that much, especially ones that I make myself, but I'm hoping these two will be alright. They look pretty good, anyway:


After that, I chopped up some yellow squash and zucchini and one yellow onion, added some grape tomatoes, and a humongous garlic clove, tossed them in olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I put them on the barbecue to roast at a low heat. When they were done, I squeezed out the roasted garlic clove over top, then mixed them with some quinoa, textured soy protein, tomato paste, fresh basil, some dried oregano, some Worcestershire sauce, and some more salt and pepper, and then divided them up into containers and put them in the freezer for lunch later in the week:


While I was out there, I checked on Mr. Wok and Madam Noodle:


And I also looked in at the hubby's tomato plants. I think he's eaten one so far this summer. Tomatoes are funny plants: you wait around eagerly all summer for them to produce something, and then end up with bucketfuls of them come September:


And, of course, today is the last day for the Tour de Fleece. For me, the Tour was a "finishing" challenge. I finished up a few things that have been sitting on my spindles for literally YEARS. Here are three skeins from a 400g bag of merino wool that I finally made it through. They are my experiment with spinning "on the fold" with a long draw draft. The skein on the left was spun a couple of years ago, and the two on the right are from this month. I ended up with that mini skein because I just couldn't get any more onto the spindle I was plying with:


If you look closely, you can see the one of the right is a little fuzzier. The skein became tangled as I was soaking it, so I took it out and re-skeined while it was still wet. All that handling caused it to felt a little, but I think I'm ok with it. I think I might make a nice squishy scarf out of them... or maybe some mittens... something distinctly un-summery, anyway:


I also finished spinning an art batt that, again, was sitting on one of my spindles for a couple of years. The batt was made up of all sorts of stuff: some wool roving, a few locks, some sari silk, and even some stellina (shiny, nylon and polyester fibre) to make it glittery. I decided to ply it with some of the leftover merino singles from the skeins above. When I ran out of merino, I decided to experiment with chain-plying the rest of it. The merino-plied one is on the left, chain-ply on the right:


Here's the merino-plied yarn close up. Too bad you can't see the glitter in in:


And here's the chain-ply close up. I only got a little bit out of it, but it was an interesting thing to try. I've never done it before. I just found a video online and gave it a go... which, come to think of it, is how I got started with this yarn business all those years ago...


Here they are side-by-side. I was never much for that barber-pole style yarn, but these are really fun. I have been daydreaming about knitting up a panel with it and making it the front of a purse or something... really make a feature of it somehow:


One thing I haven't finished yet is spinning this merino-silk pencil roving, but I'm making good progress on it. I couldn't remember how much of it I had to start with, so I had to look back to see what weight my spindle was, then subtract it from the total fibre I had. I figure I must have started with about 50 grams. I stopped spinning at about 25g left, slid the cop onto a spare double-pointed needle, and then started spinning the second half. I got those two red needle stoppers at a dollar store a few years ago, back when my knitting obsession was only starting, and I was buying ALL THE KNITTING STUFF. They will be handy once I start plying again. I only wish I knew where the other two disappeared to...


That's the problem with obsessions. They're exciting and fun, but they're also messy, and your stuff goes missing. It's stuff like that that causes you to lose a pair of pants during a parade....

... but that's another story for another time.

What has been most gratifying during this Tour de Fleece, is to see how many different spindles I used during it. I saw them all sitting on the table today, and it made me smile. I'm glad they're getting used again. And I still have three others not shown here, two of which I haven't even used yet.


Ahem... yes... obsessions...

I'm not sure what I'm going to work on now that the Tour de Fleece is over. I put an order in to get a couple of needle stoppers so that I can have a few more options for plying, and hopefully they will arrive by the time I finish spinning that merino-silk blend. I'm also missing my knitting needles... it would be nice to work on them again. We'll have to see what distractions this week brings.

Oh, and last week brought this little visitor to my office at work. Talk about distractions! It was so nice to have a warm, wriggly little puppy in my lap for a change. If every week brought a surprise like that, I would not complain.


So, it's been another busy week, full of lots of things to fill these long, bright days. I suppose it isn't so bad... and besides, there's be a dark winter coming to help me rest up from it all. Until then... I'm off to wash the sweat off and hope that the bedroom has cooled off enough to sleep. Happy weekend, all.