Monday, June 30, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: My Noticer

I've been relatively silent over the past couple of weeks because it's been... well, it's been a rough couple of weeks. I have some new responsibilities at work that I'm still working through, and that has recruited quite a lot of my energy. On top of that, though, we've had a rough time with our little Rascal.

It turns out that Rascal most likely has a benign tumour that is affecting his bowel movements. We've been noticing that he's been having difficulty pooping, and when we took him to the vet and described his symptoms, we ended up booking a biopsy for the following week. He will likely need surgery, but we need to get an opinion from a specialist because it is sitting in an awkward position.

This discovery happened to coincide with a flare up of his arthritis (he is eleven years old this year) and with him contracting a virus (probably while he was at the vet, heh). He's been restless and unhappy, and unable to settle. He has good days and bad days. On a bad night, we'll be awakened several times by him needing to go outside to try to poop, sometimes unsuccessfully.

So yeah, if you're new to this blog, Rascal is my dog.

I've been thinking a lot about how people can be so dismissive about people's feelings toward their pets. They're usually either people who don't like animals (and therefore, are people with whom I have difficulty relating), or people who just don't like dogs (ditto). And, whilst everyone is entitled to their opinions about how much emotion we should put into our relationships with our pets, I feel it is important to point out what I think is the obvious:

You can't help what you love.

I don't have children (and the reasons why I don't are nobody's business but my own, by the way), so Rascal is the closest thing I have to one. He is a delight. I never realized how wonderful it was to have someone greet you at your door with all of the happiness he could muster until Rascal came into our lives. Even now, while he is not feeling well, when I come home from work, he sits up and wags his tail and limps to the door. He looks for me when I am late coming home. He makes sure he cuddles with me before he goes to bed. He comes to me when I am upset, and he makes me laugh when I need it the most. He is my husband's companion, and the most popular dog in the town, because he greets every single person he meets. Every. Single. Person.

How could I possibly not love something that gives me so much?

Right now, he seems to be feeling a little more comfortable, and we are buoyed by the idea that a surgery might heal his troubles. Even so, I have spent the last few days trying hard not to take him for granted, and trying hard to make sure he is comfortable.

I read this post by Rachel Mary Stafford the other day, about the day she vowed never to tell her daughter to "hurry up" again. In it, she writes:
I witnessed expressions on her face that I'd never seen before. I studied dimples on her hands and the way her eyes crinkled up when she smiled. I saw the way other people responded to her stopping to take time to talk to them. I saw the way she spotted the interesting bugs and pretty flowers. She was a Noticer, and I quickly learned that The Noticers of the world are rare and beautiful gifts. That's when I finally realized she was a gift to my frenzied soul.
Perhaps what I am most aware of right at this moment is that those beings in your life who are Noticers really truly are a gift, whether they are your children or your pets or your mothers, fathers, students, whoever. In my constant struggle to slow down in my frenzied, busy life, my little Noticer is a great example of how I want to be. Who cares if he wants to smell every single flower on the path? I love flowers, and his dawdling has helped me to discover new ones over the years. So what if he is intrigued by the fuzzy caterpillars? I used to be as intrigued myself, and maybe I still am, now that I think of it. And who cares if he wants to bask out in the sun just a little bit longer. A little sunlight on my face with my eyes closed never hurt me.

I'm off to sit next to my little family and knit for a while. Have a lovely evening.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rescue Salad

It's been a long week... a long, challenging, tiring week. I've been working a lot of hours, which is no huge change, but I've also had a week of poor sleep. That means that by the time I reached Friday night, I had to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure nobody was pursuing me thinking that I had started the zombie apocalypse. In short: I was tired.

On the plus side, I've been trying to keep myself fueled with good food to make sure I wasn't crashing too hard at the end of each day. I've learned from several people that you have to keep yourself fueled on good food, ESPECIALLY when you're having a hard week.

Enter the Rescue Salad.

I adapted this salad from Bakers Royale's Power Salad recipe. I needed this stuff to be easily transportable and to last me the week. I also needed to make sure it gave me enough fuel to keep me going throughout the day, so I changed up some of the quantities of the ingredients. 

Firstly, I feel the need to make it known there is cauliflower in the recipe. I have been known to utter the sentence: "Cauliflower should be cancelled." And well, you can't really blame me for that. It is the least popular of the brassicas, the relative that broccoli and cabbage kinda smile sheepishly about. It's not that it's bad, it's just not... well, it's not like the others. 

But I learned that, like all things, one should not dismiss things based on past experiences. You should give stuff a chance. It's the kindest thing to do.

And so, when I learned that you used roasted cauliflower in this recipe, a lightbulb went off in my brain. ROASTED cauliflower? Well then! And since the recipe did not tell you how to roast the cauliflower, I went to the Google and it told me how to do it. And not only did I do it, but I declare that I did it better: I added a different flavour and managed to reduce the oil content at the same time. Pow pow.

I will admit, when I first tossed the ingredients together, it was not all that attractive:

But when I added the arugula and grape tomatoes, I declared, "Hello, Cinderella!"

For my lunch this week, I divided up the mixture in the first photo and carried it separately from the arugula and tomatoes. I heated the mixture slightly before I put both together. And then, I sat at my desk and devoured it. There may have been some "nom nom" noises emanating from my office, but then, that is not so unusual.

Anyway, here's my version of this recipe. I hope you give it a try.

Rescue Salad (adapted from Bakers Royale's Power Salad)
Serves 4-6
1 cauliflower, trimmed and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed chili flakes (optional)
1 1/2 cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly
3/4 cups or 1 1/2 whole peeled julienned beets (I used one of these to make them)
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 pint of grape tomatoes
3 cups baby arugula 
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper 
In a large bowl, toss the sliced cauliflower olive oil and crushed chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then spread the cauliflower evenly on a baking tray in one layer. Roast in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes. 
In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, beets, and quinoa. Add the warm cauliflower. Stir and cover for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavours to mix together. 
For the dressing: Place the shallot, lime juice, dijon mustard, olive oil and sesame oil in a blender or food processor and pulse until pureed (I tossed it all into a plastic yogurt container and used a hand blender). Add in salt and pepper to taste. 
Pour the dressing on the quinoa mixture and toss well to coat. 
Serve on top of a bed of arugula, with tomatoes on the side.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: Shoshana's Tapestry

"...paint which derives from chemicals is inert, and a painting when completed is fixed in time; whereas with wool, which comes from a living animal, there continues to be movement and change, as with life itself." --Shoshana Comet
My last blogpost was about how I've recently begun to see the world as a potential yarn project... "painting with wool." I find it a fortunate coincidence that I stumbled upon this post today about a woman who worked through the trauma of being a Holocaust survivor through her weaving. When I finished reading it, however, I felt that there was something more about her story that went beyond the stories I'd heard in the past about people using art as therapy.

Shoshana said, "The biggest challenge everyone faces is how we handle trauma, for everyone suffers trauma in one form or another. And the advice we are usually given is ‘to put it behind us and move on.’” And I think that's what we want a lot of our de-stressing activities to do for us: distract us from the chaotic turmoil that might be churning in our minds, to somehow lull us into relaxation by making us forget.

But it's hard to forget things that hurt us, isn't it?

I often find myself musing fiercely about something that made me angry while I knit. The process doesn't distract me at all. More so, it causes me to focus on something I don't necessarily want to think about... but in the end, it is a necessary process. I can not work through something unless I find the time to face it. I can not simply "put it behind me and move on." And this article made me realize that with more clarity than I'd ever realized before.

I am not claiming that doing a bit of knitting and weaving is the cure for all of the trauma someone has faced in the world. I just know that I am inspired by a person who was able to articulate what her art did for her, even if she did not continue to do it all her life. I think I might spend some time thinking more about what my art does for me. I've always known it is more than pretty shawls and garments. What more does it hold for me?

“War.” Tapestry by Shoshana Comet. Credit: Ted Comet. All rights reserved.
“War.” Tapestry by Shoshana Comet. Credit: Ted Comet. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

If I Were a Painter

And I think my brush would take me there,
but only
if I were a painter
and could paint a memory... -- Norah Jones, Painter Song
Years ago, back in my early online chatting days, I had an online friend who was a painter. He worked as a plumber for a living, but at heart, he was a talented painter. His brush strokes were so precise that it was often difficult for me to tell if he was sharing a photograph of a scene or one of his oil paintings.

I remember him saying one day, "I see everything as a painting. I look at a scene, and I start to paint it in my head." I thought that was fascinating, especially since I have no real experience with painting pictures. This was part of who he was, the way he saw the world. 

Years later, I find that this is the same way I feel the same way about my yarn work. I don't know when I started doing this, but these days, I look around at things and wonder how I could knit or crochet that into my projects. The other day, I came across this photo online of this feathery sea star:

 Image by Robert Rath

Since then, I've been wondering how I could integrate that kind of texture into a garment. Maybe some kind of slipped stitch ridge, or ribbing... and I could use these two skeins of Fleece Artist and put them together somehow:

I also come back to this photo a lot, from our trip to Yellowstone a few years ago. The searing depths of these hot springs were mesmerizing to me. I couldn't get over the unending blue, blue, blue of them:

And when I saw these skeins of mercerized cotton by Katia yarns, it brought me back to that memory. Could I somehow share the depths of those hot springs with these? I wonder...

One image I haven't been able to get out of my mind were these pine cones that were turned white by the heat of the geysers at Yellowstone. It looked as though it would only take a puff of breath to blow their ashy forms away:

When I found these two balls of Tahiti cotton a few weeks ago, my mind immediately flashed to those cones. Would it work to knit or crochet some kind of spiral or spring to mimic these cones? Maybe knit a lacy or cable tree motif to stitch them to? Would that look interesting on the back panel of a sweater?

In reality, I've been slowly plodding along on my current alpaca scarf project, but these are the things that fill my mind in my free moments. I feel sad that I just can't seem to organize myself to knit as often as I used to, but I'm ever hopeful that that will change. In the meantime, I content myself with these little fanciful trips into my memory and into my yarn stash.

And I also wonder where my painter friend is these days, and wonder if he still sees the world in oil paint. John, you've always been an inspiration to me. I hope you are still making those beautiful works of art, and drinking that good, non-candy bar coffee.

I still think you're wrong about that, by the way. Coffee with milk is way better, skippy. If you ever come across this blog, I'd be happy to continue that argument with you, just sayin'...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Alpaca and a Wok

This is the time of year when I spend a lot of time outside with whatever little green thing I'm trying to grow this year. I like plants. I think I get that from my mom, who in turn got that from my grandfather. I keep thinking each year that I don't want to bother with all of the fuss of a garden, but even having a tiny little yard hasn't stopped my urge to grow stuff.

Today was the day when I notice that things are suddenly bearing fruit... or vegetables in this case. It's like my eyes suddenly gain focus... I was fiddling with the peas, trying to get them to grip onto the mesh we'd set up for them to grow on, and, ta da! My eyes lit upon these:

Rascal was unimpressed. It's a rough time to be black and furry.

I usually don't bother with a lot of ornamental plants, unless they're perennials that I can sink into the ground and leave to their own devices. I do have a couple of houseplants that are the type that do well even if I forget to water them. This year, I tried something really different for me: an arrangement in a wok!

I found this used wok at the vintage store I visited in Coombs a couple of weeks ago. I walked around the store with it, dithering about whether or not I should give it a home because I wasn't really sure I'd have any use for it. It was so pretty, and I knew I didn't want to cook with it. After several laps around the shop, stopping every few steps and turning it over and over in my hands, my friend put me out of my misery, and suggested I might put plants in it. That was enough to twist my arm to bring it home. A Google search and a trip to the local plant nursery later, I came up with this:

It's a little willy nilly in there, but we'll see how it grows.

And well, what else do you make when the sun is shining and the temperature rises? An alpaca scarf, naturally!

I'm making this from a free pattern from Patons. I plan to eventually loop it together to make a cowl, but I'm kind of resisting thinking about putting it on, with the weather being as warm as it has been. In my defense, I started this thing when it was cold and rainy out. I'm determined to stick it out and finish it, no matter what the weather does. I'm loving how soft it is, and how nicely each colour blends into each other. Add that it's gift yarn from my friend, Linette, and it's all kinds of special... if somewhat weather inappropriate.

It's supposed to rain a bit this week, so that might give me some good knitting time on the couch to work on this thing. I've got someone making sure it's still nice and comfy for me. It's a ruff life, man...