Thursday, October 25, 2012

Scottish Fabulosity

This makes me want to climb a big rock with a dog at my side. In the rain.

Harris Tweed - From Shearing To Stamping from HTA on Vimeo.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Best Video Ever

Seriously, I could watch this all day.

shearing, washing and spinning from Christien Meindertsma on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Awesome stuff

I really hate it how all we seem to hear from people regarding customer service/new products are the horrible customer service and disappointments they've experienced.  I also hate how the details of these experiences are often blown completely out of proportion (I blame Twitter, incidentally).

I wish people would share their positive experiences with as much enthusiasm - why punish the crappy businesses and then ignore the good ones?

So today, I'm going to tell you about some recent acquisitions I've made that I'm very pleased with.  You might not care, but I'm going to do it anyway.  Here we go:

1.  New yoga pants.  I am not one of those creatures who believes that spending $100 on a pair of yoga pants (or jacket/top/whatever) is acceptable.   I have never paid more than $30 for a pair and many of mine have lasted for years and years (and I practice a very physically demanding form of yoga, so that is saying something).  Usually I go to Winners for yoga gear, but I don't like the inconsistency - just when I've found a brand/style that I like, they run out of it.  (Wanna see someone go ballistic in a public place with little or no regard for decency?  Come shopping with me at Winners on a Saturday morning on a day when I need new yoga pants and can't find a pair.)

But Mountain Equipment Co-Op just put out a line of yoga gear and I tried some stuff on while I was in Ottawa (we don't have a store here...*SOB*).  I confirmed my size and ordered a pair of the Messina pants online (yay! on sale!).  They fit perfectly.  So comfy, the fabric is soft and sturdy and the colour is really nice.  I had to hem them because I'm short for my size (large), but that's a pretty common occurrence and it's not their fault that I'm a hobbit. 

So: win.

2.  Still with MEC (a most wonderful chain of stores that I can NOT say enough good things about - if we had one here, it's probably the only place I would shop, I kid you not).  Last winter (the warmest winter I've ever experienced, so my purchase kind of went to waste), I bought a pair of merino leggings.  Black wool leggings.  Yes.  So very yes.  They're thin and comfy and totally non-itchy (and non-stinky: BONUS) and WARM.  I love them (and would love them more if I'd thought to buy them in medium, as the large is a little too large) and am getting at least one more pair.  Perfect under long wool skirts.  Perfect as pyjamas.  Perfect under jeans.

(Wool-sensitive Husband bought the men's long-sleeve undershirt version and loves it.)

Win again.

3.  A buckwheat pillow from Halfmoon Yoga (another great Canadian company). 

I do not sleep easily, friends.  I've battled one form of insomnia or another almost my entire life (there was a lovely bout between the ages of 17 and 24 where sleep came easily and I'm grateful for that, but alas, it waned).  It's frustrating to deal with so I take sleep seriously.  One of my big challenges is finding a good pillow.  Not too big, not too squishy (and for the love of all that is holy, no damn feathers!), but something that will stay put and has neck support.  I don't move very much in my sleep and I tend to remain on one side or the other all night, so it must have substance.

I'd read about buckwheat pillows and I have a zafu, so I had a sense of what it would feel like, but I wasn't 100% sold on the idea.  But I got good and fed up a few months ago and decided to just take the plunge, already.  Now, I don't consider $80 for a pillow reasonable - I was gritting my teeth in protest even as I was clicking on the "Add To Cart" button.  But I was so tired of experimenting with other pillows (thereby wasting money),  I went through with it.

This is the pillow for me. It took about 10 days nights to get used to it (my neck was sore for a few days and my ear hurt a fair bit from sleeping on it - the pillow doesn't have a lot of "give" to it), but once I got accustomed to it, it felt sooooo good.

Win win win.

4.  My Sigg wide mouth water bottle.  I bought this on my trip to Ottawa, not online.   It has a dual cap: one opening big enough to drop in ice cubes and one opening small enough that you can easily control the flow of water you're drinking, so that it doesn't splash you in the face.  Also, easier to clean than the narrow-mouth versions.  Love it.

Mine actually has a different and more ornate orange Indian/paisley pattern on it, but this one is nice, too.
Win x 4.

5.  And last, but not least: my new travel mug

I have bought 4 travel mugs in the past 2 years.  Four.  And they all sucked.  Either the caps were gross and uncleanable or the body of the mug itself took on water when it was being washed (which would naturally escape later, when I was trying to drink from it...mmmm old dish water running down my chin...GAG).  This one, bought from (AWESOME online shop with a fantastic assortment of eco-products - they sent me a lovely personalized e-mail and then a little handwritten note with my shipment, offering me a discount on my next purchase), is a total winner (though the price tag initially took me some time to justify - until I calculated how much I had wasted on the previous 4 mugs).  The cap comes apart for ease of cleaning, the body is fully sealed - so there's no seepage, and it keeps my tea hot (HOT, not just slightly warmish) for literally 7 hours (no joke - if I prepare it at 7:00 am, my tea is still be drinkable at 2:00 pm).
It's shown with the loop cap, but you can buy the "café cap" to go with it - that's the one you need in order to use it as a mug
I bought it on a Thursday, it arrived at my office on Monday morning (Monday!  I live on a little island in the Atlantic - nothing ever ships here in 2 days!) and I used it Tuesday and Wednesday (by which time I was totally smitten, as you can imagine).  Then, on Wednesday night, I flew out to Toronto for business and proceeded to lose this little guy in the taxi from the airport.

I don't really have to tell you how much cursing and screaming (quiet screaming, mostly internal, but very effective) I did the next morning when I went to make a cup of tea in my hotel room and discovered that it was missing, do I?  I got a grip (took me a few hours to calm down, I'm ashamed to say), conjured my inner Gandhi (not an easy feat, I assure you, kind of like horking up a hairball) and told myself that it was ok, some lucky bastard had just unknowingly inherited the best damn travel mug ever made by humankind.  It was just $30.  Let it go.

Right, so the next morning (that's Friday - 8 days after my initial purchase, in case you've lost track), I walked two blocks from the hotel to the Yonge Pharmacy (what a great, old school place that is!), where the interwebs told me I could find more Klean Kanteen stuff.  I couldn't find the insulated ones, so I approached the counter and asked if they had any of them in stock.  They had just received a shipment the day before and had exactly what I was looking for in the back.  So I prepared to lay down (another! ARGH!) $30 for a replacement and while the clerk was ringing me in, I started recounting my tale of woe.  He kind of chuckled (not laughing AT me, I'm sure...) and said "Aw, that sucks.  Well, seeing as you had such a crappy time of it, I'm going to give you 20% off this one."

Yeah, that's right.  Good karma: I has it.  Glad I coughed up that hairball after all.

(And I have been guarding the freaking thing with my life ever since - if anyone so much as looks sideways at my travel mug, they're going to lose an eye.)(If my house was on fire, I'd grab my great-grandmother's knitting needles, my husband, my two dogs and this mug.)

So that's it - those are some of the good things I've recently purchased that I am so very pleased with.  The shops I've linked to are amazing and take customer service very seriously, for which I commend them.  If you have Christmas shopping to do in the next few months, you may want to consider sending some business their way - they deserve it and you won't be disappointed.

(I don't really have to say it, do I?  None of these people have given me a dime - or free product - to give you my recommendations.  I just really like them and wanted to go on the record with my experiences.)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Promised Land

I was in Toronto last week (no wait, it was two weeks ago...whatever) for a trade show/conference and decided to take the opportunity on the Thursday evening to walk around downtown to suss out some yarn stores.  See, I don't have an LYS - my LYS is the Mills.  There aren't really any other great options (ok, yes, there's Michaels...blech) available to me.  I can get Noro at a local toy/hobby store and they occasionally have some nice wool, but the selection tends to run more towards acrylic and sock yarn, neither of which really light my fire.

But I digress.  I was telling you about Toronto, wasn't I?  Well, Toronto does NOT have an LYS shortage, let me assure you.  I Googled "yarn stores Toronto" and holy wow.  My hotel was located on Queen St West and lo and behold, there were three (three!) yarn stores within 4 kms (that's like, not very many miles, maybe 1-1/2 of something...totally walkable) of my hotel.


I didn't have a very big suitcase with me, seeing as this was a 2-day trip, and I didn't have much money to spend, but I walked in to The Knit Café, had a delicious cup of tea and fell pretty hard for some Madelinetosh Merino Light.  Well, ok.  I fell pretty hard for ALL the Madelinetosh everything, but this one hit me especially hard.  I had to buy it - the pull was just too strong.

The smoosh factor is extremely high, with this one.  It's called "Opaline".  I know, dudes.  I know.

After that, I kept on walking and saw some pretty interesting stuff (egads, there's a lot going on in Toronto... I live a very quiet and sheltered life, in comparison).

Here are some highlights taken with my iPod:

A back-to-school window display...
...made from pencils!!!
A beautiful design/décor store - I LOVE that door
An art gallery window display... love.
Cakes that I would never be able to bring myself to eat
Would it be weird for me to do this on my living room wall?


And then.  And.  Then.

I was walking along and I knew that there was another LYS nearby, so I kept my eyes peeled, but I was getting tired (not from the walking, but from an imminent sinus cold, I later learned).  Then, like a beacon in a storm, there it was:

Ok, I'm never going to be able to do this place justice, so I'm just going to say this:  I stood at the back corner of the first level (there's a full basement, too) and took a photo across the width of the store...

...and then I turned 90 degrees and took a photo towards the front door:

...and then I walked across the store, taking photos down each aisle:

second aisle

third aisle - there's the front door, way down in the distance

fourth aisle

 and then, I stood in the fifth aisle and took a photo over my shoulder:

I'm sorry if the photos are blurry - I was getting a little high on the yarn fumes
My friends.  I would venture a guess that this store has, at some time or other, stocked at least one ball of every single yarn commercially available for retailers in the world.  I am also fairly confident that most of those yarns are still in stock here.

I have never seen anything like it.  I'm still a little shell shocked.

More shocking still: I only bought two balls of a cotton/acrylic yarn (on sale for $6/ball) to make DH a hat (he is a delicate flower when it comes to wool).