Saturday, May 30, 2015

Black and White Keys

Life is like a piano; the white keys represent happiness and the black show sadness. But as you go through life's journey, remember that the black keys also create music. -- Ehssan
All of a sudden, I'm on the other side of the world. Life is interesting, if sometimes uncomfortable... and sometimes undesirable. It's true what they say: Anything is possible.

We're in Belfast right now. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon, local time. We didn't plan to be here, but ironically, the decision to be here came on the day we were planning to visit. In short: the hubby's father passed on last Friday. We got the news literally hours after we had booked our tickets for a visit this September. The next morning, we booked another set.

And here we are.

When your family is far away, you always have a stash of money for exactly this reason. I've had a stash ever since I first left Canada to live in the United Kingdom after I graduated from university. I still have it now that I'm back in Canada. There will never be any question as to whether or not we will come home, where that is.

We've been tidying, planning, visiting, making phone calls, and doing chores. And we've been resting whenever we can. We've had some help with the resting part... or at least, someone is good at showing us how to do that:

When I was looking at the forecast to decide what to pack, I decided to bring these socks along, both for warmth against the late spring showers, and for the lovely comfort of hand knit socks. No, I did not knit them: they're the ones my friend Linette made for me as a gift when she came for her visit a few weeks ago (Was it only a few weeks ago? It seems like a lifetime!). They've been perfect comfort socks, and they've already been washed a dried a couple of times. Superwash wool for socks is a lovely thing:

And, of course, I brought a project to keep my hands busy. I pulled out two more balls of mercerized cotton, another colourway of the same yarn I used to make my Artful Infinity Cowl. I packed the same crochet hook, but had no real plans for what I was going to make. After a sleepless flight, two days of jet lag, and a lot of ripping out and starting over, I think I've got something on the go now. I'm liking it so far:

The last few months have really forced me to face one of the things I fear the most: The loss of someone close to you. And you know, there is no getting used to it - no way, no how, at least, not for me. But it would be very, very easy to slip into that "one thing after another" pattern of thought. Can't I just have a break? Why can't life just be easy for a change?

But I don't think that's a road I want to go down. I'm choosing to sit here in life... to face it in stillness and contemplation and curiosity, rather than to drown it out with distractions or food or commiserating. I don't think I would have chosen that a couple of years ago. I don't know what's changed. Perhaps it's the realization of the inevitable... and the choice to value each moment while I can.

I'm still training for my half marathon while I'm out here. I've been fitting it in when I get a few hours to myself. And each time I hit the wall and each step starts to get more difficult than the one before, this thought comes to me:
The time will pass, no matter what. It's what happens during that time that matters. And why not choose to do this as the time passes? I could be doing worse.
I'm glad you chose to come here and read these words as well. Thanks for using your time for this. It means a great deal to me.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tired vs. Hungry

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep. -- Homer

Time seems to have warped on me. All that extra time I talked about in a previous blog post? It didn't last long. It ended up being taken up with one thing:

Being tired.

Training for a half marathon doesn't necessarily make you faster, nor will it necessarily make you thinner. It won't necessarily make you look younger, either.

But it will make you tired.

It's the kind of tired where you are sitting in front of your dinner in the evening, and suddenly realize that you could join those tired kids you keep seeing on the internet who have face-planted right into their mashed potatoes.

It's the kind of tired where you keep finding your pyjama pants on the kitchen floor, and you don't know how they got there, nor do you care.

It's the kind of tired where you force yourself to get up at 5:00am, even on the weekends, because you know that it's going to be a heck of a lot of work to get back into the habit if you don't.

So, the few minutes I might have spent knitting during the week have dissolved into a blur. I get home, make and eat dinner, then get down on the yoga mat to do some exercises and stretches before I go upstairs and go to bed. I dare not knit. I've said it time and time again: friends don't let tired friends knit.

It's a long weekend here this weekend. Not surprisingly, having a long weekend has been great for me... but I haven't been knitting as much as I'd hoped. On Saturday, I made some banana oat cakes to have for snacks this week at work. I've started making them with avocado instead of butter. I also use muffin liners for a quicker baking time and so that I wouldn't have to fuss about trying to cut them into squares:

After that, we went out for lunch and then went kayaking in and around the harbour. We saw sea lions and lots of little fish swimming beneath us. I don't have any photos, though: I'm too paranoid about dropping my electronics into the salt water, even if they are in a "water tight" pouch. Suffice to say that it was a beautiful way to get some fresh air, sun, and exercise. I wanted to come home and knit afterwards, but I think I got a bit too much sun and ended up sleeping for an hour on the couch and was groggy for the rest of the evening. Heh.

Yesterday morning, I woke up early and had some pre-run fuel (peanut butter on toast and a banana), and then did a few little chores while I waited for it to digest. I decided to soak the military bag I wrote about in my last post in some diluted vinegar, because it seems to have a developed a mouldy, musty smell. Then, I went out ran 17 kilometres (10.5 miles). I came home, sat down on my yoga mat to stretch out my hips, and to eat my post-run porridge (which is so yummy, it's worth eating whether you run or not). And, as much as running makes you tired, it makes you hungry ALL THE TIME, which means I eat a snack every 30 minutes for the next two or three hours. By noon, I was so sleepy that I decided to eat a larger lunch so that I could take a long nap without being woken up by a growling stomach. It's not easy to be in the middle of a war between your weariness and your hunger.

Admittedly, the weariness is possibly another excuse to procrastinate. I mean, I could be knitting right now, but I chose to write this blogpost. And in the middle of writing this blogpost, I went looking for the link for the porridge recipe above on my Pinterest, during which I decided to reorganize my Pinterest boards (because alphabetizing things is important).

And I won't tell you how many YouTube videos I've watched this week while lying on the couch after work. I've seen more singing dog videos than I care to admit.

I will add, however, that this weariness I'm feeling is nothing compared to what you feel when you are struggling with chronic or terminal illness... which is why I am training for this half marathon in the first place. More info on that here.

Luckily, the hubby had the great idea of downloading Season 5 of Downtown Abbey the other day, so last night, I FINALLY sat my butt down, put my feet up, and actually did some knitting. My bolero is getting closed to being finished. If I give myself a couple of hours today, I might actually finish it. I'll sit out on the deck next to my military bag as it dries in the sunshine and get a few rounds in.

But I might need a nap this afternoon first... after I eat some cream cheese and blueberries on a homemade roll with my cinnamon latte. I might actually be able to stay awake long enough to eat it all. And the hubby made the rolls this time, because I was too tired (and grumpy) to make them myself:

41 days until my half marathon. Wake me up when it's time.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Walking the Same Way

Someone told me once that sometimes, when you're walking though life, you meet people who are walking the same way. And these people you walk with... they usually have their eyes on the same things that you do.

My friend, Linette, came for a visit a little over a week ago. The funny thing is that Linette and I haven't even really known each other all that long: we're friends of friends who meet once a year for a coffee at Christmas time and talk yarn. On the surface, it seems strange to open your home to someone you've only really spent a few hours with...

...but we're walking the same way with our eyes on the same things.

It's always nice to have visitors who have similar interests to your own. Having Linette over meant that I could indulge in exploring antique shops, markets, and of course, yarn stores, without having to rush and with someone to muse over our respective discoveries. I joked that I might have bought more souvenirs than she did, and what of it? How often does one have a "staycation" anyway?

I hadn't had anyone stay over as a guest since we moved here nearly two years ago, and so my brain was full of things we could do. The planner in me made an itinerary, complete with rest stops and necessary cafes. The dreamer in me just said, "Whatever. There's so much to see and do. Let's just see what happens."

The first day, we went to Coombs, and wandered through the mishmash of stores along the road by the market. I brought home a lovely vintage military shoulder bag, something I've been covering for a while. It'll be a good bag for hiking this summer, perfect for a water bottle and a sandwich:

It's where we found City Style Barbie.  Imagine Barbie in Canada in the 1980's, power shopping at The Bay, and then giving her hair a quick tease and hairspray spritz before she meets up with Ken for a drinks and dinner.

The box is unopened and priced at just over $150. She's In there, waiting in her Chanel suit. We wondered how many little girls had one... and the disappointment they felt the first time they tried to run a brush through that hair. What a world.

I managed to bring home slightly more useful treasures (even though Barbie would have made a great conversation piece). I found this cute ceramic egg separator, which I appreciate as much for its looks as for its function. It'll be a good excuse to make some custards and angel food cakes. It's a great world when you are given excuses to make cakes, eh?

We visited a lot of antique stores while she was here, and we played a lot of, "what do you think this is?" I learned that this is a cast iron pan for ebelskivers, which are Danish-style donuts. You can buy new ones at Williams-Sonoma, but I think this one is cooler... even if it's so heavy that you need to bend your knees to lift it.

Linette is also a foodie like me, an therefore supported me fully when I decided to buy a 10 pound box of red peppers (it was $10, how could I turn it down?) Our collective cooking skills allows us to get through about a dozen during her visit before we admitted defeat and froze the rest:

And, as foodies, we appreciated the cute little fox in the lemon poppy seed muffin she got at one of the many cafes we visited:

We went somewhere new for me, which made it a true staycation. Damali Lavender & Winery was a site I cycled past last summer during my bike challenge, but never had a chance to visit. It was well worth the wait:

That house is the b&b you can stay at, and all those shrubs are lavender bushes getting ready to bloom. Even without the flowers, the place smelled peaceful and lovely, and made us talk with airy voices until we drove away. I brought home a bottle of dessert wine, flavoured with berries and lavender, and a vial of lavender oil. I've been putting drops of it on cotton balls to put in a dish next to me while I do my evening yoga:

And I might have bought a little yarn. I mean, what sort of knitting friend would I be if we didn't visit a few yarn stores along the way? And what kind of knitting friend would I be if I didn't pave the way to the till? This skein of 100% laceweight silk from Handmaiden crept into my hands and stayed there. The colourway is called Raven, and it is a perfect name: the blacks and blues on the shimmery silk are exactly like the raven's wing:

And a bargain buy of discontinued Marvel for $3.00 a ball. I'm picturing a swingy little cardi to keep me warm from the dreaded air conditioning of the summer. Gah, I hate air conditioning:

And, of course, we sat about an knitted and talked about our families, our jobs, and our dreams. I've made lots of progress on my shrug, and she made a lot of progress on her shawl.

As I sit here, I realize that I have yet to photograph the pair of socks she made for me as a gift. Socks! For me! Without even knowing my shoe size! And, and and... they fit perfectly! I must make sure I get a good photo of it in daylight to show them off. What a lovely gift.

And yeah, that's what it means when you are walking the same way: you appreciate the same things, and you feel grateful for any time you get to spend with someone who is striding along with you. What a great little holiday for the both of us.

And I even get to walk a bit of the way in my own handmade socks. Woohoo!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Trouble with Baking

I had every intention of taking today to sit down and blog about all the fun stuff I've been up to. I had a rare day to myself: no obligations and no major errands to run. I walked up to the pool, went for a swim, came home and made coffee, did a load of laundry while I wandered around YouTube, ate lunch, and then took a nap.

I woke up and thought to myself, "I'll just make myself a batch of muffins to take as snacks for work this week."

And while those were baking I decided to try a new cupcake recipe.

And then I decided to try a new frosting recipe.

And here I am, just after 5:00pm, and I've run out of time to write what I wanted to write because we're going out for dinner and a play.

Ok, ok, TOMORROW, I'll get it done. After I go for my 16 kilometre run and do the grocery shopping. And after a nap. I PROMISE.