Monday, April 29, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Kiwis, 104 Degress

What do you do on a Sunday morning with your two boys and your spouse?

Go to Argentina, of course.

Two very dear friends of mine departed yesterday on a three-month adventure with their two children to Argentina. It was an adventure planned over many months (years, actually), carefully prepared, and well-dreamed. Travel to faraway places in general is daring. Travel to faraway countries where they don't speak English with two boys under five is... well, fill in the blank.

I say it's amazing.

I've had a couple of chances to say goodbye to them over the past few days, which was hard because I won't be here when they return. It was a proper goodbye, a shaky and throat-clearing kind of sad, but exciting at the same time. I have admired this husband-and-wife team for years. We've been the recipient of their unending kindness, and of their generosity of their time and energy. Both have loaned me their sympathetic ears when I was troubled, and both are incredibly supportive of my decision to move away from here.

Their boys know us best as "those two people who walk past with Rascal every day." They wave at us from their window, and occasionally we find them outside and get a few words of wisdom out of them like, "I'm doing ALL the work," which, at their age, is impressive. I told their dad that we'd probably see them once more as we walked past this weekend, and yesterday morning, we did. We found them outside, waiting for their ride to airport as the boys zoomed around the front yard, working off energy before their long flights, their neighbours standing with them to say goodbye. Rascal marched up and sniffed each boy, who laughed and petted him and chatted away about how similar he is to their friend's dog.

Then, their ride showed up, they started loading up, we hugged once more, and we started to walk away. I heard someone call my name, and I turned to watch Kelly running towards me with a bag of kiwis. "Here, take these," she said. "We don't have anything to peel them with, and you may as well take them."

So, I'm eating a kiwi this morning, and thinking about these two inspiring people, and how much I admire their willingness to ride into the unknown, and their acceptance of whatever comes their way. And I'm thinking about how much I'll miss them.

If you'd like to watch their adventures, you can follow them through their blog: 104 Degrees: A Canadian Family's Adventure in Argentina. Cheers, guys.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Purge Surge

Just over one month to moving day, and we're approaching survival-mode. In an effort to get a handle on how much stuff we actually have, I've been moving all my clothes into suitcases and boxes and living out them so I can clear the closets. All non-necessities are slowly being boxed up. I look around the house each day and think to myself, "Do I REALLY want to move that, or should I just get rid of it?" It's a non-stop purge right now. Cute baskets? Gone. Glass vases? Gone. Anything that I can pick up for a couple of bucks at a thrift shop is out.

We're starting to gauge how much food we have in the cupboards and trying to figure out how much perishable stuff we really need to buy each week without too much going to waste. We had a going-away party for a friend a couple of weeks ago, and I joked that I was going to use up all my graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and tuna in a recipe of my own creation.

Don't worry, I'm not that creative. I only used a little bit of tuna... wink wink...

In an effort to use up some overripe bananas and some flour, I discovered this recipe online a couple of weeks ago for a "clean" banana bread, that uses honey as a sweetener and apple sauce to bind it, rather than the usual sugar and oil or butter. It was good! I only used 1/2 cup of honey instead of 3/4 cup (because I ran out) and it was still delicious. You could probably add some cinnamon or nutmeg if you wanted for a wee bit more flavour, but it was tasty as it was, and perfect for an after-work/before-the-dog-walk snack.

It was so good that I went out and bought more honey so I could make it again. I know... I failed at the cupboard purge that day.

I also had some "loose end" knitting I needed to do. Tara, dkzack and I decided a while back that we wanted to make our own three-person version of Knitty's BFF Cowl. We all chose a skein of Berroco Ultra Alpaca to knit our own panels from. Once we've knitted our panels, we'll trade with each other so that we all end up with a section from each other to put together to make a cowl. And since I'm moving soon, I figured I better get the job done.

I chose the motif from Katya Wilsher's Golden Dreams Scarf, which I have been admiring for a long time. The alpaca blend yarn gives it quite a different look, but I still think it's pretty. I will likely try it again in a cotton or silk blend yarn to make a stole or shawl. I left long tails at either end to be used for seaming the sections together.

The lacy sections kind of remind me of trilobites. What do you think?

In the meantime, the packing continues. Today, I was faced with the sight of some of the hats from my collection that I have no idea how I will pack. I guess that's the dilemma for the day. In the old days, a lady would use a hat box, but I'm not sure how I'll get my hands on one of those right now. Any useful suggestions out there?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Miracle Fit

I often fall into the trap of believing that I actually know how to knit. I mean, I can manipulate those needles and make yarn do some pretty cool things, but sometimes, my brain just fights hard to humble me whenever possible.

I'd been dreaming of making a cardigan out of some alpaca yarn I purchased during a trip into the city a while ago. I liked the combination of the colours together, but somehow, it just wasn't coming together.

I played around with a bunch of ideas, and eventually decided that I needed to throw another colour into the mix. After a day playing with the dyepots over at Tara's house, I had a perfect lime green skein of yarn to work with. I made a gauge swatch, did a few calculations, and cast on for my cardigan.

I started playing with the colours, adding them in one at a time with a chevron lace stitch. I strategically placed the colours so that they would hit my torso in a flattering way... and it seemed to be working out.  I got near the bottom edge and then took out the measuring tape and...

It was too small. Not terribly small, just... snug. I messed up on my gauge somehow. I left it on the couch while I pondered. Rascal added his opinion.

I carried on bravely, contemplating how I was going to make this thing fit. I was going to add a button band to it anyway, but instead of using just one colour as I planned, I decided to use three and make it a touch wider. That sort of solved the girth issue. At least the thing wouldn't look like I'd raided the kids' section at the department store.

After I took it off the needles and tried it on, it looked a little too short. I pondered for a while and then decided that I would hope that the very nature of the alpaca yarn would sort it out for me. It has a tendency to grow when washed, and even though my gauge swatch (which I always wash) didn't really show much growth, I would block the crap out of it and hope that it would take.

The sun is sort of ruining this shot, but you can see how I treated it like a lace shawl on the blocking boards.

And, lo and behold, it worked. It is wide enough to close over my cookie-loving belly and long enough to look like a grown-up sweater.

The yarn saved me this time, but I think I'll plan for a little more room all around for the next one. This experience was a little too nerve-wracking for my liking. If your brain is going to sabotage you, it's best to put in a few safeguards, like a little more common sense and a little less hoping for miracles.

Who am I kidding? Every project of mine needs a little miracle-magic. It's the only way stuff gets finished around here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What I'll Do On Thursday Morning

This happened the other day. Most of us have heard about it, and most of us have had a few things to say about it... and most of us don't know what to do about it. I still don't know.

What I do know is that I was talking to a friend the other day about getting back onto the pavement and running again. I was bemoaning the cold springtime mornings, and the muddy paths. She told me how she was running 5 and 7k over the past few weeks. And I said, "Ok, I'll aim for Thursday."

Life has been busy lately... stressful, hectic, restless. And now, I have stopped a moment to reflect.

And as I reflected on what happened in Boston, I knew that I would get up on Thursday morning, pull on all my layers, put on my hat, and go for a run. It won't change anything, it won't improve anything, but I know I will... because I can.

That is more than what a lot of people will be able to do this week. I'll do this for now until I know more...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Daylight

I took this photo as I sat on my couch this morning after my yoga practice as I ate my cereal and drank my coffee. My brain is full of stuff right now, and I'm feeling overwhelmed. My yoga practice is usually a time for me to clear my head, but the stuff just kept charging through my mind, even as I breathed through each movement and tried to let the thoughts drift past, like they usually do. It was discouraging, and I feel tense and rigid.

But... it's spring (even if the snow persists in returning again and again), and the mornings are brighter, and I can hear the birds chirping outside. Life moves forward, time moves on, and as they say, this too shall pass. It's hard to believe that sometimes, but I have to believe that days like this are temporary. Later on, I will enjoy knitting a few rows on the delicious alpaca sweater I am working on. After work, I will go out for a walk with the dog and the hubby, enjoy the fresh air, and after that, I will enjoy the company of friends at Zumba. And tomorrow, the sun will rise again, and I'll get another go at this life.
The sun will go on rising and setting, whether I fail in geometry or not. - Anne, from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Sad Shelf

Moving has brought out several behaviours that are distinctly out of character for me. I've been putting things away right after I use them. I've been seeking out unused items and donating, selling or gifting them. I wipe the bathroom mirror every day before I go to work. And I've been doing small jobs every day so that I don't end up with a huge job to do later on. This means packing my things, a little bit at a time.

That means my glorious yarn shelf, with all of its skeiny goodness... looks like this:

It's a sad-looking shelf, isn't it?

The yarn and spinning fibre is all loosely packed in boxes right now, unsealed so that it can "breathe" and not get damp or mouldy. I won't say how many boxes they filled, just that we are speaking in... ahem... plural.

The vintage traincase you see on the floor in that photo is now holding most of my circular knitting needles, my spindles, crochet hooks, stitch holders, and a jar full of buttons. It's actually quite amazing how much stuff fits in there.

I've also packed some of my other crafty supplies. Here is the box holding most of my sewing materials (apart from that random hole punch that needed a home).

Truthfully, we have several weeks before we really need to get serious about packing, and that means that I can't put everything into a box just yet. I just needed to feel like I was doing something about the packing situation. And yes, I've left out yarn for projects to keep me busy for now.

The basket is holding yellow Cascade 220 Sport for a cardigan from Twist Collective called Roheline. The dark blue is Elann's Lara, queued for a long-sleeved version of the Seaglass Shell from Interweave Knits. The light blue is Elann's Peruvian Baby Cashmere (a wool/alpaca/cashmere blend) which is going to become a shrug of some sort... not sure what yet. And the watermelon-coloured yarn is Cascade Ultra Pima which is currently destined to become a top called Bottoms Up. I'm thinking I should put a note up somewhere to remind myself to make sure those skeins are all wound into balls before I pack away my swift and ball winder. 

I am not without a project to keep my head and hands busy when I am not worrying about packing. I'm fashioning a cardigan out of Berroco Ultra Alpaca. It's sort of a variation on Knitty's Grande Plage Cardigan, except I'm just using the pictures as inspiration. It seems to be working out so far. If anything the soft, buttery feel of the alpaca yarn is wonderfully comforting, if somewhat annoying when it slips so easily off my bamboo needles.

In reality, this packing business is not much fun. This is certainly not the first time I'm moved house in my life, but it never gets easier. Each item that gets placed into a box or case or bag just seems to tug another root I've put down here out of the ground... and that never feels good. It's not easy to live in the moment when all you're doing is reliving the past.

At least I've got this little guy to keep me amused amidst all the packing. Don't worry, buddy. You're coming, too.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: What the Hat Did

So, I like hats. This is a relatively new interest. I especially like vintage hats... classy, clean lines, made by people, not machines. Recently, I spied this hat on Etsy, and decided that I had had a bad enough day that I deserved it. It arrived the other day, and I was happy.

I turned it over and was pleasantly surprised to see the pink ribbon inside. So sweet, such a nice little surprise:

Then I noticed something else... The inside had been altered. The stamp was folded. Someone had altered the hat to fit a smaller head. And THAT blew me away. Someone altered a hat. A HAT. And that got me thinking...

I've been going through my things, sorting, dumping, packing, saving, and I came across this fabric I bought at a sari shop during a visit to my friend in Vancouver last summer. It came in a package of fabric. This piece was easily three yards in length. If you look carefully, you can see that it is studded with tiny gold flecks.

It came with a lining. I have no idea of the fibre content, but both pieces are silky, flowy and cool to the touch. And all together, it was less than $10. I can't remember exactly how much... maybe $7.99... But I knew I loved it, and it was a good deal, and that I could probably make a skirt out of it, even though I had no idea how I'd do that.

But when I saw the hat alteration, I knew anything was possible. So, I did some searching, and found this video:

And then I got up, went over to my sewing machine, and made this skirt:

And I even went all fancy and made a slit at the back.

It's not perfect. There are crooked seams, and I still have to trim some of the threads. But it's a skirt, inspired by the ingenuity of the hat alteration. I did it because I knew it was possible.

Next challenge: altering this vintage top I got from the same Etsy shop. It's too short, but I'm thinking I could cut it down the middle and make a bolero jacket. Brave? Yeah. But that hat made me do one new thing already. We'll see what it'll make me do next...