Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Little Bit of Happy

Old books exert a strange fascination for me -- their smell, their feel, their history; wondering who might have owned them, how they lived, what they felt. -- Lauren Willig
A couple of weeks ago, I came home with this little ceramic pot, which I purchased from a vintage shop at Whippletree Junction. I can't decide if the shop is called Myra Inbows or My Rainbows. But I digress:

It's been sitting on my dining table, just kind of taking up space. I sit and look at it while I'm eating dinner, admiring the glaze, picking it up and running my thumb over the unglazed bottom, running my fingernails lightly over the sandy bits that didn't quite melt in the kiln... wondering what the heck it is and why it was one of three that I spied in the shop. I picked it because it had the most varied in colour and had the most visible pattern in the clay. These little details singled it out. Little details make me happy.

So, this weekend, I was walking around another vintage shop in Cowichan Bay, which is just up the road from Whippletree Junction (can we just pause here and just delight in the name, "Whippletree Junction? I usually say it twice, with an emphasis on the 'wh' of Whippletree...). I was actually on the lookout for a cute teapot (which I don't really need, but I'm in the midst of a cute teapot obsession), and I walked right past another one of these little pots. I paused, walked backwards two steps and looked at it again. I picked it up, noticing it was the same shade of green of the ones I'd left behind at Whippletree, had the same unglazed bottom, similar raised pattern. I put it down, mindful of the fact that I'd left the hubby and Rascal waiting outside in the sun and hungry for lunch, but I made a mental note of what I'd seen.

One the way home, I stopped at Whippletree again, to pick up a ball of yarn from the yarn shop there, which I've visited a few times before. I needed it to send to my friend, dkzack, who'd been here for a visit not long ago, and who had pulled a classic "Adriene" (i.e. bought some yarn, but not enough).

And well, Myra Inbows (or My Rainbows - I must find out the name for sure) was open. I stopped in. The other two green pots were still there, and after standing there and staring for a while, I asked the shop owner about them. She explained that they are actually old "ginger jars," and they would have had a cork stopper on top, and that you often find them in old houses that are standing in ruins here on the Island. The lack of glaze on the bottom was to keep them from sticking to the kiln during firing. And, she remembered me... and remembered exactly which one I'd bought and what it looked like, and that made me happy that she remembered.

And then I went home and Googled like the dickens to find out more about them... that Chinese ginger jars have been around for a long time, and that mine was specific to BC, and that they were used for holding all kinds of different foods...

And then I went out to find some napkins for my little pot, so that it could have a purpose again in my little house. I like that it has a life again, even if it is only a little pot. Giving it another purpose made me happy.

This photo is a little truer to the actual colour. Maybe sometime I'll find a bit of cork and see if I can fashion one to fit in top, just so that it can have a lid again.

I suppose it's these little discoveries that make my little vintage discoveries so interesting to me. I delight in knowing that these things had a past, that they were created for a purpose, that they were used and cared for by someone, and that I can use them again. I wonder if the people who bought it in the first place thought it to be as beautiful as I do, and if they knew that it would find a home in someone else's house, possibly a century later. And maybe it's because I love stories that this is why I love old things.

It's nearly dinnertime. I'm off to put a bread pudding in the oven, make some chicken and potatoes, and set the table with the napkins in my new napkin/ginger jar. I know it's only a little thing.

But it makes me happy. And I'm grateful for that.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

And Then, We Went to the Cabin

A vacation is having nothing to do and having all day to do it in. -- Robert Orben
I was away on a work trip for most of the week. It was a long week, with long days in places where I don't normally go with people I don't normally spend time with. I learned a lot, and I'm grateful for the experience, but I finished the week feeling weary. Oddly, despite being outside of my element, it was quite a productive knitting time. A few hours in airports and on airplanes afford a knitter with the rare gift of uninterrupted stitching time. After a day of traveling, I had most of one fingerless mitten finished:

After that, I didn't pick my knitting up again until I was traveling back home again... and I would have finished the second one, except as soon as I was home, I went straight back to the office. And then after that, I came home, packed up our stuff, and escaped for a weekend in a cabin in Cowichan Bay.

And yes, we packed the Rascal.

We've always loved cabins and cottages... not enough to build one and live in one full time, but enough to seek them out for little getaways throughout the year. There's something lovely about finding a quiet place, usually without a tv, usually near the woods or near the water, always with a cozy little space to rest and find your head again. Days are slower in the cabin, not because they are boring, but because you have time to slow... your brain... down...

Cowichan Bay is only a short drive for us, so it wasn't long before we were relaxing in front of the woodstove, a perfect place to finish my second mitten and for Rascal to finish his nap:

We awoke the next day to some welcome sunshine:

I blocked my mittens in front of a sleepy woodstove:

And then I picked up my Mehndi shawl and kept working on it. I must say: I thought I would dread working on such a complicated lace pattern, but I'd forgotten what it was like to knit one like that. It's like a good book: I can't wait to see how each row will end. I am mesmerized by the beauty of this stitch pattern. I don't want to put it down, not only because I am loving it so much, but because each time I do, I have to re-learn each symbol on the chart until I'm back in the groove again.

We just came back from getting lunch in the village. The clouds are rolling back in again, so I think I'll settle back onto the couch and do some more knitting. I am grateful for the opportunity to recharge after a week away. And after I do some knitting, I might go an enjoy a bath here:

It's a rough life, I know, but someone has to do it...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sleepy Sunday

The last week seems to be a bit of a blur to me. I honestly can't remember where the week went. All I know is that I've managed to have an hour-long nap both yesterday and today, and I feel like I could easily go to bed at 8:00pm again tonight.

It might be because I finished my busy week with the first Friday night volleyball session of the season. Lots of fun, but man I laughed way too much...

It might also be because of the cool, rainy weather we're having, which always makes me drowsy.

It might be because I got up this morning to hit the gym, since it'll be closed tomorrow for Thanksgiving here in Canada.

However, it's mostly because I'm anxious about my little Rascal.

Rascal is doing so-so right now. He got through his last course of medication relatively well, but the mass appears has appeared to have moved a bit, and it is now pressing against his sciatic nerve. He can't feel his back left leg very well, and so he's hopping around on three legs. Despite this, he's in good spirits. He seems to have adapted to this new hopping gait very well: he pushes off with his right back leg and propels himself forward, and occasionally, his bad leg joins in, so he looks like a rabbit bopping along the road. He insists on going as fast as he can, until he reaches the end of the block and needs to have a rest. He is sometimes restless at night, which means that we're all constantly waking up to see what he's up to. It's probably why I'm so tired this weekend, even if it has been mostly the hubby who has been getting up to check on him. He's going for an ultrasound soon, and so hopefully we'll know more about what is going on in there.

In the meantime, there hasn't been much knitting going on. I just haven't had the head to work on my current project, which is quite chart-heavy and would require some actual concentration. Despite it being a holiday tomorrow, I'm getting on a plane at noon for a work trip and won't be home again until Thursday night. I thought I'd make a batch of these oatmeal snacks today. I usually have one each day at work for a snack, and even though I probably won't take them along for this work trip, today was the only day I really had time to make them. I tweaked the recipe a bit (as usual), as I didn't have any flax seed, but I did have chia seeds and hemp hearts. I skipped the cinnamon, but I think I hit it right on the nail by adding some dutch cocoa and dried cranberries. They're proper hippy snacks now, and tease me if you like, but they're darn good.

I also took the time to take some proper photos of the bamboo shawl I was blocking last weekend. It's a pretty little crochet project, if I do say so myself:

I will also say that it's somewhat awkward to wear. I have no idea really how I am going to use this thing, but maybe my confusion is fuelled by the cool, rainy weather we're currently having. I put this camisole on to model it, and despite my smile, I was not all that warm wearing it. I guess I'll be saving this one for next summer:

Meanwhile, I'm off to finish packing for my trip. I'm thinking that I'm best not taking along a complicated charted lace project, but I might be able to crank out the pair of fingerless mitts that I've been wanting to make for a while. I'm going to just go simple with it, perhaps using Abi Gregorio's Peekaboo Mitts, and then embroidering some little flowers on the back. Simple ribbing, straight stockinette, and easy thumb gusset might mean I'll at least have the mitts done by the end of the week.

And THEN I'm taking off for the following weekend for a little cottage holiday at Cowichan Bay. I can't wait: it'll be a quiet weekend next to the woodburning stove with the hubby and puppy, some takeout food from the local fish and chippy, and hopefully some good knitting... and maybe a trip to the nearby yarn shop! Am I wishing my life away? Nah. Just keeping my eyes on pleasant thoughts.

But maybe I'll have another nap first. Yawn...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

And Sometimes, Stuff is Just Weird

"I'm just one of those regular weird people." -- Janis Joplin
It's been a weird Sunday morning so far. I went out for my regular Sunday morning run, and it wasn't what I hoped it would be... my stomach was a little upset, and I felt a little tired, so I decided to do a shorter run rather than risk wearing myself out. I blame it on experimenting with a new pre-run snack and on having a couple of nights of poor sleep, but still... it felt a little strange.

It's carrying on into my yarn projects. I've finally managed to get my crochet project on the blocking boards. It's a free pattern call Tranquil Wrap from Lion Brand, and it was a relatively easy project...

... except it's a bit weird.

It's not the pattern, and it's not the yarn. Its weirdness is attributed by me failing to take into account that simply adding repeats on a crescent-shaped shawl does not mean it will grow proportionately. It's like assuming that a person who is twice as old as another person will need twice as much food. It doesn't work like that (even though, come to think of it, it would be kind of nice if that were the case sometimes).

Anyway, since I cause a disproportionate growth of this shawl, it was no longer a crescent when I finished, but more of a swirl... a vortex, if you wanna get dramatic. And, try as I might, after a couple of hours of sitting on the floor with this thing trying to wet-block it in one attempt, I decided it would be better to block it in stages. I'm pinning portions of the edge and letting it dangle to stretch out the lace.

It's the weirdest, messiest block-job I've ever done. I hope it works.

In the meantime, I decided to wind the yarn for my next project using two skeins of Cascade Heritage Silk in black. Winding yarn can be kind of tedious, even using a swift and ballwinder, but this time it was actually quite pleasant. The yarn was so slick that, even when I had ends that twisted around the shaft of the swift, it was a simple matter of a few tugs, and it slithered out of its tangled mess. Its serpentine nature made me think that the knitted project would be just as dreamy...

... except it's a bit weird, too.

Maybe it's because I've been doing a lot of crochet projects, but the cast-on for this project was the hardest ever. The HARDEST EVER. It's Susan Pandorf's Mehndi, which for all accounts is a beautiful and well-written pattern, but MAN did I struggle knitting through the first row. I probably cast on too tightly, and knitting through the back loop on the first row isn't that easy either, but an hour of dropping stitches and struggling to put them back on again was kind of... much. Gee willikers. I'm only three rows in and I think I need a nap.

The sun is trying to come out now, so maybe I just need to get up and make some lunch and go for a walk, and then stuff will kind of fall into place. I've got a turkey pie to make later, so I'd really like all the weirdness to work itself out now, because it would really suck to mess that up.

But maybe a messed up turkey pie isn't so weird. In another dimension, I think you could call it a casserole. Hm. That's worth considering. I wonder if all the other stuff is totally normal in another dimension as well. I shall ponder that as I roll out the pastry...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

After the Rain

What is it about a week of rain that makes a person so weary? After a summer of nearly zero days of rain, we got a proper soaking this week. It was a good thing, welcomed by the trees, the rivers, the animals, and by people like me, who worry when the land gets so parched... but cool, rainy days are better for napping on the couch than for busy work days. I reached Friday night fumbling for my pillow and eagerly welcoming sleep.

It's not all the rain's fault, really. We've had a few nights of poor sleep since Rascal started a new round of meds for his tumour. The treatment is working. The last ultrasound showed that the tumour has shrunk from 9cm to 6cm. We're hoping this round will shrink it enough to make his bowel movements even more comfortable, if not normal. It's just that the medication meant to kill the tumour also kills other cells, and even though we give it to him in five-day blasts, after five days he is uncomfortable, and by the sixth day, he can't sleep... he is restless and doesn't know what to do with himself. And when he can't sleep, we can't sleep either.

So, this weekend is welcomed by us all. And this weekend, I was glad to have a nice day out to enjoy the first day of the return of sunshine with a friend. We went out to visit a local attraction, the Teafarm, where we enjoyed a lovely pot of tea along with delicious lavender shortbread. And I brought home a few treats and trinkets, including a jar of elderberry jelly made from their own elderberries on the farm.

After that, we went over to The Loom at Whippletree Junction, where we wandered around the wonders within the shop. I'd promised her a knitting lesson, and I just HAPPENED to not bring any yarn or needles with me, so I HAD to buy a couple of balls of alpaca yarn and another set of size 6 bamboo needles. We sat out in the sunshine and basked in its warmth while I showed her how to cast on and knit a few rows.

After that, we realized we hungry, but before we wandered off for food, I popped into the vintage shop next door where I found this lovely little ceramic pot. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to use it for, but it's a nice size for pens... or maybe for my crochet hooks.

And there happened to be a set of handmade ceramic tile coasters to replace the cracked, stained ones that were falling apart at home. I've been wanting ceramic ones with cork on the back, and these are also just the right shades of green and grey that I've been looking for. I was happy to find them, because there's something so nice about buying something that is not cranked out of a factory once in a while. The lady in the shop smiled at me when I brought them to her till. "I can tell what your house must be like," she said. "You like the little details, and the little stories that come with them."

Oddly, the woman who owns the yarn shop said something very similar today when we visited her in her studio behind the shop. "There is the 'text' in textile," she said, as she told us about some of the skeins she has recently spun and dyed... ones she had donated to an art show, ones with which she had been experimenting. "I like them all to be different," she said. "Each one has a story."

So, as I sit here with this shawl in my lap, I suddenly don't feel so bad about how long my projects have been taking as of late. I forget so often that the purpose of this blog isn't just to show off my finished objects, but to share the stories behind them... how each time I turn to start a new row, I feel that tinge of worry that I'll run out before each long, tedious row is complete... how I flashback to moments in my childhood when I watched my mother crochet clothes for me... how irked I am that I didn't think to figure out how making extra repeats in the pattern would affect the arc of this crescent-shaped shawl... how I wonder if I should change from double crochet stitches to trebles, just so I can get through the yarn faster, and how I rebuke myself each time for rushing something that should be savoured... and of the times I've looked over from my shawl to find Rascal sitting at my feet, his head on my knee, needing a cuddle...

When it's done, I'll look back on it and love it regardless, because, like the rain, it makes me tired, but I welcome it, and it nourishes me in just the same way. And just like the sunshine after the rain, when it's finished, I'll enjoy its warmth, and remember the moments I had during its creation.

And now, for a quiet Saturday night.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: A Bit of Cake

“If you wait for a cake to be given to you so you will be happy- then you will be happy when someone gives you a cake. But if you buy a cake (or bake one) for yourself so you will be happy, you have found the way of happiness.”
― C. JoyBell C.
I've worked in unhappy places. It is a sad fact that sometimes, whether you realize it at the time or not, unhappiness begets happiness. It made me sad. I would much prefer that the people around me were happy.

So one day, I went home and made a bunch of cake. Brownies, I think. A couple of pans, with thick, chocolatey icing, all made from scratch. And I put them in the sign-in room with a sign that said, "from Adriene."

And then people were in a good mood, even if it was just for a little while. And for a little while, it felt nice. And I felt nice, because it was nice to see people with smiles on their faces for a change.

A good piece of cake reminds me of my dear friend, Sarah, who used to wiggle in her seat when she was eating something good. And I remember her sitting one day, wiggling in her seat and smiling, and I said, "You seem happy."

And she said, "I was just thinking about some cake I had at break time today."

I smile at that memory, every time.

Today, quite simply, I am inspired by cake. I make it occasionally, never just for myself, but to share. And, corny as it is, cake tastes way better when it's shared...

... as are many things, like:

  • talent
  • kindness
  • knowledge
  • beauty
  • etc.
So, I made some lavender and nectarine tea cakes this evening, and I'll be sharing them. I had two tonight, and man, are they good. And I can't wait to share them.

Happy Monday.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Racing the Dark

For the first time in a while, my eyes are set on a knitting goal. I want to knit this: Mehndi, by Susan Pandorf. I've wanted to make it for a long time now.

And I want to knit it with this:

And the problem is: winter is coming. And that means it's going to get dark soon.

Black yarn + lack of light = what the heck am I thinking?

My monogamous knitting habits are holding me back here. I am determined to finish my current project before I move on. I was hoping it would be finished by now, but let's face it: 900ish yards of laceweight yarn is no quick project, even if I am using a crochet pattern. I'm now at the point that I dread whenever I make a crescent-shaped shawl: the omg-this-row-is-taking-forever point. It is as geometry dictates: the longer the radius, the longer the circumference. Circumference = pi times diameter.

Funny how math class comes back to you sometimes.

I feel kinda bad rushing to the end of my current project, but I am looking forward to seeing it finished. I keep getting glimpses of what it will look like when it is blocked when I hold it up and let the weight of the bamboo yarn pull it down. It's pretty handy to be able to get a blocking preview.

And Cuddle McCuddleson ain't helping the cause here. He's insisting I sit here instead of getting up to find my project:

Anyway, my sudden desire to make this was brought about by the purchase of a dress a couple of weeks ago. It's red, and it's lovely and I want to wear it for Christmas, but it has cap sleeves and I know that I will feel both exposed and cold without some kind of cover. It's September now. I figure that, given my current project-finishing rate, it is probable that I will have it ready by then.

If I don't go blind knitting it, that is.

Right, better shut up and get working. As soon as I can get up here...