Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Button Search

You never know when a button might come in handy. Sometimes though, great abundance can really set you back. Buttons, buttons everywhere, but none of them quite right...

I'm slowly inching my way to finishing my current sweater project, but I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to knit a couple of cuffs on the sleeves and sew a couple of buttons on for accents. I spent an hour digging through my button jar, only to resign myself to the fact that none of them were quite right. If you're going to sew a button on, it might as well be the right button... right?

Luckily, I've discovered there is no end of wee vintage shops and antique malls here. That means that the probability of  finding the perfect button is high. Used, vintage buttons are my favourite. A couple of weekends ago, we made a trip to a nearby village that happens to have several vintage shops. I was determined that I would come home with the buttons I needed that day, come what may...

I have two shopping styles depending on who is with me on the day: shopping-with-hubby-mode entails a quick duck into a shop, frantic scanning with my eyes, hurried questions with the shopkeeper, and a quick exit. Not that the hubby is pushy or impatient, mind you. I just don't like to keep people waiting. The other style is quick-once-over-and-slow-second-scan, which I only do when I am on my own. That is a rare circumstance, but this is my preferred shopping style for vintage shops.

Having the hubby and the Rascal in tow meant I needed to think carefully about how I was going to keep my button-finding mission on track. First step: let the Rascal meet and greet his worshippers. We got into the town and immediately got Rascal on his leash so we could wander around for half an hour, through the town and down to the park and back, with people greeting and petting His Highness the entire time. I'm sure he believes the rest of the world ventures outdoors only to meet him. And maybe they do, I don't know for sure.

Second step: lunch. A stop in a popular cafe, a bowl of squash soup and a drop cheese scone for me, a bowl of split pea and ham soup and a blt for the hubby. Everyone is fed, everyone has run about for a bit. And that means the stop in the antique mall is way more fun for all (except for Rascal, who had to wait in the car, but I swear he waves at people from in there when we're not watching).

The antique mall is large enough for the hubby to wander around and find interesting things while I putter about, picking through baskets and shelves. My button mission was sidetracked momentarily by this little Corningware bowl, which I decided needed to come home with me and become my lunch bowl at work. Isn't it pretty?

Then, the button hunt began in earnest. I eventually brought home three batches of autumn-coloured buttons to audition for the sweater:

The winners? The green ones up front, which are the perfect size, a great colour, and beautiful to boot. I only need two, but the three leftover will find a use sometime. The rest will join the others in the button jar. I hope they don't languish in there for too long, though I'd hate to get rid of them. You never know when a button might come in handy...

Which is sort of what got me into this mess in the first place, isn't it?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Girlie Boost

Having skipped out on blogging at all last week, I feel a bit like I cut class in high school. (For the record, I NEVER cut class in high school, in case you're reading this, mom.) This blog is about 80% fun and 20% work, but sometimes that 20% is enough to tip me from "procrastination" to "whiny defiance." And reading stuff written with that kind of attitude on is just no fun for anyone.

I had a long work week last week, pulled a lot of long days, and add my normal workout/evening chores/dog walking and stretching routine, I was pretty much left with nothin'. I reached the weekend needing a little fresh air and a change of scenery.

I was lucky enough to have a trip to Victoria planned. It was an exciting prospect, but I was a bit worried it would be too much for me after such a busy week. It turns out the change of scenery was just what I needed.

I was traveling without the hubby and the Rascal, and that always means I get to have more girlie time to myself: more time to linger in shops, more time to muse over cups of tea, more time to gaze at window displays. In another life, I think I would have been a window-dresser... though I think I probably would have made no money in it.

Anyway, a girlie boost was what I needed for a bit of inspiration and a bit of reset. Here are a few sights that just freshened things up a bit for me. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Super Power of Choice

If I had a super power, I would want either:
  • the ability to teleport to any destination
  • the ability understand how something was made at a glance
  • the ability to iron a shirt with a snap of my fingers
I'm not that ambitious, as you can see.

Anyway, it is probably not such a huge surprise that I love clothes, both making and wearing them, and I am constantly inspired by photos in magazines and online. I have a couple of Pinterest boards full of things I think I could hack, skirts, sweaters, dresses... I have many, many photos on my phone of knit and crochet garments taken surreptitiously on retail store floors. That's not so bad, I think.

The problem is that inspiration strikes me in inconvenient places and at inconvenient times, and it consumes me for several days afterward. I see something that inspires me, and the knit-scan kicks in.

I once watched an entire movie wondering if I had the right kind of yarn to make a hat one of the characters was wearing.

I once followed a baby around around a museum who was wearing a cute little knit dress so I could figure out how it was made.

I have walked the same block five times to pass by the same window that had a dummy wearing a cute knit sweater. It wasn't even a clothing store. I think they sold second hand furniture in there...

I try to rein it in as much as possible, but I never know when I'm going to be distracted again. It would be so much more convenient if I could just see it and know immediately how it went together.

I was at work one day last week, sitting with someone in a meeting, when a co-worker stuck her head in the room and asked a question. This girl knows a great sweater: I have admired her outfits more than once. This one was cause for me to start sketching in my notebook immediately. It was a good thing the question wasn't directed towards me, otherwise I guess that would have been kind of rude...

Since then, I've seen her wear it a few more times, and each time, I sit down and draw it again. It is a sweater knit in a loose gauge; a thin yarn (I'd bet DK weight) knit with large needles (I think a size 9 or 10). She wore it over a tank top or a camisole. The yarn had a halo, like a wispy mohair sweater, and it was light grey, almost silver. It had a large, drapey, cowl or funnel neckline that could nearly be worn as a hood if you wanted. It had a kangaroo pocket on the front. It is boxy in shape, worn loose and baggy, with "short" sleeves that are actually drapey enough to nearly reach her elbows. I've even looked at it carefully enough to see where the seams are: there are shoulder and side seams, and two diagonal seams on the front, which I'm thinking might be sewn in to give the sweater some structure.

Days later, the scan was complete, and my brain finally let it go.

I've decided I'm going to attempt to make this sweater with some Lion Brand Amazing yarn that I've had in the stash for a few years now. This yarn has a gentle colour-change effect from dark smoke blue to pale, airy green, to pale, silvery blue. If anything, it should be interesting. If only that super power would just kick in: then I'd know for sure if it was going to work out.

Oh man, if I had a super power, I'd totally get a superhero outfit. I better start planning that out...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: I Made a Cake

I'm a cake dreamer. Yes, I am. I dream of cakes. I find recipes, mull them over, think about how I'm going to make them, lie in bed at night wondering if I could change them and make them better, and they follow me into my dreams from time to time.

I also run a lot. I got up this morning and ran 10k. This is a big deal because this is something that I have only recently been able to do with ease.

There is a point to this, just hang on.

During my run, I was thinking about making a cake: a lemon blueberry cake with a lemon syrup topped with a lemon glaze. I was going to use this recipe from Erica's Sweet Tooth. I've had it saved for ages, ever since blueberry season here on Vancouver Island. I had it all planned, how I was going to adjust it to use less sugar, and how I was going to replace the oil with applesauce to reduce the fat in it. I was going to mix it up when I got home from my run, put it in the oven, take a shower, eat my breakfast, and it would be cooling by the time I took Rascal out for his walk.

So, I came home after my 10k run, took off my shoes, removed my sweaty shirt and put another one on, washed my hands, and starting putting the ingredients together: yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla... I cleaned up as I went along, and wiped up a splash of milk from the milk jug after I poured it into the batter. I put the milk back in the fridge...

And then I stopped.

And I blinked.

And I turned and looked at the mixing bowl. Then I turned and looked at the recipe. Then I gazed for a moment at the measuring cups, then back at the recipe.

There is no milk in this recipe.

I had no idea how much milk I put into the batter. My post-run brain just went into some kind of autopilot for a few minutes and just did it. I had a 1/3 cup and a 1/4 cup sitting on the counter. So... did I put 1/3 of a cup in? 2/3? That's the normal amount I put into my morning smoothie. Did I go into smoothie mode? What the heck did I just do?

The hubby found me standing there in my confusion, and when I explained to him what I thought had happened, he shrugged and said, "I'm sure it'll be fine."

After another moment of bewilderment, I decided I'd add another half cup of flour to the recipe and hope for the best. I mixed it up, poured it into the loaf tin, popped in the oven, ran up and took a quick shower while the hubby washed the mixing bowl. Then he went out, and I sat down and ate my breakfast and waited for the cake to bake. The timer went off, and I looked in and thought, "Well, it looks a little moist. I'll give it another 10 minutes." So, I set the timer again and waited.

Beep beep beep. Checked it. Hmm, not done yet. Set the timer again.

And we waited. Set it again after checking again.

Rascal waited patiently for his walk. I set the timer again.

I chopped vegetables, washed some grapes for a snack, set the timer again,

I knit a few rows, checked the cake, waited a bit longer...

I made my breakfast smoothie for tomorrow, and packed my lunch, reset the timer... and then I cooked a batch of food for my lunch for the rest of the week, reset the timer... and then I put a load of laundry into the washing machine...

After two hours of waiting, I looked into the oven and poked at the cake and decided I would just turn off the oven and leave the tin in there to let it set a bit more.

After a 50-minute walk, I came back and found the cake all sunken in the middle, more of a pudding than a cake. I stood there, contemplating what I'd made. Then, I went ahead and made a lemon syrup, poured it over, cut a piece while it was still warm and added a dollop of frozen yogurt and berries. Some would call it a mistake.

I called it "lunch."

So, what's the big inspiration behind this?

It's Thanksgiving here in Canada, and through all of this, I remembered that this is what is known as a First World Problem. The fact that I can a) make cakes in an electric oven b) wash and dry my laundry with machines and c) have the time to run for 10k for the heck of it are things that, had I been born in another time or in another place, would have been a the stuff of fantasy. It is only my own generation of my family that has experienced an entire lifetime of these conveniences. And the older I get, the more I realize how lucky I am, and as I walk through supermarkets and use my modern conveniences, I am bewildered by our abundance and by the miracles of indoor plumbing and washing gadgets.

Today, I am grateful for all that I have. I think I will make sure that I make a few donations this week to our local foodbank, and make sure I don't whine about having to empty the dishwasher or put away my abundance of clean clothes. Because after all, it's all these things that allow me to say, "I made a cake."

Gobble gobble.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I Could Knit, But...

If someone says, hey, you know, this long weekend let's go skydiving, I would say, are you nuts? I'd just as soon sit down and have a cup of tea. -- Rick Mercer
How come the word "weekend" has the word "end" in it? For me, weekends are just the beginning... a time to relax and enjoy doing the things I don't get time to do during the work week. And this being a long weekend (it's Thanksgiving here in Canada) is even better: more time to do more stuff... or to focus seriously on doing nothing.

Heh, like that ever happens with my non-stop brain.

It seems that my yarn hobby is still mostly a weekend hobby. It's not that I haven't tried to knit during the week. I carry my knitting with me in a bag to and from work in the hopes that I'll find the time and the space to knit a few stitches, but all I've done is clock a bunch of extra miles on the knitting bag. By the time I get home in the evening and do all my chores before bedtime, I'm just too dull and sleepy to risk knitting.

As my friend, dkzack, says, "Friends don't like tired friends knit."

So, weekend knitting continues. Currently, the project looks like this:

When I looked at this photo, I was startled by how much it reminded me of a photo I took during a little lunch time jaunt to a nearby park. I guess it really must be an autumn sweater:

But weekend knitting is being seriously compromised by the great weather we've been having. If the forecast is for sunshine (or for a mostly dry day), that triggers the lets-get-outta-here response in us. Today, we decided to go out and explore Cowichan Bay, which is only a few minutes' drive from us. We've been there before on a beautifully foggy day, but we decided to see what it is like in the sunshine.

So we arrived, had some lunch (fish and chips for the hubby, and Thai chicken salad for me), and then we explored. We poked around in the local bakery and the local cheese shop next door. Since we had Rascal with us, we took turns going in. I didn't even mind waiting outside with such a pretty display to admire:

I am totally going to try making this "flower bread" sometime.

We walked along to water and drank in the sunshine:

Rascal loves the sun, but being the fluffiest of us, he got a tad overheated and needed a break in the shade:

So, that was Saturday. I've decided that I'm going to try and get at least two more stripes onto that sweater before the weekend is over. It's totally possible... unless I try making that bread. And I've got a roast to cook. And some laundry to do. Hmm... I best get to it...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: What Orville Can Do

I can't find any training plans for 95-year olds, so I make up my own. I lift weights and run three times a week at a track, doing 25 minutes of intervals.
--- Orville Rogers, 95, holder of six world records and the fastest times for men ages 95 to 99 in the 3000m, the mile, 800m, 400m, 200m and the 60-metre dash
 Image from Runner's World

I read about this guy in a side column of an issue of Runner's World I picked up a few weeks ago. Inspiration? Come on. This guy is amazing.
  1. He's 95.
  2. He's running at 95.
  3. He's breaking records at 95.
  4. He runs intervals for longer than I do. And I'm a third(ish) of his age.
But more than that: I think what's most inspiring about him is that he just keeps going. He's learned that he can do anything... all the things a 95-year old is not supposed to be able to do.

That means I can do anything, too. I can run, jump, swim, knit, sew, cook, dance, read, nap, meet new people, be by myself, close out the world when I need to and open the window to it as well. And I'm fortunate enough to be somewhere where I can do all of those things freely, without penalty, and without judgement.

I'm off to get my gym stuff ready for tomorrow morning. I've 30 minutes on the treadmill to do, 15 minutes of which are intervals.

Maybe I'll do 16 minutes...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Captain Distraction

“All profound distraction opens certain doors. You have to allow yourself to be distracted when you are unable to concentrate.” ― Julio Cort├ízar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds
I love a weekend that has no obligations. More than that, I love a weekend with no obligations and great weather. It's like a boxed present with a big bow on top: I don't know what's in it, but I'm happy to contemplate what is within.

Paradoxically, I approach these weekends with great plans for getting stuff done. I wanted to knit, knit, knit... the heretic inside of me believed I'd be halfway through my current sweater project before the weekend was done. And yet...

Saturday was a productive knitting day. Two episodes of Criminal Minds in the afternoon and one movie in the evening meant I was able to power through a few inches on my sweater. Things were looking up as I approached Sunday morning...

During my Sunday morning run, I was slogging my way up a hill when I was distracted by a noise in the direction of the nearby water. I thought I heard sea lions barking, a noise with which I am very well-acquainted after working in a zoo years ago. I made a mental note of it, and after I got home, ate my breakfast, and got showered and changed, I took the hubby and the Rascal for a walk down to the marina:

We encountered no sea lions (if they were there, they were long gone before we got there), but we sat down and enjoyed the sunshine for a while instead. After the rain we had last week, I felt like I was being showered in delicious warmth:

I got home, determined to sit down and knit, but was then distracted by my newest kitchen purchase: a Cuisinart enamelled cast iron casserole. It's a huge thing, a mighty 7 quarts of awesomeness that makes me feel pretty good about the weightlifting I do at the gym. I forgot to tell the hubby I'd ordered it, and the poor guy had to haul it home from the post office. Oops.

The main reason I wanted it was to make some crusty bread, but we're still working on the second of the loaves I made the weekend before:

So instead, I made some rice and beans for a burrito bowl recipe I found last week. It's beautiful, isn't it? In a fit of efficiency, I made enough to last me for lunch the whole week.

I packed it away into containers, then made a couple of breakfast smoothies and packed a few containers of veggies to snack on for work. Right, time to knit...

But then I pulled a load of towels from the dryer and hung them out to finish drying (I have a fear of drying things all the way in the dryer... too many ruined clothes). Between trips from the dryer and the back door, I was further distracted by the huge spider web in the front window. There's nothing for scale, but this is an impressive beast:

Then I had a nap.

Then I did some yoga.

Then I had a cup of coffee and a muffin, walked the dog again, and then called my parents while I cooked dinner (roast chicken and potatoes in the Cuisinart again, no photo because it smelled so good that we gobbled it up before I thought of it).

So, I haven't done much knitting today, but all these distractions have given me the chance to think more about how I'm going to shape it, and how I'm going to arrange the rest of the stripes. It's going to be a nice sweater...

I just have to knit it now.