Saturday, December 31, 2011

Oh dear, I just read on Wikipedia that Eva Zeisel died yesterday.  Since design school, I have been in love with her work and find myself a little choked up at the news of her death.  Yes, she was 105 years old and yes, she lived a varied and (seemingly) exciting life, but still.  One of the world's stars went out yesterday.

Also, yes, I am still alive.  I'm *this* close to finishing the argyle vest and only news of this magnitude could tear me away from it.  Husband's birthday is imminent and I want to have something to offer as a gift.  I shall return with an update shortly.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This gets filed under "You Have GOT To Be Kidding Me"

I was just browsing a clothing store's website and saw a sweater described as:

"Vintage Grunge"

Put a fork in me, folks, 'cause I'm done.

I just officially turned old.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Recipe Dump

Going through my recipes and thought I would post the best ones here, in case you'd like to try them out.

Let me know if you have tried them - I'd love to know if you like them!

Here is one that I pulled from Ravelry. I'm part of a group for Celiacs and people with other food intolerances. A wonderful woman who goes by JerseyPeach62 posted a modified version of a peanut butter cookie recipe that she found years ago. I gave it a whirl and made some and yowza, I'm hooked. I usually add a handful of carob chips to it (as the hubby is intolerant to chocolate - I KNOW, it's a sin!) and sometimes even some pecans. You know, just because I can.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I forgot to talk about the magic loop, didn't I?

...Oh bother.

So much for being organized and all that.

Anyway, what I WAS GOING to say is that magic loop has changed everything for me.  No really, it has.  I went from ABHORRING knitting-in-the-round on circulars to trying to figure out a way to do EVERYTHING like that.

So how does it work, you ask?  Well, I could sit here and a) try to explain it verbally (which would lead to me going cross-eyed) or b) I could just embed some professionally-produced videos for your reference.  How 'bout we stick with option b, eh?

I think it's pretty clear from the video that you can use the magic loop to knit all sorts of objects with a small circumference.  You can even knit two things at once (like socks or sleeves):

You can see how this would become addictive, right?  Second Sock Syndrome: cured.  Forgetting to take notes on modifications for the first mitten when it comes time to knitting the second: not a problem.  Wanting to make sure that the sleeves are EXACTLY the same length: done.

Whoever invented this deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, am I right?

And there's a bunch of peeps on Ravelry are participating in a KAL on a cabled hat, so I thought I'd add this one (though it has nothing to do with magic loop):

Sunday, November 6, 2011

So what next?

A week or so ago, Miranda sent me an e-mail, asking for some knitting advice. Her question was about the magic loop (which I'll talk about again in a minute), but it was actually about something else: how to "grow" as a knitter (oh wow, that sounded really cheesy, sorry). And it doesn't only apply to knitters - any hobby or life skill presents this problem.
But really, you know what I mean, right? There are a gadgillion resources out there for beginning knitters. Lots of how-to videos on YouTube, lots of books aimed at helping you master the art of garter stitch, lots of easy projects to test out. So, you watch the videos, read the books, try the garter stitch iPod cases...

Then what? What happens when you've exhausted all of these simple projects? I mean, even if your first project was a sweater, you might still hit that very same wall: where do I go from here?

There is no real definite answer. You are, in a sense, on your own. And so am I.

As I mentioned to Miranda in my reply, I have long since outstripped my mother and grandmother (or any relative, for that matter) in knitting know-how. My obsession with it is a little mystifying to both of them. Slippers and scarves were the projects of choice for them (though Mom did knit Dad a marled grey sweater at one point, and started another - T, do you remember that one? It was navy blue, with a grey, beige, and white yoke sweater...). Neither one has attempted lace or sock knitting. And steeking? Heavens, NO!

So what is a girl (or guy) to do? Well, there are a few things:
  1. Know thyself.  If you've knit a few projects, you should be getting a sense of what you like and don't like.  Pay attention to this: it's your first clue.  Are you intrigued by construction (the "architecture" of knitting)?  What about cables and texture - is that your thing?  Or are you more of a colour person?  These details are going to act as your first set of directions.
  2. Try new things you aren't sure you'll like.  HA!  I just told you to follow your instincts and now I'm telling you to ignore them and try things you hadn't thought of.  Hahahaha!  Ain't I funny!?!?  No?  Oh well.  But seriously, if you aren't sure yet what you like, you really ought to try stuff that you have never given serious thought to before.  Like lace and sock knitting.  Like colour work (just be warned: intarsia is the devil).
  3. Ignore the scare tactics you hear from other knitters.  Like "just be warned: intarsia is the devil".  Try it for yourself.  Then you can be the judge.
  4. Pay attention to people like Elizabeth Zimmermann, Meg Swanson, Sally Melville, Alice Starmore, Kate Davies, Jacqueline Fee, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Jared Flood, Ysolda Teague, Franklin Habit, Debbie New, Adrian Bizilia, SpillyJane and a host of others.  These are your teachers-in-hiding.  I call them that because they are designers, writers and bloggers, first and foremost.  But their work is peppered with a wealth of knowledge that is just waiting for you to snatch up.  I'm thinking of one in particular that Stephanie (the Yarn Harlot) wrote, called "Knitting Rules!" in which she lists out page after page of knitting tips and tricks that I have no idea where she found (like, did you know you should always knit your ribbing on smaller needles than those used for the rest of the piece?).  My guess is that she has been collecting it by reading the authors I listed above and by asking lots of questions.  You will learn a lot if you adopt her approach.
  5. Take notes, take notes, take notes.  You're going to start coming across very interesting little tidbits in your reading and you will tell yourself that you don't need to write it down: something THAT amazing is sure to stick in your memory forever!  Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but you'd be mistaken there, my friend.  So, you remember when I extolled the virtues of the knitting journal?  Well, I hate to beat a dead horse, but...
  6. Start thinking about where and when and how you like to knit.  Are you a commuter-knitter?  What about in front of the TV?  At night, as an un-winding activity?  Or first thing in the morning, to focus your thoughts?  Do you travel a lot for work and need something to take your mind off the monotony of yet another hotel room?  Or just whenever you get a moment free of the kids, which you use as an escape-in-the-search-for-sanity (no, I'm not a mother, but I've spent a fair bit of time looking after kids... I know what it's like)?  The answers to those questions will give you yet another clue as to what type of knitting you should be trying out.  Like, if you're escaping to your basement craft room when the kids are napping so that you can remember how to breathe, might I suggest that you stick to simple knits with little shaping and pattern?  Maybe put some soothing music on instead and just let your hands do the work.  But, if you're travelling, you're going to want something more involved.  A five-hour flight with only a garter-stitch scarf to keep you company is likely only going to emphasize the boredom.  So, that's where lace comes in handy.  Plus, lace is a great travel-wardrobe accessory.  Think about it: it crumples up nicely in a suitcase, it acts as both a scarf and a blanket, AND it can zazz up an evening outfit without even batting an eye.
  7. Maybe try having more than one project on the go.  That way, when you find yourself getting bored with something or needing to change your pace, you've got something else to turn to, without having to hunt something down.  I've shackled myself monogamously to the intarsia argyle vest for the past few weeks and I'm about to go bat-crap crazy.  This is NOT the way to do things, people.
  8. Speaking of beating a dead horse: have you started listening to Kelly Petkun's podcasts, yet?  I am not joking: these podcasts have completely changed my perspective on knitting (in a good way).  Kelly has done a LOT of the legwork here - all you have to do is listen (and take notes - knittingjournal, knittingjournal, knittingjournal).  Plus, it's free.  And not that KnitPicks needs any more endorsements from me, but I also encourage you to check out all of their YouTube videos.  They are the most professionally-produced that I have found.
  9. Inspiration may be your biggest challenge, going forward.  There's a reason Ravelry is so popular: get on there and go fishing for inspiration.  Look at stuff that you think you'll never be able to knit and then figure out a way to do it.  Everything you need is floating around here somewhere, I promise.  You just have to figure out a way to find it and use it.
So anyway, my point is that just because you're having a hard time finding the right resources to get haul yourself into the advanced-intermediate (or even just into the intermediate-beginner) territory, don't lose faith.  It's out there: it just isn't as blatantly obvious as the beginner stuff.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I should probably demand a commission

This week, I got a Ravelry message from Ash, who is a member of our Ravelry group (that's Woodcraft Knitters, which was technically started up by Wood, but which I have highjacked and of which I have anointed myself High Chancellor).  It got me wondering: did I ever end up telling you what I think of my new-ish KnitPicks interchangeable needle set (the ones in these photos)?

Well, in case I haven't, here's what I think of them:

I love them.

The end.


What?  Oh, you wanted more feedback?  OK FINE.

Seriously, they're fantastic.  This is why I think so:

  1. You can not - and will not - beat the price.
  2. I am a very loose knitter and I ordered the nickel-plated set (the interchangeables and a slew of the skinnier ones - which can't be manufactured as interchangeables because they're too skinny for the mechanism - in 40" lengths, for magic loop knitting).  The nickel-plated is super slippery and excellent for fast knitting.  My Lace Addi needle got all tarnishy and ugly after the first project (not that their look affects their performance, but you know what I mean), but my KnitPicks needles are still 100% perfectly beautiful after several projects.
  3. The tips are sharp (thank you, folks at KnitPicks - you angels, you)
  4. The joins are as good as it gets.  The looser the knitting, the more invisible they seem.  Perfect.
  5. The cables are so bendy and forgiving, it's kind of freaky.  Seriously, they are even more forgiving than Addi's and that is saying a LOT.
  6. The tips are feather-weight.  Awesome.  Just awesome.
  7. I now have a pretty complete set of circulars on hand.  I had no idea how liberating that feeling would be until I bought these.  I have a complete set of straights and a mostly-complete set of DPN's, but I think circs are more versatile and wow, it makes a big difference having them all within reach.
  8. They fit in a tidy little case (though the case is stiff and awkward and could probably benefit from being made of a different material...except that it is really nice to be able to see through the plastic...oh well, you can't have everything, I guess).
  9. The options for the tips.  I mean, how great would it be to have all three types - metal, acrylic and wood?  You could experiment with each one when you're trying out a new yarn.  Different yarns benefit from being knit on different needles, did you know that?  I didn't.  But apparently, it's true.  You can get better results if you play around with your needle types.
  10. You can buy a little coupling separately that allows you to join cables together and make one super long cable.  Afghan knitting, anyone?
  11. Have you ever heard of lifelines, in knitting?  Well, they work like this: when you're knitting something that is a little involved, like a lace shawl or a cabled sweater, there is a possibility that you might make a mistake at some point (what?? me, make a mistake???  NEVER!) and you'll have to rip some knitting back.  The thought of having to rip back lace is enough to give a person a migraine (I don't recommend it to anyone), so this is what you do: at the end of a round of particularly complex knitting, you will thread a yarn needle with some scrap yarn and feed it through your loops, thus securing them and providing you with a safe harbour in the storm.  Well, with the KnitPicks interchangeables, it's even easier to do than that.  The tips are tightened onto the cables using a little pin.  You twist the tip onto the cable, insert the pin into a small hole near the needle's socket, and you use the pin as leverage to really torque the needle and cable together.  Here's the secret: that little pin hole is the PERFECT size for dental floss.  You thread the dental floss into the hole, tie a little knot to keep it there, knit your next row just like you normally would (with your regular yarn - the floss is just going along for the ride), but when you're done, you snip the knot in the dental floss and leave it in your work.  BAM: instant lifeline.  Plus, it's minty fresh.  And lifelines need not be limited to complex work.  They're good for keeping travel knitting safe from tangles.  Or just preventing your toddler from setting you back hours and hours and hours in your work by gleefully making away with your needle from your project, which was sitting peacefully on the sofa before you turned your back a moment ago.
  12. They also have these little tags that you can buy separately that are GENIUS!  Why, you ask?  Well, imagine this totally probable scenario: you start a project like...I don't know...a sweater.  Yeah, you're starting a sweater.  You're knitting up the body when you realize that you were supposed to start on the sleeves first, for whatever reason.  No biggie.  You unscrew the needle tips from the cable and use the little purple caps that came with your kit to secure the knitting onto the cable.  It will now act as a stitch holder (goodbye scrap yarn method!) and will keep the body safe until you're ready to graft the arms on.  Except WAIT.  What happens if you start the sleeve and then decide that you have to knit an emergency scarf with that size of needle (what? scarf emergencies happen, yo) and so you abandon the sleeve idea and all of the sudden, you come back to them later and you have no idea what size needles you were using for the sweater (because, though I've told you to, you haven't started a knitting journal yet and you're working blind).  SO WHAT THEN?  You're up the creek without a paddle, my friend.  Unless...

What if you slipped one of these little puppies onto the cable before you capped it at each end when you stopped knitting the sweater body?  A built-in method of documenting your needle sizes for on-going projects.

See?  Genius, I tell you.  Simply genius.

So, do I think you should invest in a set of these?  Yes, I do.  I DESPISED circular needles for years and I knit almost exclusively on these, now.  My knitting-in-the-round has improved tenfold (no more ladders and unevenness).  Magic loop is my answer to everything.  Two-at-a-time socks are my new modus operandi.  Heck, two-at-a-time sleeves are next.

What I would suggest is this: KnitPicks make a set of interchangeables that include a pair of each type of tips (wood, metal and acrylic - I inserted a photo of this set at the top of this post) so you can try them out.  I would give that a shot.  The Holidays are coming - put them on your list.  I really don't think you'll regret it.

Oh, and one more thing: if you haven't been listening to Kelly Petkun's podcasts, you really ought to remedy that.  Holy cow, have I learned a lot from this woman.  Excellent commuting soundtrack (I even listen to them while I'm doing housework and baking).  Just remember to keep a little notebook handy (or maybe your NEW KNITTING JOURNAL, HINT HINT) so that you can take notes.  'Cause I guarantee that you'll want to.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why learn a lesson the easy way?

I have learned a very valuable lesson this week:

When you are undertaking a new pattern for the first time, it pays to take the time and re-write the damn thing in your own words.

Particularly if this pattern was written by a designer that is unknown to you.  Particularly if this designer seems a little Old School (they did things differently in the Olden Days of knitting... you know, like 10 years ago).  Particularly if you're not accustomed to following patterns in the first place and usually prefer to wing it, as Elizabeth Zimmermann-ites such as myself are wont to do.

Now, I already knew this.  I preached this.  I smirked a little as I witnessed others refusing to do this very thing, thus finding themselves up a creek without a paddle.

Oh, would I could properly convey to you the taste of humble pie, my friends.

When I left you last, I was performing some rather heart-wrenching surgery on my husband's argyle vest.  I managed to remain fairly positive throughout the process (you know, once the vile cursing and temper tantrum subsided, that is).

At one point, just as I was ripping back 3 hours worth of work (by the way, it took me 1.5 hours to undo 3 hours of work...that thought gives me heartburn), I thought to myself (cue ominous music) that I really should sneak a lifeline into this thing, JUST IN CASE something went wrong again.

Once I got it all back on track, I squared my shoulders and put my mind to the task of starting the arm shaping over again.  I was a little tired, but determined.  I took a deep yogic (and very zen, I like to think) breath.  But did I remember to put in a lifeline?  Nooooooooo, of course not.  Did I go back and re-re-re-read the instructions.  Well, yes.  Naturally.

At least I thought I had.

Are you getting a sense of foreboding, here?  A little foreshadowing, perhaps?

Yeah, so, um, well.... I screwed up again.  I am halfway between the arm shaping and the shoulder seam on one side of the front and I just realized that I have to rip back to the armhole shaping (a good 4" of work).  And not a lifeline in sight. 

Now, I am not above ignoring mistakes and making do.  I can't stand perfectionism and like to refer to myself as a "good-enough-ist".  Mistakes just emphasize our human-ness, I prefer to think.  However, this mistake is bad enough that it makes me question whether or not it will dramatically change the way this thing fits.  I'm just not sure enough of myself and I want this vest to be something my husband will love and wear forever.  If it languishes in a drawer, I'll be extremely frustrated.  Especially if it languishes because I was too lazy to rip a mistake out and fix it when I had the chance.  Pardon the expression, but that would just chap my ass.

Is it too early in the day for alcohol?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Le soupir

Have just spent the past hour undoing 2.5" of intarsia work.

No, am not feeling homicidal at all, thanks for asking.

My mantra, currently: I knit because I love to do it, I knit because I love to do it, I knit because I love to do it...

To all of you out there who are just learning to knit and you are saying to yourselves "I can't wait until I am more experienced and stop making mistakes", all I have to say is this: you never stop making mistakes.  You just get better at fooling yourself into thinking you aren't making them and, as your knitting speeds up, you just start getting into trouble faster.  Thus, a misreading of the effing instructions and a disregard for the need to COUNT MY DAMN STITCHES + three hours of catching up with Grey's Anatomy online = a total mess (as evidenced above).

Am cutting my ends and tossing this entire rat's nest of loose yarn into a ziplock to be untangled (only if absolutely necessary: I may be mental, but I'm not a masochist) later.  For now, I have plenty of extra yarn and I'm not afraid to use it.  Onwards, friends.  This vest ain't gonna knit itself (though I really wish it would).

Friday, September 30, 2011

Can we have a serious discussion about something very dear to my heart?

So, here's the dealio: vinyl flooring is NOT the same as linoleum.

I know, you're wondering:

a) what the hell I'm talking about
b) why I care
c) why you should care

Well, as an interior designer, I am FED UP with people misappropriating the term "linoleum" and sullying its good name.  People, if you are the author of a shelter blog (I'll give you a free pass if you post occasional snippets of your personal diy home projects - you can't be held accountable, I realize that) you have a RESPONSIBILITY to get your shit right.

Vinyl = thin sheet flooring made of plastic (ok, fine,  it's made of vinyl... same difference) with a fuzzy backing and that usually has a "printed" pattern on it (like *shudder* faux tile).  It is glued down and the seams are left un-welded.  Also, it is usually hideously ugly and scars easily if you gouge/rip/cut it.

Linoleum = a substantially-thick sheet flooring that is laid with welded seams and has a beautiful jute (burlap) backing.  The colour runs through the product, so if you gouge it, it usually doesn't show.  It has speckles and flecks of colour but usually has no "pattern".  And, most importantly, it is made of renewable (read: "natural") materials.  Like cork, wood flour and LINseed oil.  It is biodegradable and has been around since the 1850's.  It lasts a long time and is gorgeous.  It is manufactured by people like Armstrong and Forbo.

So, stop using the term "linoleum" when you mean "vinyl".  Or else I'm going to get royally ticked off.

Pass it on.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Proof of Life

Been knittin'.

 The damn thing is so big that I actually had to use a stepladder to get far enough away from it to fit it in the frame.

Been sewin'.

 Making a new pair of twill pants using the same pattern I used for these jeans a million years ago.

Been workin' on a new tutorial... stay tuned.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Baby Stuff

I mentioned a few posts back that I recently spent some time with my "little" cousin (who is actually 26 and very much a grown up... it's just that I refuse to accept it).  She's pregnant for the first time and I don't know if I can express how excited that makes me feel.

See, I don't want kids.  I like kids just fine.  There a even a few that I love.  I spent years babysitting (e.g. the aforementioned cousin) and really enjoyed it, for the most part.  I just don't want any of my own.  And neither does my stepsister.  And my brother is disabled so he won't be having any.  And I have another stepsister who lives a continent away and I don't have a relationship with.

So what I'm saying is: I kinda feel like my cousin's baby is going to make me an aunt.  You know what I mean?  This particular cousin is the closest female to me in age in the family (my step-sisters came after she was born, so they don't count for the purposes of my explanation) and I was absolutely smitten with her when she was born.  My uncle and mother get along very well, so we spent a lot of time together when she was little.  I see her as a little sister.  And I know she sees me as a big sister.

(As a juicy aside: her father - my uncle - had a little fling when he was 18 or so and fathered a daughter that was put up for adoption.  None of us knew anything about it and a few years ago, they were put in contact with each other for the first time.  How cool is that?  Just like that, I got another cousin!  Yay!  And it means that, out of 5 children, my uncle had 4 daughters.  That's crazy town.)

But I digress (REALLY? YOU DON'T SAY!).

So now I need something from you all: ideas for handmade baby gifts.

I have made her some bibs and a few little washcloths.  I'm also making her a market bag to use for whatever.

I know those little legwarmers thingies are the best thing evar, so I'm making some of them, too.  They're teal and they're going to have lighter teal and mustard stripes.  I am so smitten that want to make myself a pair.

So what else?  She's due in March, so I gotta get crackin'!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Viewer Discretion is Advised

The reason for the disclaimer is that I'm finally ready to show what I got for my birthday (back in much for promptness).  I hinted at it a few times, but I only wanted to unveil it when it was ready.

So, without further ado, I present to you the newest member of my family:

She's a foam body form made by a company called Uniquely You.  I bought it online and the way it works is that you tailor the canvas cover it comes with to fit you EXACTLY (more on that in a minute).  Once that's done, you wrestle the canvas cover over the foam form (emphasis on the "wrestle"... I actually have blisters on my knuckles from body slamming this thing into submission this afternoon).

I'm obviously a little shorter than the norm, because you can see the strip of foam poking out the bottom there.  Oh well.

And can I just take a moment to marvel at just how curvy I am?  I hate photos of myself (I am truly the least photogenic person on the planet) so standing next to this thing is the best sense I've gotten of my body's proportions ever.  I have got me some junk in the trunk.  Who knew?

Right, so you're dying to ask me if this thing works.  Well, so far, I would have to give you a resounding YES.  Oh, it gave me some trouble: it was hellish to get the stupid cover right.  You can see a whole whack of loose threads poking out there, right?  After the fourth fifth third hour of altering, I got lazy and stopped trimming the ends.  And holy cow, when the instructions say that the cover has to be SKIN TIGHT, they don't kid.  I could barely breathe in it.  The current incarnation you see above is actually the second version.  I spent a whole day altering the first time around only to discover that it didn't match my measurements when I got it all assembled.  My reaction when I discovered that is best kept under wraps.  It was not pretty, folks.

But, this weekend I had a bit of a burst of productivity and started to de-stash my fabric/sewing project collection.  (I know, crazy!)  I have been finding it difficult to get motivated re: sewing, lately.  Which is really dumb because it just sits on the edge of my desk all the time - it's not like I need to assemble it every time or anything.  Once that sewing machine gets set up, I find it much easier to just keep going.  Sigh.

So anyway, once I got this baby set up and measured it again (this time it was spot on, yay!), I took out a few projects that I started last fall (they've been sitting in the drawer languishing for a year OH FOR SHAME!).  One is a pair of pants and the other is a button-down shirt.  The laziness vis-à-vis the shirt, I can forgive, I guess.  (Have you ever figured out how to alter darts on the back of a shirt when you're the one it's being fitted on and you're alone trying to fit it?  Yeah, me neither.  Yoga will only get you so far: it can't help you grow eyes on the back of your head.  Hence why I needed the dress form.)  The laziness re: the pants is kind of ridiculous.  I mean, a whole 12 months they've been collecting dust?  Sheesh.  But the shirt got fitted this afternoon and holy crap, it was so EASY!  I actually foresee myself making more of them (which I never thought I'd "hear" myself say).  Dresses are going to be a breeze (I wish I could accurately convey the excitement I feel at being able to write that... but I can't, so you'll just have to use your imaginations, ok?).

Mwahahahahaha, I am now a sewing force to be reckoned with!

Or whatever.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Light on the photos and light on the content

It's getting to that time of year.  It's not very bright out when I leave in the morning and it's nearly dusk when I get home.  We live in the woods, so that translates into some pretty dreary conditions for taking photos.  So, you're not getting progress shots until I get some weekend sunshine.  And yes, I can finally report that there has been some (meager, but I'm not complaining) progress.

So, what have we been up to this summer?  Well, lots of sailing.  Lots of farmer's marketing, lots of berry picking, lots of jam-making, lots of yard work.  Some renovations, like painting and putting up shelves (totally mind-blowingly fascinating, I know) and drywall patching.  So, you know, nothing exciting.

This weekend, we participated in a beach cleanup and I remembered to bring my camera:

It was pretty gross.  When I showered afterwards, I found sand in places you should never find sand.  Blech.

In other news, a member of my extended family passed away a few weeks ago.  She, my aunt, had MS and had been suffering with it for over 25 years, so it wasn't a shock but it happened very suddenly.  She was the kind of person who, above everything else, loved a good laugh (at the most inappropriate moments, preferably), so we spent the days before and after her funeral telling funny stories and dirty jokes and doling out vast quantities of hugs.  It's always a shame that we're seldom together these days unless there is a funeral to attend, but I must say that it felt really damn good to see my cousins again.  It had been 8 years (since my own wedding!) and that's just too long (some of them did some appallingly efficient growing up during that period and my mind is still reeling).  So, I am declaring before all (40) of you, that I am hereby going to put $50 from each of our paycheques aside for future family-visiting.  No excuses.

I couldn't bring my camera (too bulky, too expensive) with me, so I'm relying on others' photos, but I hope to be back with more shortly...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Yup, still alive

I know, I'm the most horriblest blogger ever and you've given up on me.  Before you walk away for ever though, I ask for one parting favour: go and check out Miranda's bedroom.  Go, I swear it's worth it.

We've been going back and forth on it for months and she has decided that, though she isn't 100% done, it's internet-ready.  Way to go, girl!

PS: I will be back soon with a full accounting of what they heck I've been up to and why I've been ignoring you.  I'll also be begging Chris's forgiveness for not calling her when I was back in my hometown for an unexpected visit last week, though I said I would (I'm SO SORRY Chris, I just ran out of time, dangit!).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sad Day

I just read that our beloved Jack Layton, leader of the NDP (New Democratic Party) passed away this morning.

Jack was tireless and passionate.  One could argue that he was single-handedly responsible for elevating his Party to the forefront of Canadian politics.

In the words of Wikipedia: "In the May 2, 2011 election, Layton led the NDP to 103 seats, more than double its previous high. This was also enough to make the NDP the Official Opposition in the Commons for the first time ever."

Exactly four weeks ago today, he appeared on TV looking a little worse for wear and announced that he was going to take a leave of absence from the leadership of the party in order to concentrate yet again on a new battle with an unspecified cancer.  I think it is fair to say that much of the country collectively gasped in dismay when he broke the news.

He had finally, after decades of dedication and hard work, reached a point where his life's ambition (becoming Prime Minister of Canada) was within his grasp.  My heart is completely broken.

Story on the Globe and Mail site.

ETA: Jack's last letter to Canadians.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


On the way home from our latest sailing excursion.

Monday, August 15, 2011

It's habit-forming

See ya, suckas.

What can I say?  Once again, I have no knitting or sewing content for you.  We've had such crap weather for MONTHS (we're going to get 20mm of rain between midnight tonight and tomorrow evening, for example) and when the sun pokes out, the LAST thing I want to do is stay indoors, at my sewing table. 

But, I did work in the garden for a while last week and have this to show for it:

Apparently, my basil and my black currants are having a disagreement.  The basil says my garden sucks and the currant bushes are thumbing their noses at the little punks.  So, what do I do with them?  Ideas?  I found a raspberry/currant jam recipe I might try...

Speaking of raspberries, I found an organic raspberry U-Pick patch a few towns over.  Run by a 12-year-old boy named Daniel.  It was awesome.  We picked and bought 14 kg of them.  They filled one of those big ice cream buckets they serve ice cream out of at a Dairy Bar.  I could barely pick it up.

So, we've been jammin'.

Also, I invented a drink.  It's called I'm-Sick-of-Drinking-Straight-Water-and-Since-I-Can't-Drink-Regular-Fruit-Juice-I'm-Going-to-Juice-Every-Citrus-Fruit-in-the-Fridge-and-Add-Some-Sugar-and-Water-to-it-and-Call-it-a-Cocktail.  Deeelish.

Speaking of designing food, I made up a new burger sauce.  See, I can't have ketchup or barbecue sauce these days.  Which makes burgers a little boring.  So, I raided the fridge (you noticing a trend, here?) and blended this together to make Awesome Sauce (that's what I'm calling it):

(Bear with the vague quantities; my husband chucked the piece of paper containing my notes...the infidel.)

1/4 cup of mayo (NOT Miracle Whip)
1 tsp-ish of maple syrup (I have to avoid brown sugar or honey or agave nectar, but you could try those instead)
1 tsp-ish of lime juice
1/4 tsp (MAXIMUM - this stuff is potent) of fish sauce (available at Asian stores in the Thai section)
a sprinkle of good curry powder*
a half sprinkle of chipotle powder

*There is a spice lady at the Farmer's Market in town and she is my idol.  She has taught me so much about spices, it's kind of insane.  I mentioned that I have not always enjoyed curry powder and she explained that it is because there was too much turmeric in it.  The store-bought stuff is commonly made that way, she said.  She sold me some stuff that she calls "Citrus Thai Curry" and oh. my. gawd.  Swoon.  Also, she sells Smoked Applewood Sea Salt.  Gah.  To die for.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Forgiveness, please?

I am sorry for so much radio silence here, recently.

It's just that, if given the option between sitting inside in front of the computer, writing blog posts and  enjoying one of our increasingly rare SUMMER days by, say, going sailing on a friend's boat, the choice seems simple.

I love freckles, freckles are fun.  I love freckles, I wish I had just one...

Result of day out on sailboat:

1.  I want to learn how to sail.  More than I wanted to before.  Which is saying a LOT.
2.  My husband wants to learn to sail.  Bonus!  That means it will be less difficult to justify the cost of lessons and memberships in sailing clubs...
3.  I want a sailboat.
4.  I have a sunburn on my face.  Again.  Despite the 30 SPF.  What is WRONG with me?  I'm a TANNER, for crying out loud.  Sunburns just don't happen to me!
5.  I really really really want to learn how to sail.
6.  I now have only one half of one weekend day to do all the laundry, clean the house, do some painting (no, not the fun artsy kind, the boring wall kind), patch some drywall, cook some stuff, take the dogs for a long walk on the beach, bake some stuff, make a meal plan for the week, vacuum the dust buffaloes that have taken up residence in my kitchen (the space under the stove is a dark and scary place), maybe go out for a bike ride with a friend, do some sewing (?) and write a couple of blog posts so that you don't boycott me.

No worries, right?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Two Questions:

1.  Is there anything worse than a summer cold?

2.  Does anyone know if it's possible to overdose on peppermint tea?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meat and Potatoes

I live in a place that produces potatoes.  Like, lots of them.  Like millions of pounds of them every year.  They're everywhere I look.

But I've never been a huge fan of potatoes (let's pull a veil over my substance abuse problem, re: fries and potato chips, shall we?).  I grew up eating (offensive) boiled potatoes that everyone in the family seemed to find perfectly adequate and I found perfectly disgusting.  As my good friend Miranda would say: "Revolting with a capital BARF."  And let's not go anywhere near the word "pierogi".  Retch.  Gag.

Having said all of that,  I've decided that getting old has its advantages.  Namely, you start to like stuff that used to make you want to hurl.  It's like magic.

Enter: Becky's Potato Salad.

This is a grown-up's potato salad.  It is refined, it is elegant and, most importantly, it is healthy.  It is out-of-this-World-delicious.

So who is Becky?  Becky is my veggie pusher.  She runs an organic CSA a few towns over (and just bought herself a rundown old farmhouse that she is slowly painting PERIWINKLE BLUE! - refer to Snatch for the appropriate accent to use when saying that out loud) and she provides us with our organic veggies every week.  We like Becky.  She gives us things like garlic scapes and tat soi and beet greens.  Then, because we have no blessed clue what to do with them, she gives us a recipe sheet with ideas.

That's where the potato salad comes from.  The sheet of culinary wonders.

Here's what you need:

1-1/2 lbs of new potatoes, cubed (but washed first, of course...silly)
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
2 tbsp minced garlic scapes or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper (or just give the pepper mill a good once-over, that's my modus operandi)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 "bunch" washed/dried/torn arugula (not sure what she originally meant by "bunch", but I just toss half the bag in)

Cook the potatoes until tender but still firm (15 mins or so).  Drain and cool.  Transfer to a big bowl.

Meanwhile, mix the vinegar, garlic (or scapes), salt and pepper in a bowl.  Drizzle in the oil, whisking until the mixture thickens (or my personal favourite: stick it all in a mason jar and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE UNTIL YOU CAN'T SHAKE IT NO MO').

Toss the potatoes and the arugula with the vinaigrette (fancy French word alert).  Serve at room temperature.

That's it.  It sounds like a nothing salad, but holy crap on a cracker, it's good.  And just WAIT until you taste the leftovers the next day, after it's had time to marinate in the fridge (if you're like me, you'll want to add a touch more vinegar to it to re-jazzify it).  Gah. 

As a side note: I have humungous hands.  For a girl, I mean.  They're big.  I call them man-hands.  I am relaying this information to you because you need it in order to understand that following:

I have encountered mutant strawberries.

And no, they are not GMO.  These babies are organic and local.  Like, my-friend-Ruth's-garden-local.  Like, down-the-road-5-minutes-local.  And when I say organic, I mean organic.  Ruth doesn't even like wearing bug spray when she is harvesting edibles, in case it contaminates the food.  Guaranteed: they haven't been tampered with.  They're just the T. Rex of strawberries.  They're... beyond comprehension.  But, damn, they're delicious.

And I'm eating them all, MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

In other news, I have no knitting progress for you.  I have, however, been doing some sewing.  Nothing to show you yet, but I have an impending surprize that will explain all.  I gave my wheat-coloured socks to Ruth for her birthday.  They fit like a glove.  Sigh, I just love it when that happens.  Am falling in love with a lot of the new patterns I am finding online.  Like thisOr thisOr even this.  Can't forget this.  Oh.  And I bought New England Knits, on sale at Interweave Press (supposedly, it was a "hurt book" so it was marked down to $12, but it's in pristine condition so whatever).  Swoon.

Ok, that's it - I'm going to knit upstairs.  I'll be back soon, I promise.  I feel like I've been neglecting you guys and that just ain't right.  Kisses!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hypothetically Speaking...

I put this out there to my Ravelry peeps this week, but I'm going to send it out to all of you, also:

If I was to set up a knitting retreat here (will not give out location details right now, but suffice it to say that I am smack-dab in the middle of the Canadian Maritimes) next summer, would any of you like to come?  And, more importantly, how much would you be willing to pay?

I am thinking it would last 5 days or so and I could accommodate 6-ish people (most of the cottages out here can hold that many, but we might be able to squeeze more if people were willing to camp out).  I would create a "package" price which would include the accommodations, food, transportation to and from the airport, transportation to and from any events/places we would visit during the retreat, possibly some demonstrations by local people (weavers, spinners, knitters, shearers, etc).  The only additional cost to you would be the transportation to my location (our local airport takes in flights from many major cities in the eastern half of the continent, so you'll all be able to fly in, if you choose) and any souvenirs you want to purchase while you're here.  I am not proposing this as a way to make money for myself - as a recovering student (with the massive loan payments to prove it), I am deeply committed to keeping costs as low as possible for everyone.

So, what do you think?  Is this do-able?  Is there interest?  Am I barking up the wrong tree?

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sorry I've been away for so long.  No really, I feel badly about it.  I've just been spending every available moment working on the house, these past few weeks.  Because, you see, something amazing happened.

My mother came to visit.

We've lived here for the past five years and she hadn't been able to make the trip until just now (she left for home this morning).  It's not that she lives so far away, it's that our family is so spread out and it costs a lot of money/time to see everyone (Canada is big, yo).  My disabled brother no longer lives with her - he's in a home just outside of our hometown (2,500 km away from her) - and he understandably gets priority, visit-wise.  Still, it was starting to get to me.  I hadn't seen her in almost four years. 

Anyway, my mom is a professional organizer, so there was no way I was going to subject her to the disheveled state of my home.  I spent three weekends straight, painting every room in the house (there aren't really that many, but you try and paint rooms when they're still full of stuff and you'll appreciate why it took me so long).  We also cleaned up the yard, did some gardening, cleaned all the windows (!), had the electricians in to start making sense of the rat's nest that is our lighting and a host of other little odd jobs that needed done.  All on top of working full time and commuting.


I like having a pending visit hanging over my head as motivation, but I must say: I am a bit pooched.  Am looking forward to things going back to "normal".

It goes without saying that I haven't gotten much knitting or sewing done lately.  The argyle vest is crawling along and I've started another pair of socks to keep my hands busy when they haven't been holding a paint roller.  This week, while we were visiting and sitting on the beach (FINALLY - SOME SUMMER WEATHER!!), I managed to get a bit further on the socks.  I made much better progress on my sunburn, however.

{Can I just say that all this rainy weather has done some devilish things to the local mosquito population?  Holy crap.  And the no-see-ums.  Oy vey.  My mom is a magnet for all flying/biting insects and she was continually ambushed.  Thankfully, she brought this totally amazing Benadryl creme that she applied to each bite and it kept the swelling/itching down.  If you're one of those lucky people beloved by mosquitoes, you must try it.  Awesome sauce.}

Oh, and it was my birthday this past weekend.  Only, I kept forgetting.  Doh.  I ordered myself a birthday treat a few weeks ago, which I will share with you in the next couple of days, when I get it home (it's in town, at the UPS station, and it's being delivered to my office tomorrow) and set up.  Hopefully, I will also have a chance to get reorganized in my sewing so that I can put together my next tutorial for you: how to take a simple pattern for pants and make all sorts of different styles out of it.


Before I forget, did you see Amanda's post about her garden?  Swoon.

Oh, and do you love this as much as I do?

Monday, June 20, 2011

I really wish I had more to tell you

I've been busy.  I know, so have you.  I probably feel more than appropriately guilty for the time I have spent away from this space, but you likely haven't even noticed, have you?

Since the last time we spoke, I had a high school friend visit from Manitoba and we spent several days catching up on stuff.  It was pretty twilight zoney in a lot of ways.  We haven't hung out together in 16 years, but we still think alike and enjoy a lot of the same things (yup, she knits).  Strange how that works!

The garden started growing in earnest, while I wasn't looking:

We've also started taking our weekly beach walks (if the weather would co-operate, we could make these walks DAILY, but as it stands, Mother Nature hates us)(stupid 11C forecast tomorrow).

(Entertainment tangent: would you just look at how funny his face is in this photo...kind of like he's just inhaled a bug:)

Oh, and I knit a pair of socks:

I figured that seeing as I'm still WEARING wool socks regularly, I might as well keep right on knitting myself more of them.  But seriously, isn't this colour to die for?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Mill (aka: The Place Where Dreams Come True)

I made my first trip to the Mill of the season a few weeks ago.  The ladies are so busy, it's almost comical.  I mentioned last fall that they became an Ashford dealer and holy cow, do I EVER want a spinning wheel.  Or two.  Maybe three.  But not four, 'cause I'm not greedy.

Anyway, once the spinning-wheel-induced haze cleared and I regained consciousness, I had Hazel make me the poochachos a new dog bed:

The dogs love this thing.  Django (the little white one), especially.  They curl up on it together like little cinnamon buns, side-by-side.  A-DOR-ABLE!

It's made from an old DND (military issue) moth-proof wool blanket, sewn into a pillow case and stuffed with wool fleece and tied.  She even worked in two handles so that we can hang it up on the wall when it's not in use.  How frickin cool is that?  $30 well spent, I say.  (Yeah, only $30.   Crazy.)

Also, I bought some yarn.  C'mon, you had to know that was coming, right?

I have no blessed clue what the heck I'm going to do with it, but I'll be damned if I'm letting it out of my sight.  This one's for me.  A wrap, perhaps?  Yet another cowl?  Once can never have too many, you know...

While I was there, I spotted something really hilarious.  You see, the Mill is on a farm.  They have alpacas, sheep, goats (the kids are drop-dead adorable), pigs, chickens, guinea hens, a cow and, of course, farm dogs.  The fattest, most in-your-face of these creatures is a massive golden retriever named Nash.  Nash is the kind of dog whose love of all things can not be contained in his body.  The moment you look him in the eye, he becomes your new best friend and will demonstrate that love by promptly sitting on you.

This blurry photo pretty much sums him up, I think.

Anyway, I guess they gave the Nashster a haircut, 'cause I found this:

I did tell you that they'll spin any type of fibre, right?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Greenhouse Effect

Sorry for the cheesy post title.  Channeling the Big Bang Theory (which I just discovered {what?  I don't own a television, remember?  I don't hear about new shows until they aren't new anymore...} and am totally IN LOVE WITH).

But really.  I did make a greenhouse this weekend.  A mini one.  Why?  Well, because we are still in the death grip of winter, apparently.  And I want to grow stuff, dammit.

So, here's what I did:

I took one of my new 4' x 4' cutie pie little raised beds/boxes...

 I got out my tools and supplies, which include:

  • a roll of 6 mil poly vapour barrier, left over from some home improvement project (those are never-ending around here, so we always have this stuff on's a curse, really)
  • 18 feet of 3/4" dia. pex piping
  • 6 clippy/clampy things (photo below)
  • utility scissors (for the vapour barrier)
  • a hacksaw (for the piping)
  • a tape measure and marker (for the piping and the vapour barrier)
  • an electric drill
  • 2 spring clamps
  •  oh, and 2 canine companions for moral support

These are the clampy things (or "attaches de poignées", if you prefer) I found at the hardware store.  They're designed to be fastened to the wall and used to hold brooms and mops, etc.  They're intended to hold 3/4" to 1-1/4" dia. objects, which is great because I had already determined that 3/4" piping would be my best bet (sturdier than 1/2", but still bendy).

I took the clampy things and screwed them onto the inside face of the frame, at each corner and in the middle of each of the sides, like so:

Using the tape measure and marker, I measured out 3 lengths of pex piping (6' each, obviously) and popped them into the clamps.

{Would you just look at my new little boxwood, all lonely and forlorn...}

I cut a big piece of poly (I think it ended up being 9' x 9', but I can't recall exactly...just drape it over the whole shebang and cut the excess and you'll be fine) and draped it over the frame.  At the far end, I gathered all the excess and stapled it into the frame (oops, forgot that in my materials list - a stapler).  On the near end, I just gathered it all and clamped it to the frame using the spring clamps.  That way, I can open 'er up and water things or peek in and see how all my lovelies (basil, bell peppers and approximately 63 different varieties of lettuce) are doing when the urge arises.

So that's it.  I can take everything down and store it over the summer or winter, when I don't need it and whip it all back up when frost threatens.  Pretty nifty, eh?

PS: While I was transplanting all the goodies, I found two incubating Junebugs in the new dirt.... shudder shudder shudder...  I may or may not have screeched out loud when their little hooky legs got caught on my gardening gloves and wouldn't let go.  You'll just never know.