Monday, December 26, 2016

Holiday Snow Musings, and a Resolution

I love snow for the same reason I love Christmas: It brings people together while time stands still. Cozy couples lazily meandered the streets and children trudged sleds and chased snowballs. No one seemed to be in a rush to experience anything other than the glory of the day, with each other, whenever and however it happened. -― Rachel Cohn, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
Home again for the holidays... days of spending time at my parents' house, watching game shows and entertaining visitors, eating way more food and worrying far less than I normally do, and just taking each moment as it comes. I've wanted to feel this comfort for a while, and now that it's here, the days have slowed to a gentle stroll... not dull and boring, but slow enough to savour and breathe. I'm grateful for it.

We arrived last week, on a bright, windy day, when the flight we were on was nearly re-routed back to Regina, and by the time we landed, I wasn't sure who was more grateful, me or my stomach. My parents picked us up in their van, which has The Carpenters or Rod Stewart playing on repeat, and we were brought to the house, which always has a warm meal ready for us.

Is that civilized or what?

Since then, we've enjoyed a few days of wandering around: out to the pool for a swim on a few mornings, or outside for walks in the cold, fresh air. Yeah, it's cold, no shock there, but why dwell on it? It's winter in Winnipeg, and it is as it should be.

I like lens flare. I think it duplicates what it feels like to be blinded by the sun on a snowy day:

I think I might have figured out why the snow was annoying me so much a couple of weeks ago. I think it's because I had places to go, things to do. I didn't want to respect it for the force of nature it actually is. I suppose that's what comes of living in a region where snow is so infrequent.

And yet here, in my hometown of Winnipeg, where the snow is ubiquitous as stripes on a zebra, the snow fell last night. It fell and fell and fell, and by the morning, we had over a foot of snow to get out and shovel (which was welcome exercise after the piles of food I ate the day before). The roads were blocked, the highways closed, the Boxing Day shoppers thwarted (for the moment). 

Here, the snow falls, and I look out and I say, "I think I'll stay home."

Luckily, I never have trouble finding something to do. I'm still working away on this blanket. In truth, I'm getting bored with it, but I'm determined to keep going with it. I try to work one side per day, but that's getting a bit difficult to do as it grows. I'm interested to see what I end up with, and I'm even considering experimenting with felting it when I'm done:

I finished my little embroidery project, and brought it home to show my mom. I'm pretty proud of it, and I'm inspired to try out all sorts of things now with my leftover yarn ends. I'm thinking about sewing this one onto a cushion:

In fact, I have so many ideas that I've started to write a to-do list for when I get back to our own house. I've got a few more days off before I have to go back to work, and I'm really looking forward to working on some things I've been putting off for a while. So far, I've got:

  • clean and service sewing machine
  • spin and ply alpaca
  • re-organize jewlery box
That doesn't look like much, but I know what I'm like: I'll start one thing and get distracted by another project for sure. I figure that, if I don't make too many plans, I won't be disappointed if I don't get them all done.

How's that for a modern New Year's Resolution?

Truth be told, I do actually have a resolution for myself: to be as kind to myself as I can, and in turn try to recognize when others are suffering from their own worries, and empathize as best as I can. It's sort of a tall order, because I come from a lifetime of discipline-by-berating, but right now, in this moment, it's not a habit I want to continue. Maybe it's because I've been home with my father, whose health is still not great... maybe I'm realizing how precious each moment is.

I don't want to spend so much time being impatient and angry anymore.

I think I'll go knit for a while... Happy Holidays to you all.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sheep, Gnomes, Needles, and Cake

It was a funny old week this week, full of strange circumstances and an explosion of creative projects. It didn't start out all the promising. In a strange flip of the universe, I got stuck at home on Monday due to the snow.

Let me be clear: I have not had a snow day since I was eight years old and living in Winnipeg. WINNIPEG. The land of snow and ice and occasional six foot snow drifts. And here? We got hit with a few inches of wet snow, and I am stuck in my friggin' parking lot, which has an exit that is sloped at a 45 degree angle. So. Irritating.

I did eventually manage to get the car out, but then I drove it down the road to the gas station, put some fuel in it, and then promptly charged back up the hill and parked it on the road. I walked back into the house, fired up my laptop, and worked from home that day.

That afternoon, I opened my freezer and nearly lost my toes to a package of bacon that fell out. Given my broken foot experience last summer, that was a hazard I was not willing to live with.. So I pulled out some stuff and made something with it to make room.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my oven made for me: a rhubarb cake to go with coffee. No, I'm not going to do the whole song. I don't think I have enough ingredients.

I think I overdid it with the cinnamon on top, but, as with most things, it's the inside the counts. It's full of all the nice flecks of cinnamon and brown sugar and good things that make a cake good. I reduced the sugar in it, and I'm wondering if that was a good idea because the rhubarb was still eye-squint tart, but with another mouthful of cake, it wasn't that bad.

All things are bearable with a mouthful of cake, I think.

That night, I sat down and taught myself how to needle felt. I used a kit that I bought a while back from this Etsy shop. There's nothing like poking yourself multiple times with a felting needle to improve your mood... or at least improve your productivity.

He started out kind of scraggly and scrawny.

And then he started to fill out.

And then I really got the hang of it and gave him some shape.

The hubby suggested ears. That made him adorable.

But it was the flower I put on his butt that just made him unbearably cute.

The next day, we had to help shovel and push our neighbour's car out. Oy... island winter.

The week carried on and filled itself with lots of challenging situations that inspired me to come home and comfort myself by crafting the heck out of each evening. I stitched and stuffed and felted and sewed. I finished this little gnome in a couple of evenings. I used this pattern to make him. His name is Olaf and he is awesome. His hat made him quite difficult to photograph (that is 90% hat in that photo), but he cheered me up immensely:

After such an upside-down week, I was looking forward to attending a local artisan Christmas market on Saturday. I had signed up for a couple of workshops that were taking place at the same venue, and I was so determined to get there that I made sure I parked the car in a spot where I knew I could for sure get out in case the snow came down again. I woke up a couple of times in the middle of the night and peered out the window to see what the roads looked like. I woke up two hours earlier than I had planned to and got up to get my things ready, eat breakfast, and watch the clock until it was time to leave.

It didn't disappoint. One of the workshops I attended was a freestyle embroidery class. I have been thinking about embroidering something with some of the leftover yarn scraps I've been gathering up, but I just haven't been able to get my thoughts in order for it. This class seemed like just the thing.

There were six of us in the class, and each and every one of us was excited to be there. We all had a paper bag placed in front of us and inside each of them was an embroidery hoop with some fabric and a pattern drawn on it:

It was a lovely class - truly freestyle, in that there were no steps to follow, just some inspiration and encouragement to try stitches and play with colours. And I was so happy to be with the others in the class: it was amazing to be around people who were all brave enough to dive in and give it a go. We were all smiling throughout the whole workshop, and at the end, we put all of our pieces together and the teacher went through each and talked about what she liked about each of them. We all beamed with the praise, and then we all skipped away with our unfinished works, feeling accomplished and happy. That is what I call a successful class:

I got home and carried on with it into the evening:

And here's what it looked like this afternoon. The green thread in the leaves and stems is some leftover laceweight from a shawl I made a couple of years ago. I love how the colours are coming up in this piece. What a neat way to see the possibilities in a ball of yarn:

My last day of work is tomorrow, and then we're off to Winnipeg to spend the holidays with my family. I am so looking forward to seeing them and getting some rest and relaxation. I feel grateful to be able to go home to them and enjoy their company. We've never been big on presents and shopping this time of year. It sounds corny, but the greatest gift I could have is to be with them right now.

I just have to make sure we can get the car to the airport. Better go move the car now...

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Snowy Days, Cottage Pie, and Mr. Bond

Necessity is the mother of invention, it is true, but its father is creativity, and knowledge is the midwife. -- Jonathan Schattke, scientist
Well, would ya look at that.

We've lived on Vancouver Island for just over three years, and this is the first year that we've had an actual dump of snow. I hoped it wouldn't come. I find it really inconvenient and awkward when it snows here, mainly because it's that wet, heavy, slippery, icy, can't-get-out-of-the-parking space kind of snow that shifts and melts and turns the sidewalk into a skating rink

That's the long way of me saying that I hate it when it snows here.

That aside, I suppose it's good weather for playing in the kitchen. I made a "cottage pie" today. I put that in quotes because there's no actual beef in it, and I substituted sweet potato for the mashed potato. I used some textured soy protein to replace the beef, and used a recipe for miso gravy to give it some flavour. It would be vegetarian if it wasn't for the beef broth I added, and it would be vegan if it wasn't for the milk and butter I added to the mash. I am neither vegetarian nor vegan, but I find it a very convenient way to eat foods low in fat, high in fibre, and with a decent amount of protein. I think I added too much liquid because it ended up bubbling through the mashed potatoes:

But for all that, it went into the oven looking good and came out of the oven tasting great, so that, as they say, is all that matters:

In the meantime, I've been trying to find something to make with a skein of Fleece Artist that I was trying to make into a top in my last post. I thought it was going alright, but I picked up the project one day and just couldn't make myself like it. I think the colours contrast too much with each other to make a wearable garment... at least a garment I want to wear. No matter what I did, I was going to end up with distracting splotches. So, with a big sigh, I ripped it all out and decided to try Elizabeth Zimmermann's Ten Stitch Blanket, which is a pattern which starts out with a square that is ten stitches wide, and then spirals on itself around and around until you get to the size you want...

...except, somewhere along the way, ten stitches turned into thirteen. I'm not sure how that happened, but at least I have not added any more random stitches for the last few turns. I keep thinking that I might still be able to make this into a garment at some point, but if it ends up being a blanket, I would not be unhappy about that result at all:

I would have made it much farther with that project if it weren't for our company Christmas party, which took place on Friday evening. It had a James Bond theme, and last Sunday evening, I opened my closet and pulled out a dress that I thought I'd never have the guts to wear: a black, form fitting dress with a slit up the leg and a low back. A very Bond girl dress, and this was the only opportunity I could ever see myself wearing it. The thing was, I wasn't very comfortable with having so much of my back exposed, especially with the pending snow in the forecast, so I decided that a drapey scarf would be just the thing. I cast on for Sachiko Uemura's scarf pattern, A Different Breeze on Monday evening. I knit like a mad person all week, and by Thursday night, I soaked the finished product and gave it some light blocking:

And it was exactly what I wanted. I would have modeled it with the actual dress, but it took way more engineering to get that dress on than I cared to repeat. Suffice it to say that it draped nicely across my throat:

And reached all the way to the small of my back:

To speed up the knitting, as well as to force it to lie flat against my throat, I substituted the lace stitches for plain knit stitches, and retained the twisted ones in the pattern to give it some texture:

The sad thing is that it was so chilly in the hall that I ended up wearing a wrap nearly the entire time, but at least the vision was realized... if but for a short time. I feel pretty proud of myself for being able to whip up such a nice accessory for myself in such a short period of time. Necessity really is the mother of invention.

I have just over one week of work before I take a break for the holidays. I am so looking forward to some time with my family, and then to some time to myself, not to mention the scads of knitting time that I'm craving so much. I have 1000 metres to work through for that blanket. I'm just hoping I don't get too bored with it in the meantime. And I feel a bit sorry for my blog readers, because that might be the only project I have to report on for a while. Sorry, y'all. I'll try to jazz it up for you with some baking photos or something...

Now that's a pretty good promise! It's a good thing I like  cake  cookies  you guys enough to  go eat all the cookies  slave away in the kitchen. I shall endeavour to find some interesting baking recipe the sake of your entertainment. It shall view it as yet another necessity... a duty... a service to my faithful blog friends...

Onwards I march to the kitchen. Have a good week.