Sunday, August 23, 2015

Finish It Up Mode

We are getting ready to leave for another trip in a week. That means that we're on Finish It Up mode. Anything that has been started or opened needs to be finished, or else it gets tossed. Since I hate wasting stuff, t's the kind of challenge I like. The fridge is currently a delicate balance between enough and too much. Never has spinach been so carefully rationed.

The thing is: Finish It Up mode is a bit like running downhill. It's fun, but it all happens so fast, and it can get a bit out of control.

Last weekend, I had a few nectarines that I needed to use up. They'd become so ripe that the fruit flies were having a convention around the crate they were sitting in, so I brought them in, peeled them, sliced them, and then made a coffee cake. I used an angel food cake pan because I figured it would bake faster, and I thought I was being smart because I could pull it out by the tube, but it was a bit tougher to get it off the bottom than I thought. Still, it looked good, and tasted even better:

I took one for the team and ate a slice, and it was easier to get it off the base after that. It was an excellent cake, and we finished the last slice today.

Fruit: complete.

This is a common sight in our bathroom: the almost-empty-but-not-quite-we-can-get-another-few-days-out-of-it tube of toothpaste sitting next to the ok-that's-enough-already full tube of toothpaste. I admit that I can't let go of a tube until I know I have managed to get every single drop of paste outta that thing. And it's better to take a brand new tube when traveling than one that might run out while you're on the road. I threw out the empty tube this morning. 

Toothpaste: complete.

Some things just aren't getting with the program. The butternut squash plant I've been nursing all season surprised me last week by finally showing some promise, just as I was about to give up on them. Now, I can't decide if I should be happy or disappointed. I'm going to have to find someone willing to dump a bit of water on them so they have a better chance. I hope they make it to full size while I'm away, but I'm not so optimistic. But darn, they are cute:

Squash: pending.

Of course, sometimes, when you're trying to use stuff up, you only end up with more stuff to work through. Case in point: this week's lunch, a vegetarian chilli, made with three different cans of beans, a cup of cooked quinoa, some corn, and a big can of tomatoes (based on this recipe). I decided to throw in the last few chipotle chilis in adobo sauce that has been languishing in the fridge for a while (I hope I'm not going to regret that, but the first few taste tests haven't blown my head off yet). 

Perfect lunch recipe, except I have about three too many portions for this week. The freezer is full again. Not such a bad thing in the long run (it'll save me making a few lunches when I get back), but goes against the Finish It Up program.

Chili: frozen. (Is that an oxymoron?)

And well, I have my knitting project to contend with. I've got one side complete, and the second side is more than halfway done. I'm trying to focus on it: I really want to get it done before we leave, but man, it's gonna take some pushing. It's not helping that I'm also trying to figure out what kind of project I'm going to take with me to work on while we're traveling. Planning future projects are the worst thing for Finish It Up mode.

Knitting: priority case. Better get on it... later skaters.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

From People Only Briefly in Your Life

“That's the ideal meeting...once upon a time, only once, unexpectedly, then never again.” -- Helen Oyeyemi
I attended a funeral last weekend. It wasn't really anyone I knew. I'd met the person once: he was a fellow employee that worked at one of our remote construction sites. He passed away unexpectedly, and when my boss sent the email with the news, I was sad. He showed me a simple kindness once, on the first day I met him on that work site: he handed me a pair of earplugs. And I thought that that was kind. He knew I was an office worker, and that I wouldn't have thought to bring ear protection. I can't even remember if I ever talked to him, or if I ever saw him again.

And then, he was gone.

I attended with another coworker on behalf of the company. His cousin, another employee, had been in contact with me the week before to extend the invitation to us. We had taken up a collection, which turned into a large donation and a bursary for others working towards the same trade certification. I felt like it was only right to attend in person.

He was a native person, what we refer to as First Nations in Canada. He was proud of his culture, and would have wanted everything to be done traditionally. I learned a lot that day. I learned about how he had quietly purchased tools for a coworker when he couldn't afford them, only asking that he pass on the kindness... how he loved rap music, but refused to write lyrics that were demeaning to women... how he was so, so proud to be a carpenter, because that's what the men in his family did.

I learned a little about the traditions of the Coast Salish Peoples. Many people carried around small drawstring pouches, in which they carried coins. I looked at them with great interest: they were all knitted or crocheted in different colours. The family circled the casket and placed coins in a pouch worn by the person officiating the ceremony, and then later, to other people who had helped put the day together: the dancers, the singers, the pall bearers, the people who organized the lunch. Others that attended the service took coins from their pouches to give to the family, and one person noted down their names. "We write it down so that we remember who helped us," his cousin said. "And then, when they are in need, we remember to help them."

The First Nations of the Cowichan Valley are famous for their knitted sweaters. I remember reading about it at a museum in Cowichan Bay, and I remembered taking a photo of the panel below. Since then, I'd been interested in knitting a version for myself - I just haven't gotten around to it yet:

The pouches I saw were either knitted using their two-coloured stranded technique, or crocheted, also in multiple colours. I saw snowflake patterns, birds in flight, wolves in profile. I didn't take any photos (it seems wrong to take photos at a funeral), but I couldn't help but study each one I saw carefully. I asked one of the cousins who made them, and she said, "They just appear... people arrive at our houses with bags full of them. They are just always being made."

And well, that's just the way it is. They are made by people who make them because that is what is done.

When I got home, I pulled out some of my own yarn and started to crochet a pouch, just to see if I could do it. I think I might try a stranded knitted one sometime... just because I want to. It is what I do.

When we were at the gravesite, I learned another thing: It is unbearably painful to watch a mother standing at the gravesite of her son as they are lowering him into the ground. It's during those times when my senses are extra strong... as my eyes prickled with tears, I looked up and saw hawks circling near by... and I watched them as they came closer and closer. I became aware of the slience in the graveyard, even with all of the people there. I wondered if the hawks knew that we were letting go of someone, and if they were there to help his spirit on.

I am glad I went. I am glad to have known this person. And I will remember him as I knit.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Shrooms, Strawberries, Lakes, Knitting

Long weekends.

If it had been been any longer, I would have started worrying about all the stuff that would pile up in my inbox and on my desk when I came back. Luckily, a long weekend is just the right length when you're not technically on vacation and you're still expected to turn up as a useful human being upon return. Three days, trois jours, ç'est suffit, pour le moment.

Saturday was nice enough. I went out to explore a market with a friend, found a new place with "hippie food" for lunch (read: gluten-free, vegan stuff), and then came home for a nap on the couch. It was a hot day. I found out that, if you rest your bowl of frozen strawberries and mangoes on your tummy, it cools you off nicely while you eat it.

On Sunday, we went to Gordon Bay on Lake Cowichan for a swim. I've been there a couple of times, but this was the first time we were actually going to brave the water. It was nice and warm, a nice change from the sea water we usually swim near our house. The photos are from around the corner from the actual beach, were there were plenty of families all swimming and splashing and paddling about. Still, for a long weekend, there was plenty of space for us to swim, and then to relax afterwards with a couple of sandwiches for lunch.

At home, my mini mushroom farm decided to take off, just as I'd given up on it. It was growing mould instead of mushrooms (that is really not the same, science fans), so I'd taken it outside, scraped off the blue fuzzy stuff, and then left it on the deck where it was promptly forgotten until the hubby noticed little nubs of mushrooms growing on it on Friday night. It doubled in size, seemingly every hour, until I decided to pick them on Sunday, when it looked like this. They're leaning slightly to the left, because they're sitting next to the patio door. I didn't think mushrooms liked the light so much:

They looked even cooler underneath. I never thought I'd be the sort of person to peer under mushroom caps. It seems so rude, somehow.

I'd forgotten how freaky fungi can be. I keep glancing at the box to see if they've popped back up again, like alien Children of the Corn/Shroom beings. So far, they have not returned... yet...

I'm afraid I've hit second side/sleeve/sock syndrome, where I'm enthralled by finishing the first side, but the thought of knitting the second one makes me sigh and grimace a bit. I think it's partly because I'm worried about getting too bored with it, and partly because I'm worried the second one won't match. That's what happens when you wing it and don't write down what you did. I can't even remember how I started the first one.

Knitting a yarn with long colour repeats also comes with its own dilemmas. I had to join a new ball halfway through, and wrestled with the idea of interrupting the gradation. Luckily, I had a ball that started at the right spot... but then about two thirds of the way through, there was a knot... a KNOT... and the colours skipped tragically from stormy grey to stark white. After a bit of muttering, I decided to wind the yarn to where the yarn matched again. It seems have worked out pretty ok. This is the wrong side of the fabric, where you can see some of the ends before I weaved them in. Not a bad match.

I decided I'd block it before I started the next side, but when I squeezed the water out and lifted it up, blocking it harshly into a neat rectangle seemed wrong... soI left it loosely spread on out on my blocking boards on the deck. It seemed to be showing me what it was going to look like in the end: light and airy and comfortable. I felt like it needed to stay like that for now. I'm hoping I won't regret it when I actually get to seam it together.

I'm also hoping that the linen stitch bands will be noticeable when it's done. As it is, you have to be standing pretty darn close to see them. I was looking at it this evening as it hung on my drying rack, and I really like the look of them. Maybe some things are better kept subtle and close to you, rather than being broadcast in a ten foot radius:

So, tomorrow: back to work. Lunches are made, smoothies are blended, gym bag is packed. Only four days until my next weekend. I seem to have reached a point this summer where my crazy busy season is just... accepted. I haven't stressed too much about it, because I've reasoned that things will either get finished or they won't, and it's not for lack of trying. Que sera, sera, as they say.

That's two languages for one post. I think I'd better stop here before the pig-Latin kicks in. Night all.