Sunday, August 18, 2019

Lucky and the Pinocchio Tomato

However rare true love may be, it is less so than true friendship.—Albert Einstein
We've been watching an interesting relationship developing over the summer. It's one of those star-crossed relationships where this thing really shouldn't be happening, but it can't be helped. It's between these two creatures:

We met Lucky the cat a few months ago while we were out on our walk. We'd only made it a few steps from the house when this black and white blur went past us, and the next thing we knew, there was this cat prostrating himself in front of us. Seymour looked at us and then at the cat, and then did his usual lunge towards cats that cross his path... except Lucky rolled away and then sat looking at Seymour for a few moments before he casually began grooming his paws. Seymour looked at us again, then at the cat, and then he tentatively approached him, his nose sniffing and leading the way. Lucky jumped up, then Seymour jumped back, and then they stood again, looking around and away from each other, but neither of them much interested in leaving.

And so, that's been kind of the evening ritual these days. We leave the house, Lucky sprints over to see us, and then he and Seymour have this awkward kind of greeting for a few minutes before we tug Seymour away and continue our walk.

Every so often, Lucky will appear at the entrance of our yard and peer in. He runs away when I approach, but every so often, Seymour will be out on the deck, surveying his kingdom. They look at each other from afar before Lucky leaves. And that is that.

But this afternoon, the hubby was out on the deck reading and called me over to say that Seymour had a visitor. And there was Lucky, loping around on the deck, sniffing at our plants and generally checking stuff out. I put Seymour on his leash and let him out, and the two of them did their thing... sort of hanging out together, but not really knowing how. Maybe one day they'll work it out:

The garden is reaching its pinnacle for the year I think. The veggies I planted were sort of 50% successful: the beans were a total failure, as was the zucchini, but I've been getting some decent cucumbers and chard. The strawberries and blueberries seem to have survived being transported from our previous house quite well and have been providing us with a few handfuls of berries here and there. And the tomatoes are currently in a flush of ripening, which is a great relief for me. I should learn not to get so hung up on my tomatoes ripening. It's like I take it personally when they stay green. As if a tomato had a grudge against me.

I was looking over the plants this morning and spied this interesting mutant. I'm not sure what's happening here, but none of the other tomatoes have this. I've decided to call it the Pinocchio Tomato. I'm not sure what it's lying about, but whatever it is it must be a doozy:

Meanwhile, I've been slowly picking away at my current shawl project. I've been enjoying the way it's been progressing, but I've been struggling with a sore shoulder and forearm the past couple of weeks, so I've been finding that I need to rest it most evenings. It's mostly aggravated when I am swimming, but the pool just closed down for its annual maintenance, so I'm hoping that the break from winging my arms around will be just the ticket. My arm felt pretty good today, so I've managed to get this further along than I thought I would. I'm just about to start a two-colour brioche section, which is a stitch I have never done before, so I think I'll take a rest to do a bit of research on it before I continue:

It's always shocking to see how quickly the summer passes. I've found this summer to be relatively more pleasant usual. I've often said how overwhelming I find summer... the heat and the worry of forest fires and the general busy-ness of the season sometimes just gets to me. This year has been cooler and a wee bit wetter, so that helps. And maybe, just maybe I'm touching what it's like not to have to burn myself out each summer trying to keep up at work and with the expectations to be out and about all the time. All I want to do these days is to just stay home... and I'm finally starting to not feel so sheepish about it in a world that equates a busy life as a worthwhile one.

I'm off to muse on what to make for dinner. Seymour is outside watching for his friend. If this is not a worthwhile endeavour, I don't know what is. Have a great week!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Experiments with Plums, Tarts, and Shawls

You've got to go out on a limb sometimes because that's where the fruit is. --Will Rogers
A local lady posted on Facebook that her plum trees were overly abundant in their harvest this year and offered the fruit for free to anyone who wanted it. I love fresh fruit, and the promise of free fresh fruit is a challenge I will always willingly accept. One day after work I set off to find this promised treasure. It turned out to be more exciting than I imagined it would be...

Firstly, it took me ages to find the place. If you see me driving up and down your street peering at your driveway and your front lawn, do not be alarmed: I'm just on fruit patrol. When I finally located the house, the only place to park was in their empty driveway. The plum trees off towards the back of the house. I opened the car door and immediately felt like a thief... some strange fruit interloper with an empty canvas bag creeping around a property in broad daylight. I made my way around to the trees and found that she'd picked a big box full and stuck a sign saying "FREE" on it. My heart quickened. I stooped down and started shoveling the fruit into my bag like a pirate in El Dorado, and when I felt it would not hold anymore, I ran out of there like my hair was on fire. I jumped into the car and started it up and backed out. I'm glad the road went uphill after that because I'm pretty sure I would have been speeding if it wasn't. I'm not sure what I would have said if the cops stopped me. It would have gone down in the "weirdest car chase" books for sure.

Anyway, I took far more than what the hubby and I could possibly get through. I've been giving them away to friends for the past few days, but we still had quite a few this morning. Before we set off to do the shopping this morning, I set a few aside in a bowl in case I had some inspiration while we were away:

At the supermarket, I stopped and gazed at the frozen pastry in the freezers for a while, thinking it would be nice to make a plum tart but when I saw the price of the pastry I balked at the price. Something about the free fruit made the idea of spending extra cash on pastry positively absurd. So I went around the corner to the dairy coolers and picked up a block of unsalted butter instead because I was sure it would be much better value to make my own pastry...

... except I forgot that the only pastry recipe that works for me makes enough for six crusts. Thank goodness there's room in the freezer.

I stoned and sliced the plums and set them in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of sugar while I made the pastry. I didn't really feel like pulling out a pie dish, so I sort of improvised and went the "rustic" route and laid the pastry straight onto the baking sheet. I sprinkled some almond meal onto the pastry, then spooned the fruit on top and topped it with some halved plums to give it a pleasing rounded look on top. Then I did kind of a half-assed fold/crimp thing around the edges of the pastry, sprinkled it all with some more sugar and stuck it in the oven at 400 F for about 20 minutes. I peered in at the end and decided to broil it on low for another 5 minutes, which nicely softened the top fruits and browned the edges a bit better.

It turned out pretty well. It could have used a bit more fruit and I could have left it in there to caramelize a bit more, but it wasn't bad for an improvised plum tart:

Meanwhile, the garden continues to surprise me. One of my rose bushes has continued to bloom long after the others have packed it in for the season:

And on the knitting front, I'm still working away on this experimental shawl. I'm basing the main stitch counts and transitions loosely on this pattern by Louise Roberts called Poussière de Fée ("Fairy dust"). I went through a solid few days of really not being sure I liked the look of this, but right now I'm really liking the way the colours are working together:

I used linen stitch for a couple of sections, and I'm currently working in a plaited basketweave stitch with the grey variegated yarn. I have big plans of using the two colour brioche stitch in the original pattern, but we'll see how brave I feel when I get there:

I'm a little nervous about running out of yarn because I have no real idea how much yarn I am using up since 1) it's an asymmetrical shawl, 2) I'm using bigger needles with 200 yards less yarn than what the original pattern calls for. It's a risk, but I'm hoping it'll all work out for the best. Whenever I worry about this, I usually hang the shawl up and gaze at it for a while to summon up the courage to continue. Sometimes, Seymour joins me for this exercise:

It's time to take Mr. Seymour out for his evening constitutional. Best not keep him waiting. Have a great week!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Yarn Perspectives

noun:  a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.
It's the last day of the August long weekend here, and it's been a hot one. We've been blessed with a mild summer this year, and yesterday was only the second day we've had to put on the air conditioning, and even then only for a couple of hours. Nonetheless, the heat has been enough for us to retreat into the cool depths of our house and hide away until the evening.

When we first moved to the Island, I was very excited to be living somewhere where there were plenty of places to go and visit within half an hour's drive. It was refreshing to have so much choice after living in a rural municipality. After living here for the last six years, I can say that I'm well over that now. Perhaps its the rising gas prices or maybe it's the construction on the main road to our neighbourhood which has created an annoying and lengthy detour, but I do know that I am in no huge rush to be planning outings every single weekend. In fact, I spent two whole days going no further than a few blocks away from the house to walk Seymour. I'm just not buying into the idea that a life rushing around everywhere is a life fulfilled.

I spent the weekend trying out recipes that did not require me to fire up the oven, which meant I spent an awful lot of time with the barbecue and the slow cooker. I was quite pleased with these Singing Hinnies, a kind of stovetop scone which turned out rich and flaky and tasty - a real winner:

I also spent a lot of time reading, which is a rarity for me. I'm usually so wrapped up in cooking and knitting that I barely make it through a paragraph a month. This is mostly spurred on by the fact that I've got some tight muscles in my right shoulder and pectoral, and I've been finding it quite relaxing to lay back on my yoga bolster and stretch out my chest while I read or listen to podcasts or nap... the only thing I can't do in that position is knit...

But I have been knitting... currently in experimentation mode with two skeins which I adore together:

The pink one is some Tough Love Sock Yarn by Sweet Georgia, and the bottom one is some sparkle sock yarn which is in the same colourway as the cowl I just finished, just in a different base:

The trouble is that the grey skein is so actively variegated that I've been having trouble figuring out how to use it without overwhelming the project. I started out with a short row project with the two of them working together in undulating shapes:

I initially quite liked this, but I set it down one evening in frustration because I was finding the grey and whites just a little too distracting at the time. I felt that the pinks of the Sweet Georgia were just getting too lost in the whites and greys and that they deserved more attention. I ripped it out later on, but seeing this photo a few days later has made me wonder if I was too hasty...

But I moved on from this and am now trying out an asymmetrical chevron shawl where I am changing out each skein proportionally do the number of rows knitted... and again, I initially really liked this, but at this perspective, I'm really not sure:

I am also experimenting with using different stitches as I go along as well, which may or may not be a good idea:

Sometimes, when I get overwhelmed by colours in a project, I find it useful to get up and hold the project up to a mirror. Somehow, that change in perspective really helps me. I think I'll have to do that later today to see if this is experiment is working for me.

Or maybe I'll just go for it and hope for the best.

We broke out of the house today and went for a swim at the lake this afternoon:

After a couple of days in the house, it was a good change of perspective for us all:

Seymour didn't swim, but he enjoyed people and dog watching, as well as a bit of picnic table mooching:

Back to work tomorrow. I'm kind of looking forward to having some kind of routine again. I guess that means the days off were a success. Seymour is looking forward to catching up on his sleep work as well, I think:

Have a good week!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

One Year Anniversary and A Finished Project

Who you are in your journey is who you will be when you arrive. --Geneen Roth
I'm very pleased to be able to share a finished project. It seems like (and it probably is) eons since I finished something, so much so that I was wondering if I should even call this a knitting blog anymore. But never mind that... here's a finished thing for a change: a long, drapey cowl knitted in laceweight Blue Faced Leicester wool. I used the Aperture Wrap by Purl Soho, which was the perfect match for this gorgeous skein: 

I was bound and determined to get this thing finished by today, and so I buckled down all week and made sure I finished a few repeats every day. It's not blocked yet, but I think it really just needs a little soak to even out the stitches and that should be enough.

It's been frustrating to take photos of this project because my phone kept adding too much contrast between the light and darker colours of the yarn. I think this shot is the closest: it's a combination of pale and medium grey, with hints of the palest green here and there. I fell in love with the yarn in the skein, and I'm so glad I still like it as a finished project:

I knitted it as a long rectangle with a provisional crochet cast on, and then grafted it together with a Kitchener stitch. I can never remember how to start a Kitchener stitch graft. It usually starts with me fumbling around with my knitting needles and then sitting motionless with my darning needle in my hand for a few minutes while I scan my brain to find what to do... and then I usually graft the first two stitches before I panic and fumble around holding my knitting with one hand while madly searching for instructions online with another. After all that, I think I did a pretty darn good job with it:

Of course, it is far too warm to be wearing squooshy wool cowls, even if the air-conditioning in the office is a bit... overzealous at times. Still, I think I'm going to get lots of wear out of it once the weather gets cooler. I've been wanting more of a neutral neck warmer for a while now. My only regret is that I don't have a matching hat. Plenty of time for that project, I guess.

Meanwhile, today marks one year since we moved to this house. I can hardly believe how quickly time has flown. I guess this really is our house now because as I was searching in the couch cushions for a stitch marker, I found one of Seymour's bones stashed in there. You know he's feeling secure when he starts stashing stuff:

I admit that I find this anniversary a bit tough. I suppose it's pushing me into that dreaded space where I think about where I was this time last year, both physically, mentally and emotionally... and the inevitable comparisons come. I'm not as fit nor as fast as I was this time last year, and I'm feeling pretty bad about it. Logically, I know our bodies change all the time, but sometimes the ol' brain just doesn't let up. I suppose there's not much I can do except keep trying... and to try and enjoy things as they are, whatever comes...

Like these beautiful lilies which bloomed this week. Gosh, I have a pretty garden. Have a great week!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dog Updates

It is quite clear that between love and understanding there is a very close link...He who loves understands, and he who understands loves. One who feels understood feels loved, and one who feels loved feels sure of being understood. ― Paul Tournier, To Understand Each Other
Week one of dog-sitting Skipper has come to its end. How did it go? Well... up and down.

In one week, Skipper has had three baths. This is partially because he has a skin condition which flared up while he's been here and also because he's had a few poopy days which required some deep cleaning. He's been pretty stoic about it all, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't grateful to have a muzzle to put on him while I bathed him.

The other day, I noticed he had a couple of scabs on his back which seemed to be falling off. I plucked them off him, but I think that must have been the wrong thing to do because the skin underneath seems to be taking a long time to dry out. He started licking them and I got worried that they'd get infected, so I went digging through my closet and found a cheap t-shirt that doesn't fit me and slipped it on him while he chewed away some treats. The floral print gives him a somewhat Hawaiian look:

He doesn't seem to mind the shirt. I think he finds it quite comfortable:

He is happiest when he's out walking with us. As the days have passed, he's become slightly more open to us. He even ran to the door with Seymour to greet me when I got home one day:

Yesterday, I noticed him following me around, which was a big change from him laying quietly in his bed all the time. Turned out he wanted a few cuddles:

But you can see that Seymour is quite jealous of another doggy stealing his Mommy's cuddles. They got into a bit of a shouting and snarling match earlier today after Seymour tried to butt in during another cuddle session. I tried petting them both, but neither of them were having it. They're both taking a break from each other at the moment, but I'm hoping it's true when they say that dogs don't hold grudges. Meanwhile, Seymour's been getting his own cuddle time on his own:

Meanwhile, the garden is growing and the tomatoes are ripening and I am wondering if it's worth waging a war with the ants which are slowly chewing away at the cucumber leaves:

We haven't been going out for any car rides together since I don't want to figure out two dogs who are already wary of each other in a small moving vehicle. There have been plenty of couch days with me and my knitting with two dogs snoozing away in their respective beds. I may even have a finished project to share at the end of this dog sitting stint.

Skipper goes home on Tuesday, and I'm hoping the visit ends with everyone feeling like we can do this again. Seymour's supposed to go stay with him and his dad when we go away, and I want to feel sure that everything is going to go well. I guess time will tell. One thing is for sure: they share the same mooching style:

It's almost dinner time and then it'll be time for walkies, and then we'll all settle down for more knitting and snoozing time by the couch. I suppose that's a fair definition of peace. 

Have a good week!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Navigating With a Skipper

Conflict is inevitable. It's really not a conflict between our personhoods. It's really conflicting strategies to meet our basic needs. -- Tara Brach
This is Skipper. He's staying with us for a few days while his owner is away visiting family:

We've known Skipper and his dad since we moved into the neighbourhood last year. He seemed a pretty easy-going little thing, though I confess that I didn't really take much notice of him. We chat a lot with his dad, who is a gregarious and friendly fellow who clearly adores his dog and loves taking him out for walks.

When Skipper's dad first approached us about dog sitting for him, he was really anxious to make sure that Skipper would be comfortable in our home. I thought it was sweet that he was so worried about his little friend. I figured it would be an easy ride.

But little Skipper isn't happy to be with us at all right now. He growls and snarls and snaps at us if we try to move him somewhere he doesn't want to go. He growls when one of us walks past, and he certainly doesn't want us to touch him much.... at least not when he's in the house.

But on the walk, he's happy and easy and doesn't mind us petting him. He wags his tail when he meets other dogs, does the obligatory sniffing, runs after us when he falls behind.

I was really mad at him yesterday. I suppose I was disappointed because I thought it would be fun to have him here: that he and Seymour would play with each other and be good company for each other, but you can see from this photo that they're not exactly comfortable to be together:

But really, I do feel sorry for him. He's clearly missing his dad and clearly doesn't know what to make of this strange house with different rules and different smells. He needs something from us and I just don't know what that is yet:

And I think I need something as well. I think I need him to accept me. I'm not used to having a dog not like me, and I think it's wounding my ego. I realized that as I sat on the couch this afternoon and knitted away with him in his bed on the floor in front of me. We're just not finding the meeting place here. And I'm not sure if we will.

But we have another eight days together, and I'm hoping that we'll find some easier ground in the meantime. Luckily, Seymour has the wit to leave him alone and give him his space (except he has commandeered all the toys he brought along, which is not shocking in the least). And perhaps Seymour understands that not everyone will be his friend, and is not nearly as needy as his mom is when it comes to affection:

I'm off to knit. Wish us luck:

Monday, July 1, 2019

What the Process Looks Like

Sometimes we make the process more complicated than we need to. We will never make a journey of a thousand miles by fretting about how long it will take or how hard it will be. We make the journey by taking each day step by step and then repeating it again and again until we reach our destination. --Joseph B. Wirthlin
Even after all of these years of posting on this blog, I still feel sheepish (heh) when I don't have a finished project to share. This is a knitting blog, after all. What's worse is that I'm finding it hard to think of anything yarn-related to write about. But is this only a knitting blog? I have to remember that this is the space where I share the creative things that breathe life into my day. Still... even though my current project feels like one of the more epic ones, I'm still finding it enjoyable. The comfort of a familiar stitch pattern and the softness of the laceweight BFL make it an easy project to come back to each time I pick it up, even it is only sporadically throughout the week. I would be lying if I wasn't looking forward to it being finished. I did weigh the leftover skein and was pretty pleased to find out that I have a little less than half of the yarn left. So here it is, with sleepy doggy added for scale:

In the meantime, I suppose I should share what I've been up to when I've been dodging my knitting. I've been struggling with sore feet recently, a result of trying to get back to a regular running routine without doing any of the necessary stretching and strength training that accompanies such activities. I'm lucky enough to have contact with folks who can help me with my injuries, and with a lot of stretching, massaging, icing and rest, I'm finally starting to feel like things are going the right direction. I'm trying to be kind to myself through it all. Tara Brach says, "We cannot judge ourselves into improvement." Here's hoping.

In the meantime, I've been busy carefully pottering about the garden, feeding and pruning my flowering shrubs gingerly, hoping to the heavens I'm not killing my garden with my overzealous snipping. In the midst of it all, this African violet that I've been routinely watering and feeding in the house has suddenly decided to bloom. It was a shock: I really thought it was going to be one of those plants that were just going to live in my house with free room and board without the reward of any blooms. And now, the intense purple blooms are so attractive that the hummingbirds and bees keep stopping and hovering at the window, trying to figure out how to get in to drink from them. I'm thinking I'm going to have to move it soon before one of the birds knocks themselves out:

It's a long weekend here this weekend. I skipped the gym yesterday to give myself a break and decided it would be more fun to take this little mug for a nice hike in the woods. He is a funny wee adventurer, totally incapable of walking in a straight line for all of the sniffing he has to do on the way. He was totally and utterly happy, as you can see:

We stopped at a park to have a picnic on the way home. This park happened to have a lovely dog park at it, which Seymour enjoyed immensely:

It was a busy, happy day. He was totally, happily exhausted and slept the whole way home:

I've got one more evening before I go back to work tomorrow, so I think I'll go finish dinner before I settle down for some stretching and icing, with interludes of knitting in-between. At this rate, I suppose I'll have one project done by the end of this summer. Is that a goal? Perhaps... but perhaps it's it's a time for me to also enjoy summer for a change. Have a good week.