Sunday, April 26, 2015

Books and Flowers and Running and Knitting

What day is it, anyway?

It occurred to me the other day how mixed up my days were when I opened my my timesheets for work and realized that I had been submitting them a week in advance. Apparently, I was in the future... and yet I was still running behind. A busy week does that to you.

I arrived back from Winnipeg last Saturday evening. Sunday morning, I got up and did some training, then got busy making lunches and packing up stuff to back to work. While I was away, our company moved into a brand new building, so the whole week was really a whirlwind of unpacking, organizing, learning new things and trying to catch up on unfinished things. Somewhere in there, I managed to pack a bag, and on Friday after work, we headed off for a weekend in Victoria.

Saturday looked like this:

A browse through Munro's Books:

A walk through East Sooke Park:

Lunch at a cafe in Sooke, which had these interesting plants growing outside:

A stroll through the grounds at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, where they always have the most impressive flower gardens:

And then I stopped by the conference centre to pick these up:

And on Sunday, I did this:

That's what it looked like to be right in the middle of the pack getting ready to run the Times Colonist 10k Race. I registered for it a few months ago to practice running in a big race in preparation for my half marathon in June. I've never run with 9000 other people before, but it was surprisingly fun. And I was surprisingly emotional at the beginning... being around so many excited people really hyped me up, and when we sung the national anthem, I looked up at the flag and started getting choked up. I had to really breathe through it to make sure my throat was open for the race.

I ran a good one, faster than I thought I'd do it, and learned a lot of things about me. Kilometre 6 always makes me feel like giving up. I seem to come through it near the end of kilometre 7. And it turns out I can really switch it on for the last two kilometres.

I ran next to two people dressed as zebras for most of the race (I think I left them behind somewhere... I can't remember now). And I saw a lot of children running with adults. There was one family that I recognized on the news later this evening: they were running together to celebrate their dad's heart surgery recovery. And there was one sole racer in a wheelchair. And a few visually impaired runners.

In all, it was amazing.

And somewhere, in the middle of this, I worked on my knitting project. I don't really want to show it right now, because I'm almost finished one sleeve, which is currently a mess of improvised decreases, and I'm really not sure about it. But it's there. And I'm still knitting.

It's during these busy times that I worry sometimes that I won't want to knit anymore... and that I won't want to keep up with this blog. But you know, I find myself drafting sentences in my head every day for this blog, even while running a race. I don't think I'll ever stop wanting to share my adventures.

And I kinda have too much yarn to stop knitting now. How's that for motivation?

I'm off to stretch a bit more and relax. I've got a knitting friend coming for a visit this week, so that's going to be fun. There'll be some adventures to share from that for sure!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hospital Yarn

It has been a strange week, upside-down week.

My father had been feeling fatigued since around Christmas, and my mother had been noticing that his appetite was really poor. I didn't really think too much of it: I figured it was the long, dark days of winter that were affecting him, and that, as soon as the days got brighter, he'd perk up again.

I don't know what it was, but it finally dawned on me how ill he was on Sunday of last week (the 5th). On Monday, I texted my brother (who lives in Winnipeg) about him, and he told me he was fine. On Tuesday, I asked him again. 

"Did you talk to Mom?" his reply said.

"No," I said.

"I took him to the hospital this morning."

Then, my phone started ringing. I could see it was my mom. She almost never phones my cell phone.

I answered, but I couldn't hear anything on the other end except the sounds of people talking, some beeping, and the some echoing footsteps: the sounds of a hospital.

I hung up and called back.

No answer.

My heart was in my throat. At that moment, a coworker appeared at my door. I looked up at him, and I must have looked like a ghost because he shut my door and came over to me immediately to put his arm over my shoulder to ask what was wrong.

I can't really remember all that happened next, except that my boss had someone book me a flight home. Two hours later, I was on a plane, and the next thing I knew, my brother picked me up at the airport in Winnipeg around midnight.

I went to the hospital in the morning where my dad was under observation. He was asleep sitting upright in a chair, since he was having trouble getting his breath lying down. He looked pale and small. 

That was hard.

He was admitted officially later that day, and he stayed there until Monday, when the fluid in his lungs had drained and his oxygen levels stabilized. He's home now, feeling stronger and more normal than he's felt for months. He's being referred to a specialist and will also be going for physiotherapy. He's also had his meds rearranged to help him remember to take them to prevent fluid build up in his lungs. It about as "back to normal" as we can get right now, until the specialist visits start and we know more about what to do to keep him well.

Spending days at the hospital is easy and difficult at the same time. You don't do much, but your mind doesn't really rest. I spent a lot of time wandering around the hospital, poking through gift shops, as well as the tables people had set up in the halls were they sold baked goods, clothes and trinkets.

It happened to be the same hospital where my mom and I had our kidney surgeries last year. During one of my walks, I found the kidney donor offices, and visited with the coordinator who helped to organize my donation last year. It was her birthday. She said she never gets to see her patients after the donation is finished. It was a good surprise for her.

She gave me some t-shirts, since it was Organ Donor Appreciation Week.

Of course, I had a project to work on, my Artfully Simple Infinity Scarf. It kept my hands busy when I wasn't walking around, and with all this time on my hands, I managed to finish and block it last night:

I actually ripped it out last week during one of the first days at the hospital. I had used a larger hook to make the first chain, and I wasn't liking the look of it. I re-did it with a single crochet foundation chain to give it a slightly thicker edge, then worked the first round into the bottom of it. I worked the last round in a similar way, working a single crochet foundation chain between each pair of double crochet stitches. It worked out well.

I thought I wouldn't really be able to wear it here, since it's so light and airy, but the weather has been unseasonably warm here. I'm used to being home during the dead of winter. I packed for wintery-spring days: jeans, long-sleeved shirts, fleece pullovers. Instead, we've had a cycle of seasons each day: around freezing at night, but warm and sunny in the afternoons. I had to put the air conditioning on in the car yesterday afternoon when I took my dad out to the mall. I guess I'll get some wear out of it while I'm here after all.

I've booked a flight back to Vancouver Island on Saturday, all being well. It has been a frightening time, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about leaving. I have faith that the systems that have been put in place will help, and I feel comforted that I know more about my dad's situation now. I'm glad I came home.

In the meantime, I'm making the best of being with my family. We'll head out to the park later, if this wind ever slows down outside. And, since I finished my project, I stopped by Ram Wools Co-op this morning to find something to keep me busy until I get back to my own place:

Many thanks to those who helped us through this time. Your words and kindnesses have helped more than you know.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

My Kind of Home Decor

I had been dodging it all week: my too-short Sallah Cowl, in its net-like beauty, sat on the coffee table all week. I knew it was going to be too short, and I was too annoyed with myself to come up with a solution. It would have been nice it the problem had solved itself, but alas, this was the sort of problem that I was going to have to wade through, unless I wanted to waste all that time and yarn.

I picked it up the other night and picked up a bunch of stitches along one of the edges, and then continued using the same stitch pattern until I was nearly out of yarn.

I didn't bind off. Instead, I sewed the opposite edge onto the unbound edge, which seemed to preserve some elasticity, even if it made for a row of large, eyelet-like holes:

This made for an extra panel of fabric to work with, which gave me a couple of extra inches of circumference. I began to hope that I would actually be able to get my head through.

And then, I wove in the stray ends and soaked it. While it soaked, I cast my eyes around for an idea of how I could stretch this thing hard so that it would block out large enough to fit. That's when my eyes lit on my umbrella swift. A few minutes later, I had an interesting lampshade sitting next to my dining table.

And man, it worked. I love it. That extra panel with the stitches moving in a different direction really makes it interesting to me. I wore it out this afternoon to sit down in the sunshine at the marina... it was perfect for the wee bit of chill in the springtime breeze.

It's amazing what a bit of blocking will do. I even went so far as to block my Slipstream Hat a few days ago, and I like it way better now than I did.

And now, we'll break for my obligatory Sunday baking shot (mmmm blueberry scones)...

And a loaf of Dutch oven rye bread:

In the meantime, since my swift was in use as a blocking agent, I pulled out a ball of yarn that didn't need winding, and started working on my next project: a cowl that I fully admit I am copying pretty much exactly from someone I follow on Google+. +Casey L is so good at matching patterns to yarns, and I regularly peruse her posts to see what new beauty she has concocted. As soon as I saw her version of Moogly's Artfully Simple Infinity Scarf, I knew I had to make it... especially since I had the exact same colourway of Katia Jaipur sitting in my stash. It doesn't look like much at the moment, but I'm looking forward to seeing how mine turns out.

Since it's worked in the round, it's going to be one big loop when it's finished. I'm thinking that the swift might work to block it, if it's not too large. I could get used to seeing these kinds of lampshades around the house...

... that'd be my kind of home decor!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Updates on Bread, Running, and Miracles

So... I've been training for my first half-marathon. So far, this has resulted in two things:

  1. Forming a much closer relationship with my foam roller. My muscles... they hurt.
  2. Oddly, I seem to have more time on my hands. 

I think the latter may be because I now have to do longer runs than I would be able to do at the gym. Therefore, on my run days, I do morning road runs which depart from and return to my house, which means I'm not having to pack a gym bag every single night. It still requires a lot of planning, but I'm finding myself with time to (lo, and behold) knit! Who knew that running more meant getting more knitting time?

This sudden abundance of free time meant that I had time to give a new bread recipe a try: Peasant Bread, a no-knead bread recipe that you bake in Pyrex bowls. I'll admit it: the recipe was extra attractive to me because it gave me an excuse to go out and buy one of the pretty vintage Pyrex bowls I keep seeing in vintage and second-hand shops. I found one that would accommodate the double-loaf version of the recipe. I was so excited to find it that I stood in the store hunched over my phone, checking the blog to make sure it was the right size:

Here's what it looked like after the second rise:

And here's what it looked like after I took it out of the bowl and let it cool down enough to slice:

And yes, it is as easy as the recipe says it is... except that I screwed up measuring the flour during the first attempt and had to discard the dough in my compost bin... where it has since been sitting and rising... which is a little scary...

My knitting time has been great, but my project has been... well... not so great. It certainly LOOKS great on the needles, but wing-it-all-Adriene here decided to try the pattern with a great deal less yarn than what the pattern called for. This means that, if I assemble this cowl according to the instructions, I'll be lucky if I can get it over my head. There might be some aggressive stretching and blocking to come here...

But things could be worse. I got a bit of good news earlier in the week:

Monday night, I found myself in my office at work in a last-minute scramble to get something finished. Beneath the piles of paper and in-between pages of text flashing past on the screen, I heard my phone ring. I glanced over at it, and didn't recognize the number, so I ignored it. Later on, I saw a message flashing on it from the hubby...

My wallet, which I lost last week, had been found. The person who was trying to call me was my the receptionist at my chiropractor's office, who had been called that day by the person who had my wallet, who had found my appointment card in there. The chiropractor's receptionist passed on the person's number to the hubby, who then passed it on to me. It turned out to be a guy from the main sorting facility for the postal service. He told me he'd send it to my nearest post office, and that it would be there in the morning. He said that someone likely found my wallet, emptied out the cash, then deposited it in the nearest letter box. I guess that stuff happens all the time.

I was grateful to get it back, even if I had already cancelled my credit and debit cards. My driver's license and medical card were still in it... in fact, everything was still in it, including a gift card to a restaurant I'd forgotten about, and my Avid Knitter card from a local yarn store (losing that would have been a DISASTER). In all, I was out-of-pocket a few dollars, but it was nice to have some kind of balance restored.

This morning, during my Sunday long run, I ran past the coffee shop where I thought I left my wallet last week. As I went past, I noticed a person walking around the parking lot, looking around on the ground around the cars and on the ledge of the low brick wall surrounding the lot. She looked like she had had a hard, unlucky life... an older lady, which a face heavily creased with lines, wearing a shabby hat and overcoat that she had wrapped around her to keep her dry from the light rain. Her skin was dark, perhaps a little jaundiced, and she moved slowly, quietly searching.

I wondered if it was her who had found my wallet. And I wondered what she had used the money for... or perhaps, she might have found my wallet already stripped of the cash, and decided to put it in the letter box anyway. How could I ever know? How could I approach this woman and question her, just based on my hunch? It doesn't matter now. I silently thanked her, and hoped I might see her again.

So, that was the week. I'm off to go spend some time with my foam roller, and then I'll make some dinner. My last two runs have been really difficult, which has been scary for me. I'm trying hard to have faith that it will get easier... that I really can do this. Sitting here and writing this post has forced me to remember that I've got a lot of good things going here, and wallowing in my own fear and self-pity is not going to change anything.

Oh, and I might have a slice of bread. Yes... that will be just the ticket...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Problem with Miracles

I discovered yesterday that my wallet was missing. I realized it just as I was leaving the house to head into town to get the car serviced and to do some shopping. I have back up credit cards stashed away, and I grabbed those on my way out the door while my brain frantically searched through the previous 24 hours until I figured out what had likely happened. I'm pretty sure I must have left it behind at a coffee shop the previous morning.

It's a humbling thing to lose your wallet... a humbling and upsetting thing. I think I've only done it once before, and after cancelling my credit and debit cards, I found it again in my bedroom, stashed under my pillow, of all places. This time, I have not been so lucky, but at least it is relatively simple to cancel cards and check transaction records to ensure nothing is amiss. I lost a bit of cash (I almost never have cash - it figures now would be the time to lose the wallet), but I think I'm more upset that I made such a blunder. I did go back and ask if it had been turned in, and I've called a couple of times since, hoping for a miracle. Nope.

Stupid coffee... tripping me up. 

I had a disturbing dream last night: I dreamed that Rascal came back. I went around telling everyone what a miracle it was. And when I woke up, I was so sad.

That's the thing about miracles: they're not really things you can depend on.

I had lots of time to muse about these things during my run this morning. I counted the losses: the cash, and the fee to replace my driver's license... and even my Rascal. But apart from that, I am intact... and still lucky.

Lucky enough to go to Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island last week:

... and lucky enough to see another spring:

After my run, I came home and cut up the energy bars I made yesterday:

And then I made some almond and blueberry muffins while I mused a little longer:

I thought about the person that must have my wallet... and maybe I won't ever like that thought, but I hope that person enjoyed the cash. And if they used it to go on a bender, I hope they emerged from that and figured out how to move forward a bit.

Today, I'm grateful to have my home and my family and the time and space for my creative projects. Tonight, I'm working on using up the rest of the Fleece Artist yarn leftover from the hat I made a couple of weeks ago. I'm using Bristol Ivy's Sallah, which is a pattern I vaguely remember someone suggesting for that yarn. Whoever it was, you were so right. I'm loving it. Given how many patterns I've tried with this yarn, that is a miracle in and of itself:

Ok. I'm going to leave it behind me now. Onto the next miracle... whatever it turns out to be.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Like a Cake

A party without cake is just a meeting. -- Julia Child
Sometimes, cake is just the very thing that turns things around.

After finishing my Slipstream Hat last week, I decided to cast on for a matching cowl, despite my unease about the suitability of the colourway to the pattern. In the end, the universe took charge and made the decision for me: I discovered about two inches into the pattern that I had twisted the cast on and was putting all sorts of energy into a completely useless moebius strip of wool. I thought about ripping it out and starting over, but I decided that it was time to put that yarn into another timeout for now.

That's rejected project #3 for this yarn. I'm starting to get a bit weirded out by it all. Maybe it's just not destined to be anything.

I'd had a hard week: lots of work piling up on me at the office, and a niggling cough that grounded me from my workouts was making me feel grumpy and unsettled. My messed up project tipped me over into downright depressed. I hit the sack early on Friday night just so I could keep my grumpiness to myself.

On Saturday, after a long night's sleep, I finally got around to baking a birthday cake for the hubby (his birthday was two days before that, poor man... at least he's patient). 

I made him a glorious cake: not much to look at, but oh my goodness is it good.

It's a cake I've made before. I call it the Orange Semolina Cake, but until I found the recipe again online, I really couldn't remember what it was called. I don't make it often, but when I do, it's hard to wait for it to be ready. In fact, the last time I made it, I yelled at the hubby for cutting a piece before it was ready to eat. I could hardly blame him: it's made from semolina and ground almonds, with dried apricots interspersed in the batter. It's heavenly as it bakes, but then after you take it out of the oven, you turn it into the most sinful treat by pouring over a syrup made from orange juice. 

It's slightly more photogenic as a cut slice. But seriously dudes, it's so good, I don't even care what it looks like on screen:

And then, after I ate my cake, I felt inspired. I sprang up and went to find a skein of Malabrigo Rasta that was gifted to me by my dear friend, dkzack. A day later, I had this:

It's a version of Breean Elyse Miller's Herringbone Neckwarmer. It was just the ticket to get me out of my knitting purgatory: thick needles, thick yarn. My needles weren't quite big enough, but I cast on extra stitches to make sure it was extra cushy and comfy. Even with the extra stitches it was just the kind of instant gratification I needed.

It even looks a bit like a cake, no?

We've had a very mild winter here, but even so, I'm going to make sure I get lots of wear out of this, even if it's only to keep the morning chill off my neck. And why not? Who wouldn't want a bit of cake every morning?

Ah, tasty goodness....

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Yarn Friends Just Get It

There are some things that my yarn friends just... get. At least, all the  friends I have do. Most of my yarn friends like to cook... or at least, they have the same appreciation for a home-cooked meal. My yarn friends enjoy a comforting hot drink of tea or coffee. And they all seem to have a generosity of spirit that make me so grateful that they are part of my life.

Today, I made a HUMONGOUS batch of vegetarian chilli for the first time. We had some for lunch, and then I packed the rest away into the freezer for the next two weeks of lunches. I mostly followed the recipe, except I added more chilli and some taco seasoning, ditched the sugar, and left out the black eyed peas. I also added a chopped up package of extra firm tofu. And yes, that's how I follow  a recipe. It was SO GOOD.

And I also made cornbread for the first time with a recipe that someone I follow on Google+ gave me. I mostly followed it, too... except I made mine without the cheese and onions she puts in hers, and added some sugar to make it a little sweet. It was also SO GOOD.

And knowing those two recipes worked makes me so happy because my knit friend Winnipeg is coming to visit, and they'll be great dishes to make together. That will be SO GOOD, too.

Because she's a yarn friend. She gets these things.

And the other day, I got a wonderful package in the mail from my blog friend, YarnKettle. We decided a couple of months ago that we'd do another tea swap. I sent her a couple of bags of some of my favourite loose teas, and in return she sent me this lovely tea cup:

And one or two bags of tea:

AND a skein of beautiful sock yarn:

AND... a cute little tiny handknit sweater that she made of her OWN handspun. Geez Louise, how nice.

And it's all so lovely. For someone who lives on the other side of the continent from me, she sure knows when a yarn friend needs a lift. So many thanks, friend.

But today, I need some help from my yarn friends. I need some opinions.

I finished this hat the other day. I'm not so sure about it. It's Slipstream by Louise Zass-Bangham, which you can buy as part of an ebook that includes a matching cowl and mitts. I made it with a skein of Fleece Artist sock yarn that I've tried about three different patterns with. I felt good about this one... but I'm just not sure. It looks great from the top:

Not so sure about the rest of it. I have worn it once or twice, but maybe it needs blocking.

But the stitches are interesting. So what do you think? Yay or nay?

I guess I'll grow to love it. I better... I just cast on for the matching cowl. Heh. This could be interesting.

That's something else my yarn friends would get, too: the madness of making TWO things from a pattern you're not so sure about. It's nice to have company with similar crazy people. It makes me smile just thinking about it.

Later, my crazies.