Sunday, January 29, 2017

Awake and Dreaming

Art is, for me, the process of trying to wake up the soul. Because we live in an industrialized, fast-paced world that prefers that the soul remain asleep. --Bill Viola
Today, I feel like a sleepy bear, slowly waking up from a winter of hibernation, blinking my eyes in the light and trying to find my bearings... gingerly taking steps into the world, sniffing the air and looking at the world around me, trying to relearn what's there, trying to make sense of what's changed and what has remained.

And that's what it feels like to come back after a few weeks away.

I've been spending the last couple of weeks trying to find my feet and sort out a few things in my house and in my head. I've felt this need to get super-organized. I have a freezer full of lunches and a bunch of fresh bread and muffins on the table. I'm so weirdly prepared that I find myself sitting here thinking I have things to do, and then realizing I don't have many chores to do at all. It's a strange feeling. It's like my brain is trying to prepare itself for a storm.

So, I started back at work, and there was no storm, even though I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things. By the second day, I felt like I'd never left.

That's real life, I guess.

We had a wonderful time while we were away in California. We've been to Los Angeles many times before, but this particular visit was really different because we stayed in a different area. We'd been very comfortable in the past staying at hotel near the airport and driving around, but that particular hotel wasn't going to work for us this time, so we had a look through Airbnb for somewhere else that might be just as good, if not better.

What we've learned about Airbnb is that you have to read every single review, and pay particular attention to the ones that rated mid-low on the star scale. Those are the people who will tell you the truth about any details that might annoy you, or that might create a problem for your stay. We learned that the hard way... but learning is the operative word there.

This time, we struck gold:

It was a wonderful little cottage in Topanga Canyon, with fantastic views and a lovely, generous guest. It was so nice to have somewhere where we could take our time getting up and around in the mornings without having to worry about anyone needing to come in to clean, and where we could come back and cook our own dinners and relax in the evenings... a real home away from home. And the best part was that the owner loves vintage stuff even more than I do. It was like living in a vintage shop filled with all of the coolest plates and bowls and ramekins and linens, all for me to look through and admire and use:

We visited new places as well. It was raining one day, so we decided to try visiting The Getty Villa. I really didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but it was a fantastic place. It was built by an oil baron who wanted to share his love of antiquities and art. He did so by building this villa in a style that mimicked the villas in Pompeii, so that people could experience what it would be like to walk around in one. It is filled with treasures from around the world, and decorated with frescoes, tiled floors, and statues that you would expect to see in such a villa. The Getty Foundation now funds programs to teach people about art history and restoration, and charges nothing for people to visit (apart from the parking).

I fell in love with the mosaics, the ones in the collections and the ones that decorated the building:

This one makes me think of an embroidery idea I'd like to try:

And I also loved all of the glasswork. Glasswork amazes: the fact that you only have seconds to work with it gives me so much respect for the skill of glass artists:

A lot of people take exception to the Victorian habit of pillaging treasures around the world to display at home, but I had a thought while I was wandering through: what he wanted to do was share how all of these things made him feel, to make people feel the same welling of inspiration inside of him when he saw them. And you know, that's not so different from what I'm trying to do with this blog..

Except my treasures are yarn and tea cups and stuff like that.

Anyway, we also visited Santa Monica:

And we hiked a few canyons:

And we even saw the Endeavour Space Shuttle on display at the California Science Center. It had a long introduction to it, which included a video showing how they got it there: how they flew it on top of a special Boeing 747 and how people all over stopped what they were doing and looked up to the sky to watch it fly over. And when it landed, they wheeled it through the city, and thousands of people lined the streets to welcome it. Those images of all of those people really moved me, and I was so surprised. I couldn't figure it out until recently...

It seems like so long since I've seen so many people all gathered together in unity, feeling so much pride and joy, without care about where they were from or what religion they practiced or who they shared their lives with. Hm... what a different time.

So, after all of that, I'm back to work and back to the grind. I did get a few things done, though. I finished another glove to go with my lost Straightforward Mitt:

I was surprised at how much longer it took to make this single mitt than it did to make the original pair. This was because I couldn't remember any of the modifications I'd made (and I'm always modifying). In the end, even after all of my careful stitch counting and measuring, I think the new one is slightly longer... but at least I have two warm hands now to type away in my cold office:

But what I'm most interested in finishing is this blanket, which is also taking me much longer than I thought it ever would. I cast off on it a couple of weeks ago with about a third of the skein left because I was really tired of working on it. I washed it, but then realized that it was really too small to be much use, and I didn't want to have another project just sitting in a basket:

So, I rooted around in my stash and pulled out a couple of skeins of cream yarn and a half of a skein of white yarn of the same weight and similar twist, and I've been mixing them together to make a border, which I'm really, really liking so far:


I'm trying hard to randomly switch between the white and cream yarn so that there are no obvious splashes of bright white, but it turns out that trying to be random is a bit of an oxymoron. You can't TRY to be random... you just have to BE random... whatever that means. Anyway, I think it's working. You can't really see the difference unless you're in certain lights:

Someone remarked that it looked like a log cabin-style quilt, and I agree. I'm really excited to see how it all turns out. Each time I spread it out in front of me, my eyes hungrily take in the colours, the lines, the stripes. I take so much pleasure in watching all my projects take shape. It really feeds my soul.

The only trouble with being back at work is that I have had all this time to dream up all sorts of ideas, but now I have so much less time to work on them. Such is life... but I'll just have to keep trying. Speaking of, I think I might go wind another skein of yarn for my next idea... but I'll share that one with you next time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Lost Knits: Foiling the Fairies

In many ways my life has been rather like a record of the lost and found. Perhaps all lives are like that. ― Lucy Foley, The Book of Lost and Found
I try not to get too attached to my belongings. Perhaps this is because I've misplaced so many things that I know I don't have enough energy to fret over them. Or maybe it's because I keep hoping they'll magically appear again some day, as if the fairies have just borrowed my things for a while.

Hey, fairies: Go get your own stuff.

I had a near-loss the other day as I was running errands in town. It was a chilly day, so I wore my Bubble Wrap Cowl, Cliff Hat, and Cappio Gloves, along with a fleece under my regular "Island winter jacket" (i.e. long, lined rain coat). It was slightly overkill, and I got a little overheated because I was trying as much as possible to walk in the sunshine. I popped off my hat and stuffed it into my handbag as I walked. I made a few stops: the physiotherapist to book an appointment, the bank, the health food shop, and the post office. On the way home, I stopped at the library to use the bathroom, and as I walked out, I was applying some cream to my hands, then suddenly realized I didn't have my gloves anymore.

Losing one of your hand knits is like dropping a $20 bill somewhere: it's not necessarily the end of the world (unless it's your last twenty), but it's really, really annoying. And besides that, you've lost the cost of the yarn and the hours of effort to make them. It's really sad.

I stood there on the sidewalk, wondering what to do. I had a feeling I might have left them at the health food shop, but couldn't be sure. After I rummaged through my handbag, I turned around again to walk back to the library and search the bathroom. No gloves. I walked back to the post office. Nope. At the health food shop, the shopkeeper even helped me look. None, even though I was sure I'd left them there.

I walked all the way home and wondered if I'd left them on the teller counter at the bank. By this point, it was another 15-minute walk to check, and I was wondering how badly I wanted them back.

Does a shepherd forsake her herd? I think not.

I got home, walked straight over to the car, got in, and drove back to the bank. As I walked in, I saw them on the counter, and I said to the teller there, "Oh, there they are. I left my gloves here."

To which she said, rather loudly to the other teller, "Oh, we WONDERED if anyone would come back for those." Which, to me, implied that they were hoping they wouldn't be claimed... and that they'd already started talking about who would get to take them home instead. To which, I nearly replied, "Not a chance, sister."

Gloves: I have saved you.

We're leaving tomorrow morning for a vacation in Malibu. Of course, part of my packing includes a project to work on during the flight. I have decided that I am going to try to knit myself another Straightforward Mitt. I lost one of them a while back, and it was a sad, sad day...

I have hung on to the other one in the vain hope that the fairies may get tired of the missing one and it will sometime reappear. Two years on, and it still hasn't happened. I looked back at my blogposts to find the photo above and discovered that I knitted them during another trip to California a couple of years back. Seems like this is the perfect time to knit a replacement. How lucky that I still have the leftover yarn, and that I have enough of said yarn, and that I actually have the right size needles:

I have these supplies packed safe and sound, ready to go. I guess I better go check to see if I have any of the other important stuff, like a passport, and maybe some underwear...

It would be good if the fairies would do some packing for me. I guess they don't do that sort of thing. Best get on it...

Friday, January 6, 2017

This Is My Emergency Face

Hysteria is impossible without an audience. Panicking by yourself is the same as laughing alone in an empty room. You feel really silly. ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
I had an interesting night last night... but first...

I've been trying to drink a lot of fluids over the past few weeks, especially while I was home in Winnipeg, where the cold weather and dry air usually turn my skin into sandpaper and my insides into an aching mess. Since I returned to the Island, I've continued this extra-large fluid consumption to help me feel a little more like myself after all of the holiday excess. The natural result?

Well, I have to pee a lot. Like, nearly every half hour, during the day at least. And a couple of times during the night. I'm ok with this. I drink a lot of water regularly anyway, so I'm no stranger to scoping out the nearest restroom wherever I go. I take it as a sign that everything is tickety-boo.

So, last night, around 2:00 am, I wake up and I lie there, scanning my body, wondering if I need to get up and go to the bathroom. I doze for a bit, but then realize I should probably get up, so I sit up, swing my legs out of the bed, and wait for my brain to wake up enough to get up.

Then I hear it. And the hubby turns his head and says, "What's that?"

It sounds like rain... heavy rain. But heavier than heavy rain.

"I don't know," I say.

I get up and wander around, turning on lights, stopping and listening as I go. I make my way downstairs, where the noise is louder. It seems to be coming from the front of the house. I open the front door and peer outside. Nothing. I am standing there when the hubby comes down and says, "It sounds like a burst pipe."

I've never had to deal with a burst pipe in my whole entire life, but as I'm standing there, I realize I can feel the floor vibrating slightly. Next thing, we've opened the closet and he's shoving things out of the way to open the hatch to the crawl space, and I'm moving the stuff out of the way to make room for him. He opens the hatch, jumps down, and says, "Yeah, it's a burst pipe."

I peer down, and there are two hoses that have separated, and one is spewing a waterfall out of it... pressure so hard that it's shooting upwards to the floorboards.

We turn off valves, but we can't find the main. We rent this house, and neither of us can remember where it might be. We call the landlord, who is new to us as of this year, and it's the wrong number. We call another of his numbers, and it's out of service. Meanwhile, we're running around, turning things off, trying to figure out what to do.

We call an emergency plumber, who says he's on his way, and then we call our former landlord, the guy who built this house, who very kindly tells us how to turn off the main and then gives us another phone number for the new landlord. Meanwhile, the plumber arrives and helps us turn off the main. He jumps down into the crawlspace and inspects the damage, while I make my way back up to the bedroom and sit on the bed, breathing deeply, trying to get my senses back.

After about an hour, the plumber has replaced the coupling for the two hoses with a different type, and we turn on the main and find that it's holding. He tells us that there's a drain down there, and the water is already disappearing, but that we'll need some fans for the crawlspace to keep the air circulating for at least 24 hours to get rid of the moisture. "You'll need two. You can rent them and get insurance to pay for them."

But we actually own three circulating fans. Don't ask - we just seem to collect them up. And I crawl down there with one and set it up pointing in the area where the water is draining, then we set another one up in the opposite end.

Before the plumber leaves, he says, "Thanks for being so calm."

Were we calm? I guess a lot of people would be yelling and and in hysterics in this situation. But, apart from having to shout over the roar of the water, I guess we were relatively gentle folk. I didn't feel calm, but I remember being told as a child that staying calm was a good way not to throw up at a birthday party.

Words to live by.

Anyway, here's the crawlspace. We don't keep much down there: a few suitcases, a Christmas tree we never put up, a couple of bins. We hauled those up before the plumber came, and he was pleasantly surprised at how clean and tidy it was... for a minor disaster scene:

The landlord called this morning after finally receiving our messages and our emails. We got the phone numbers straightened out. He arranged for the plumber had to return because the hose was still leaking this morning, but after changing out one of the pipes (which he thinks was damaged during its original installation), things seem to be holding.

Tonight, we're sitting here with the fans running. I keep jumping up at any sound of water. I'm making dinner: fresh pita and roasted vegetables, which I will mix with some leftover ham, oregano, basil, garlic, and ground coriander to make a kind of ragoux. The heat from the oven makes me feel better:

And all of this made me think about a few things:
  1. Renting has its upsides. Our rent includes our water use, so we don't have to pay for the extra water. It also means that the emergency plumber call is not on our dime.
  2. I'm glad we were home when this happened. I've never turned off the main before travel, but we're leaving for California next week, and you bet that thing will be off when we go... and will be off whenever we're gone for any time longer than a night.
  3. It really is important to have extra water on hand in case of emergency. When the water was off, I was looking around the kitchen, noticing that we had a Brita pitcher full of water, plus a half dozen small water bottles and a couple of bottles of sparkling water as well. While it would have been easy to go out and get more today, it would be good to get at least another flat of water bottles, just in case it was a real emergency.
I think we'll eat dinner now. And then I'm gonna knit. That's enough excitement for now.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The "Try and Do" List

Having come to the conclusion that there was so much to do that she didn’t know where to start, Mrs Fowler decided not to start at all. She went to the library, took Diary of a Nobody from the shelves and, returning to her wicker chair under the lime tree, settled down to waste what precious hours still remained of the day. ― Richmal Crompton, Family Roundabout
Happy New Year! Day 2 of 2017, and so far, so good. I woke up this morning, and I could see and hear and breathe and taste, even in the darkness. I'd say I'm doing pretty well, so far.

We headed back to the Island on New Year's Eve Day, which is the date we've travelled on for the last few years. It's generally a pretty laid-back time to travel: most people are staying put to do the fireworks and countdown thing rather than getting on a plane and going somewhere. I was relaxed as we entered security at Winnipeg Airport, and even took the time to take a photo of this mobile display before we went in:

The airport in Winnipeg amazes me these days. When I left home, there were two departure gates. Now, there are fifteen. There used to be one large hall before you went through security, with a video game arcade, a couple of restaurants, and a viewing lounge where you could watch the planes landing and taking off. I used to know the airport really, really well: my mom used to take my brother and I there on the odd weekend, and he and I would run around and explore the whole place. We rode the escalators, looked through the magazine shop, and played Pac Man. We even knew how to plug the meter if it got low. I guess that was her way of finding an open space for us to let off steam. Maybe that's why I always feel so at home in an airport... and why I'm so good at Pac Man.

I have some extra time off before I go back to work. I wanted to make the most of the time I have off (instead of doing my usual faffing around), and so, in an effort to be organized, I made a list. It's not so much a "to do" list, as much as it is a "try and do" list. It goes something like this:

1) Take a photo of my gift from Linette.

My Winnipeg yarn-friend and I have made it a yearly tradition to give each other a little handmade gift each year. This year, she got Olaf, and I got this lovely little Christmas tree ornament. I love the little beads and the vintage buttons she used for the star on top. She messaged me the day after we got together to ask me to take a photo of it for her, and so, voilĂ . Job done.

2) Make challah.

I've been wanting to try making this bread for a while. The reasons were purely aesthetic: it is such a beautifully crafted bread, and a girl I grew up with always shows beautiful photos of her handmade challah on her Facebook page. I had never actually ever tasted it before, but hey, it's bread. If you can put jam on it, I'm sold.

I impressed myself with how well I managed to braid it. I followed the instructions in the recipe and it turned out better than I imagined. Here's what it looked like after the second rise and with the egg wash brushed onto it:

And here it is cooling from the oven. I missed a few spots for the egg wash, but it was otherwise a pure triumph! 

And it is delicious: soft and pillowy inside, slightly sweet and somewhat laminated like a croissant. It slices well with a serrated knife, and toasts well in a toaster. I am trying not to eat it all in a day!

3) Reorganize my jewelry.

I am ashamed to say that I am TERRIBLE at putting my jewelry away. And I love jewelry so much that there is a lot of it strewn around the house: on the coffee table, in the bathroom, on my bedside table, and in my "jewelry area," which was just one of the surfaces in the office which I had commandeered for my mess. I was ruthless in this process: any costume jewelry I hadn't worn in a year was out. Anything that felt like a burden to keep was out as well. I have no "before" photos of this process - it was embarrassing how much stuff I had lying around - but here's what it looks like now, two boxes, with the "big thug" necklaces clasped together in the middle:

The box on the right was given to be my friends when I left home to go and work in the UK back in 1999. It has moved around with me ever since, but it wasn't really being used for much, apart from holding some momentos from my previous lives. I decided it was time to put it to work. 

Since there are only a couple of divisions inside the box, I needed some containers to keep stuff from getting tangled and mixed up. I lay in bed last night thinking about it, and realized that I had plenty of things in the house that would do the trick. My tea cup collection, while pretty to look at, are cups that have always been a tad too small for a barbaric gulper like me, and the my vintage ceramic candy dishes have sat on my shelf gathering dust as well. Coupled with a few extra boxes and little jars, they seem to make lovely little organizers:

Here they are with the lids off the candy dishes. It looks haphazard, but each container has a purpose: one is holding small, stud-like earrings, another is holding larger "regular wear" earrings. The corner is holding my bracelets, which I don't wear all that often, but I like to know where they are in case the mood hits me. The teacups are holding necklaces: necklaces with large pendants, necklaces with smaller pendants (with the chains draped to the outside to keep them from tangling). I have boxes for longer necklaces, and one corner has some of the larger statement necklaces grouped carefully together:

And to the left of that is my vintage jewelry collection, mostly necklaces again, but grouped in drawers according to size and "tangle-ability." I've laid everything in there carefully to keep them from getting all messed up. The box itself is a sweet little vintage jewelry box I picked up a few weeks ago, when I first thought about getting this all organized:

4) Knit, for heaven's sake.

My big Fleece Artist blanket-thing continues. It is now large enough to drape over my lap, and over part of the lap of the person sitting next to me (as I realized halfway through my flight - sorry about that). The ball is getting smaller, but I still have another ball from the same skein sitting in my knitting bag, which broke off when I was winding it. I won't lie: it's dull. I'm getting tired of it now, but it's got to the stage that I HAVE to work out it to get it out of my life.

In truth, it IS pretty. I'm still wondering what it will be in the end - it won't be large enough for an actual blanket, but maybe it'll be a nice throw? Or a centrepiece for the bed in the spare room? We'll see...

I have other things on my "try and do" list, but I've been trying to do only one thing from the list at a time, in order to give myself the time to rest as well. That has turned out to be a good rule for me, because I am nothing if I am not easily distracted. Besides, if I try to pack a bunch of tasks into one day, doesn't that turn a day off into a work day? I know what I'm like. A "to do" list becomes a "to conquer" list, and I am not in the mood for battle. Not just now.

Let's see: tomorrow, I can either clean and service my sewing machine or try to ply some of my handspun. Or I could eat some more bread. Decisions, decisions...