Monday, February 27, 2012

Cold Cure

This post is about experiencing the cold, not catching a cold. (Personally I would rather deal with the latter.) I have a phobia about being cold, which really isn't a good feature since I live in Canada. I Googled to see if there is a term for people who are afraid of being cold and was surprised to see there is one. It is called Frigophobia. And no, I am not making that up. Although I think the site might not be entirely credible since it also listed gems such as Consecotaleophopia, which is the fear of chopsticks, and Hobophobia, the fear of bums or beggars.

Okay, so maybe there isn't a legitimate term for the fear of being cold, but that doesn't make it any less real. I don't mind going out into the cold as long as I am dressed for it. I think it is the reason I keep knitting sweaters. Practically speaking I don't need any more sweaters. Psychologically speaking I can't seem to stop knitting them. Ditto for socks.

My fear of being cold is not restricted to the daytime hours. Every night I heat up not one, but two rice bags in the microwave. These are not my main tool for warding off the cold though - that spot is reserved for my hot water bottle. It is my constant companion from roughly mid- November until mid-April.

I have wanted to knit a wool hot water bottle cover for ages, and had several fancy patterns in my Ravelry queue just waiting to be cast on my needles. They never seemed to make it to the top of my queue though, and I finally came to the realization I needed to lower my expectations and knit something practical. After all, it was a hot water bottle cover, not an elaborate cabled sweater I was planning to make. This is the Literary Hotties pattern from the book The Gentle Art of Knitting.

It was quick, it was easy, and best of all it keeps my hot water bottle warm all night long. The perfect cure for Frigophobia.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

And The Winner Is...


Thanks for all your great name suggestions! Fergus was definitely the most popular name. Jean's comment saying "he looks like a Fergus" sums it up nicely. So Fergus it is.

Now I will make you a promise. This is not going to turn into a dog blog. North of 49 will continue to be a blog about absolutely nothing and everything just like it has been since its beginning. But what I can't promise you is that a few puppy pictures and posts won't slip in now and again. Fergus is just so darn cute and so hilarious it would be impossible not to brag about him on occasion.

So as long as this is a puppy post I might as well slip in a few more pictures. This is Fergus with his Angry Bird toy. He loves attacking it and carrying it off to his basket. (Well, really that is Jenny's basket but we don't seem to be able to convince Fergus of that fact.) Then he promptly collapses and falls asleep from all the excitement.

Like I said last time, it is definitely a dog's life around here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Westie Weekend

Great excitement here this weekend! Remember my plan when we got Jenny, our little miniature dachshund? Jenny was supposed to be a companion for both Jay and our cat Emily. The first goal was a complete success. Maybe even too successful. Jenny is definitely "Jay's dog." She only hangs out with me early in the morning before Jay gets up. Once she hears him open the upstairs bedroom door she zooms up the stair to greet him and sticks by his side for the rest of the day.

As far as the cat goes score that as a total fail. Emily hates Jenny. The trouble is Jenny likes Emily. They are the animal world equivalent of oil and water. I don't know who I feel sorrier for - Emily having to put up with the dog being playful and full of energy, or Jenny, who gets swiped or hissed at by the cat every time she tries to get near her.

Meet my solution to this dilemma.

This adorable little bundle of fur is the latest addition to our family. He is a West Highland Terrier, and is even cuter in person than in the pictures. I am having a really hard time deciding on a name. I'm torn between Fergus, Hamish and Angus but I'm open for suggestions. If you think of a good Scottish name please leave a comment. In the meantime, all I can say is it's a dog's life around here!

Friday, February 17, 2012

February Frugal Luxuries

I love the month of February. The sun, when it chooses to shine, actually has some warmth to it. The days are noticeably longer, and there is a sense of anticipation that has me leafing through the seed catalogues planning this year's order. It is still winter but not for long.

This month has also been overflowing with Frugal Luxuries. First up is a Valentine's Day card I discovered in a box I found when I was sorting through stuff at my mom's a few weeks ago. This card was made by my grandma for my grandpa when they were first married, so it has to be over 80 years old.

"When you are old 
and cannot see -
smoke your pipe
and think of me
as your Valentine.

I offer a 
heart to my
tis quite a
la carte,
will you give
me thine?"

My grandpa loved smoking his pipe!

Purdy's salted caramels. My one weakness.

The perfect mix of light and dark chocolates

Waking up to a world painted in crystals.

At first glance this last one might seem more like a luxury than a frugal luxury. However, I think because I live within an hour's drive of a world class ski resort (no flights and hotel stays involved), own my ski equipment (no rentals needed), and am skiing on a bargain price flex pass purchased last May, it qualifies. The fact that it was a gorgeously warm, sunny day with the faint smell of fir trees hovering in the air as we rode up the chairlift was an added bonus. And the fact that I got to spend the day with my daughter-in-law was a double bonus.

Sun Peaks February 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Total, Fail

Thanks everyone for your kind birthday wishes! I had a lovely day, and my Sky Scarf is off to a good start with nice shades of blue mixed with a bit of white.

Last night, as a sort of a wrap-up to my birthday weekend, Jay and I decided to go to see the movie Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. We are not big movie goers, and usually have completely different tastes in what we want to watch. But we had both read and enjoyed the book by John Le Carre a number of years ago so thought this might be something we would both like.

Before we even left the house it was clear we don't venture out together in the evening very often. David and Alexandra were both out so this meant the house was going to be empty while we were at the movie. Jay wanted to lock the doors but I pointed out we didn't know if either of the kids had house keys. I also pointed out the chances of being robbed were fairly slim given we live sandwiched between two RCMP officers.

Jay is a city boy through and through. He grew up in a home where you locked the doors. I am a country girl. I grew up in a home where, on the rare occasions you did lock the door, you left the key in an obvious place so if the neighbours needed something they could get in. In the end we compromised. We left the house unlocked, but took Jay's car parked on the street and left the Subaru in the driveway to fool any potential thieves.

I tried to warn Jay that because the movie was playing at the old Paramount Theatre there was no need to arrive more than a minute before the show started. Jay, having never been to the Paramount, didn't believe me so we arrived at the theatre a full 30 minutes before the show. This meant we were subjected to a half hour of Hollywood drivel and ads, interspersed with full screen warnings to "Look around, these are the people you will be disturbing if you text or talk during the show."

The first time the warning came on I burst out laughing as I did a visual sweep of the cavernous old theatre.
We were the only two people in the place. However, when the second warning flashed I was no longer laughing. Not because the place had suddenly filled with people. It hadn't. I was no longer laughing because that was the moment I remembered I had left the little portable heater running in my upstairs bathroom.

Great. I didn't need to worry about disturbing anyone if my cell phone went off, but now I needed to worry about the house burning down. That is, if the thieves didn't rob us blind first. Even if we managed to escape any thieves in our neighbourhood, there was the theft that occurred at the theatre.

Jay decided to go get a popcorn and a drink. My warning that theatre popcorn and pop consistently make the list of the top ten worst foods you can eat did not slow him down for even a minute. When he returned holding just a pop I thought maybe he had listened to me after all. It turns out the ad on the screen that he thought said drinks were 50 cents turned out to really say you could super size your drink for 50 cents. The small pop he was holding in his hands had cost him $4.50. I am still not clear why he bought it when he found out how much it was going to cost. Shock I suppose.

Moving to the show itself...It seemed fitting that a movie set in the early 1970s should be playing at the Paramount since that theatre's sound system and seats date from roughly the same time period. The atmosphere in this old theatre meant one could feel immersed in the story even if you couldn't always make out the mangled words coming from the speakers. Please keep in mind what follows is not a movie review. Consider it more of a movie warning. An actual review would have to be longer than the two words I have to say about this film.

Don't go.

There are just some books (most actually) that should never be made into a movie. Towards the end I was thinking I would rate it a 2 out of 10 out of the generosity of my heart, and then....SPOILER ALERT....

It turned out Colin Firth was the bad guy. Automatic 0.

The movie might have been a 0, but the entertainment factor for the evening was definitely a 10. I still feel like laughing every time I think about looking around at the rows and rows of empty seats while dire warnings about refraining from texting and talking rolled across the cracked old screen. And on a purely educational front I learned something important last night. Clearly we both need to get out more.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Birthday Cakes

Saturday is my birthday. Some birthdays seem to slip by, largely unnoticed. Others seem to become place markers in one's life. I turn 55 tomorrow and I think that definitely qualifies for a special celebration.

So what wild and crazy thing am I going to do to mark the occasion? Start a new knitting project of course! This isn't any old regular knitting project though. It will take exactly one year to complete, and that seems like the perfect fit for a place marker kind of a year.

I can't tell you exactly what it will look like at the end because I won't know until I get there. But there is one thing I do know. It is going to be a scarf. A Sky Scarf to be more precise. Every day for the next year I will check the sky, use two strands of yarn that most closely approximate what is out my window, and knit two rows of the scarf. By the end of the year I will have a knitted record of the year I was 55. (Blue is my favourite colour and I am hoping it is the predominant theme.)

Here is my recipe for a Sky Scarf birthday cake. Gather a yarn swift, a ball winder, and ten skeins of sky-coloured yarn.

Wind each skein into two yarn cakes. (You might need two of the same colour to represent that day's sky.)

Carefully begin to assemble on a cake plate.

Reluctantly add ingredients for grey skies and precipitation.

You saw it first here at North of 49. The world's first wheat-free, calorie-free, high fibre, no sweetener, zero calorie, lasts for one year, and doesn't even need to be refrigerated birthday cake.

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Vision

I have made the greatest discovery. It is called Zenni Optical. Until recently I didn't know you could order glasses online and pay a fraction of what you would at your local optician's shop. This is very good news if you are like me and need reading glasses. I have one proper pair of reading glasses I got at a "real" store, but one pair just isn't enough. I have tried the generic kind you can pick up at the pharmacy or Costco, but I have astigmatism, and they don't correct for that so my eyes end up hurting when I wear them.

This year I have also had to move into glasses that correct for near-sightedness. It is a mild correction, and I mostly use them for driving since I consider being able to read road signs a high priority. With my lousy sense of direction it just doesn't work for me to not be able to make out what they say until the last minute.

My dilemma was needing two different kinds of glasses for two different tasks. (Please don't mention bifocals. I am not emotionally ready to think about such a thing.) Our eyeglass plan allows for a modest pair of glasses once every two years. I decided to use the plan to get one good pair of reading glasses since that is what I use the most. Being thrifty, I was dragging my heels about spending money on a second pair. Enter Zenni.

You upload a picture of yourself and "try on" the frames. Prices start as low as $6.95 a pair, and yes that includes the lenses. I ended up ordering two pairs of driving glasses, one regular and one tinted. I also ordered a two pairs of spare reading glasses. They were all $9.95 each with the exception of the sunglasses (they charge a bit extra for the tinting).

distance sunglasses

regular distance glasses

I decided to be daring when I ordered the spare reading glasses. I went with whimsical and impractical, which is odd since I am not the kind of person who does whimsical, and I am about as practical as they come. But for $9.95 a pair I decided to live dangerously. After all, who was going to see these spare glasses anyway.

Chinese 2012 year of the Dragon reading glasses

winter reading glasses

Last week Jay and I had a meeting with a financial advisor. My enthusiasm for this event ranked slightly higher than a trip to the dentist. As we sat in the office listening to a disorganized presentation highlighted by meaningless charts and graphs I felt myself slipping into the danger zone - the one where I think I might slap somebody. (Not that I would ever really do that, I just feel like I want to.) The problem was I didn't take my knitting. I had decided beforehand that I didn't want this guy thinking I was some kind of weirdo. I don't usually care, but since this meeting involved talking about money I figured it was important to be taken seriously.

As it turns out I needn't have worried about the knitting making me look like an outcast. As he turned the computer screen towards us so we could see one of the pointless illustrations I suddenly realized I had my new reading glasses in my purse. I reached in, opened the case and stared. Not only was I looking down at my new green glasses with the trees on the stems, I was also looking down at my handknit sweater vest. The green one with the trees on it.

 It just doesn't get any nerdier than that. I'm surprised his financial advice wasn't to purchase lottery tickets.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Name Is Not Christine

I was able to make it South of 49 to help my mom. It was a long trip with bad roads in both directions and I am exhausted. The good news is my mom and I were able to cross off almost every item on her to-do list in spite of the length of the list and the fact we only had two days in which to accomplish everything.

A major chunk of our time was spent furniture shopping. She is moving into a place that is much smaller, so has to downsize everything from the dining room table to the sofa and chairs. At one point midway through the first day we went to Macy's to look at couches. I dropped my mom off then went to park my car. When I got to the furniture floor it took some time to locate her. Finally, in a far off corner of the store I saw what appeared to be a very small woman being swallowed by a gigantic couch. As I approached she sat looking at me with that crazed look of defeat that happens when too much time has been spent shopping with too few results. She said, "I think I'll get this one." I asked the sales clerk if my mom and I could have a moment alone. Needless to say we left without the couch.

This is the table my mom will be giving away. It doesn't look like much in this photo. You can see the rungs at the bottoms of the chairs have the finish worn off. There are scratches and small nicks in the seats of the chairs from years of people sliding on and off of them. The marks on the table top from the Super Glue Incident my brother had when he was a teenager can still be spotted if you know where to look.

This table has been the centre of our family for 40 years. We have celebrated around it.

Rebekah and Alexandra

Kellen, Rebekah and me

We have played countless games on it.

Karsten, Jay, Rebekah and Kellen

It even held my wedding cake.

Left to right: my parents, me and Jay, Jay's parents

The night I arrived at my mom's my cousin Tammy came over to have dinner with us. We sat around the table eating, laughing and sharing memories of when we were young. At one point my mom asked Tammy if she remembered our Great Aunt Christine. Tammy looked at me and laughed, saying she didn't but she knew I did.

Christine was my grandpa's sister. Not only was she his sister, she was the family matriarch. She had immigrated to America long before my grandpa and his brother Hans, and she was the self-proclaimed boss. I dreaded having to go visit at her house. In fact, I am sure my lifelong hatred of doilies can be traced back to those visits.

At the back are my Uncle Hans, my grandpa, and my Aunt Christine, who I hasten to add I am NOT named after!

However, there was something even worse than the doilies. It was the fact that she thought I was named after her. I would adamantly state my name was Kristie and she would continue to call me Little Christine. Every single time we visited. Now there is nothing wrong with the name Christine. I quite like the name. But it wasn't my name. And did I mention she was a little short in the joy department? I think all those doilies had sucked the life right out of her. Robert Burns must have known someone very like my great aunt. These lines are from his poem Tam O' Shanter, and they do a much better job of describing her than I ever could.

"Where sits our sulky sullen dame,
Gathering her brows like gathering storms,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm."

As it turns out that evening with my cousin and my mom was my last meal at The Table, the one that has been our family's faithful companion through both joy and sorrow, celebration and consolation. Thousands of seemingly ordinary meals, along with the occasional extraordinary one have happened around it and now that era has come to an end. I try to remind myself it is just a thing, a piece of furniture, but I would be lying if I said it wasn't sad to walk out of the apartment and know I would never see it again. I just keep trying to remind myself that the memories are mine forever, and, in the end, it is those memories that gave the table its value.