Friday, April 27, 2012

Renovation Blues

This is going to be a short post. We are in the midst of chaos here due to the ongoing basement renovations. Chaos and I are not friends.

Hidden under all the junk is our new flooring. I think I am happy with it, but won't know for sure until I can actually see it minus the dust and collection of tools.

It works out well having a son with a painting business. And no, he is not a midget. He only looks short because of the way I took the picture. In real life he is 6'3".

As renovations have a way of doing, the mess oozed out of the basement and into our family room.

I can handle chaos I can't see. I'm not so great with chaos that is staring me in the face. Our kitchen looks down on this room, and it is the room where I work on my computer. It is also a room Fergus and Jenny are usually allowed into, but due to the tippy bookshelves we have had to block access to it. This is where it gets a bit scary. The only thing I could come up with that was wide enough and high enough to keep them out was my stash.

Exposed. Naked. Revealed. There for everyone to see. If you are a knitter you understand the depth of my discomfort. Here's the really confronting thing. This is only part of my stash. The reality is I have enough to keep back a pack of Bernese Mountain dogs should the need ever arise.

The weekend will be spent slowly untangling the mess this house has become. I am looking forward to the end result, but have to admit I have hated every minute of the process. I just keep reminding myself it could be worse. At least I'm not Jean. She is facing having to replace the ceiling in her home due to water damage caused by the upstairs neighbours.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April Frugal Luxuries

Today is the start of some basement renovations here at the Hammond house. I briefly thought of doing some "before" pictures for a future blog post, but after about two seconds realized that there are just some things that should never see the light of day, and our basement in its present state is one of them.

Just one hour into the project Kellen came upstairs and said he thought he would do the painting now rather than wait until the new flooring went in. I was in the kitchen baking cookies (feeding people is the only part of renos I am any good at!) and I was listening as he and Jay discussed what colour to paint the downstairs walls. I heard Jay say the word grey and almost dropped the pan of cookies on the floor. Kellen sided with his dad and tried to tell me grey was very trendy right now. Grey? In a basement? Thankfully cooler heads prevailed (mine) and I am happy to report we will not have a rec room that resembles the local public school gym. Or a navy frigate.

So while all the commotion and chaos is happening downstairs I think I will focus on pleasanter things and write another frugal luxury post. April provides, completely free of charge, hope in the form of things that grow. Here is my little patch of tulips.

The rhubarb is progressing nicely. In a few weeks we should be able to have our first rhubarb crisp of the year!

Speaking of crisps, here is another frugal luxury - being able to go out to my freezer and grab some fruit from last summer. I try to freeze as many berries as I can when they are in season and reasonably priced. We use them all winter and into the spring for smoothies, pies and crisps. Here is a crisp made with the last of my precious huckleberries.

Drinking a cup of tea out of a cute mug definitely counts as a frugal luxury. Even more so when the mug was on sale for $2.99.

I have saved the best for last. This is in my top ten of all time frugal luxury list. Well, I don't really have such a list, but if I did I know this would be on it. Hanging clothes on the line to dry. I love the rhythm of choosing the spot on the line, placing the pegs on the clothes, and watching the clothes blowing in the wind every time I look out my kitchen window.

So far I am the only one who has eaten any of the cookies. Hmmm...I guess I need to get off the computer and go offer some to the people actually doing the work.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fergus Friday

It is a sad fact, but when I was in Calgary last weekend it took three adults to look after one small puppy. I think this is more a comment on the people occupants of this house than the dog. I mean really, how could anything as sweet and innocent looking as this ever get into trouble?

Adult #1: If you can text and make whip cream at the same time, looking after a 4 month old puppy should be a breeze.

Adult #2: You can't fool me. I know you love spending time with Fergus.

Adult #3: You're fired.

Here's what happened. When I walked in the door Sunday night I was excited to see if Fergus would remember me. But instead of being met by a rambunctious puppy begging to be picked up, Jay was standing at the front door holding Fergus. Let me amend that to say he was standing at the front door holding Fergus, with a look on his face that was somewhere between guilt and concern.

That morning he had accidentally dropped a pill on the kitchen floor and before he could grab it Fergus got to it, snarfed it up and swallowed it. As all animal owners know you only ever need a vet on the weekend when they are almost impossible to get hold of and the rates are doubled. Luckily Jay got right through and the vet asked how much Fergus weighed. He then determined Fergus would be okay, but would probably be groggy for most of the day.

Groggy? He was way beyond groggy. Poor Fergus didn't look like he knew if he was a cat or a dog! Most disturbing of all was the fact that his ears were not sticking up. Not only were they not sticking up, they were hanging limply back in a way that reminded me of a balloon that has lost all its air.

Fergus was fine the next morning, and I was mostly over being upset. And I am not really going to fire adult #3. But I will confess there were a few moments right after I walked in the door Sunday night when I wanted to.

Fergus with his fully recovered ears.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Calgary Round-Up

Last Thursday I flew to Calgary to spend a few days with Karsten and Diana. It normally takes 50 minutes to fly there, but when I went it took a full hour. We were at the end of the runway, engines revved for take-off, when the pilot came on to inform us there would be a slight delay. There were sea gulls on the runway and we had to wait for the bird guy to come scare them away.

Calgary is one province over, and one time zone ahead of us here in Kamloops. It was also unfortunately one season behind. It snowed every day I was there. This didn't stop us from having a great time together. Thursday afternoon Diana and I went on a yarn crawl. Make One Yarn Studio was a very unique shop. They feature local yarns, and every month or so have a new kit available featuring one of those yarns. The minute I saw this month's kit I knew I was doomed.

The kit came with two skeins of a merino, alpaca, silk DK weight yarn from Yummy Yarn Studio, a sheep stitch marker, and the mitten pattern all tucked away in a project bag. These mittens are going to be a challenge. They are double knit, which is a technique I have never tried. It is also one my knitting friend Ellen warned me about after she had an unsuccessful go at it last winter. But they were sheep. Sheep from the front and sheep from the back. And I have a weakness for sheep. Not only were they sheep, they were reversible, so there were two colours of sheep. Even then I might have been able to resist had I not slipped the mittens on my hands. Ellen's warning voice in my head was instantly silenced by the softest, warmest mittens I had ever worn.

Friday Diana and I went for a walk in Weaselhead Park. The previous day's snow was starting to melt, and there were even some promising patches of blue sky. I was surprised to see how far behind us Calgary is. Pussy willows and the chickadees with their spring call were the only signs of spring to be found.

Friday night we went to a Persian restaurant for dinner. I have wanted to try Persian food ever since reading the book Pomegranate Soup. I wasn't disappointed. The food was amazing - very different, but a good kind of different. Half of the space was the restaurant, and half was a Persian market. When we finished eating we went to have a look at the shop. It had some very interesting items, most of them imported from Iran. I bought some pomegranate paste to try to replicate the dish I ate. We also got some Persian ice cream. Oh. My. Goodness. The ice cream was flavoured with saffron and rose water and loaded with pistachios and frozen chunks of real cream. I managed to eat three bowls of the stuff before I came home. It is probably a good thing there was no way to bring some home with me on the plane!

We went to the Calgary Zoo to see the new Penguin Plunge exhibit. It is so popular that even on a cold, snowy day people queue up to get into the display. They have done a great job, and if you are ever in Calgary it is worth going to the zoo just to see the penguins.

Calgary has its own unique personality. It is a bit like a cold version of Texas. In the middle of the city you see signs warning you not to ride your horse on the path, block heaters are sprinkled throughout the parking lots, snow continues to fall in April, and houses in upscale neighbourhoods decorate their front porches with dead animal skulls.

But if I had to pick just one thing that defined Calgary it would be this. They hate the Edmonton Oilers. With a passion.

Even the owners of the Persian restaurant felt they couldn't let a passing reference in their menu to Edmonton slip by without clarifying their feelings about their despised hockey rivals.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Not the Titanic

I realize most people probably have Titanic fatigue by now, but not me. I have always found the story riveting. However, it isn't just the individual story of the Titanic that I enjoy. I am fascinated by that time period in general (which explains why I am such a fan of Downton Abbey). Right now I am watching the four part series out of Britain about the Titanic, very unimaginatively called Titanic, written by the same person who wrote Downton Abbey. The show is much better than the title, and all I have left to watch is the final episode. It's not like I don't know how it is going to end, but there are still the details of who gets lifeboats and who doesn't to be sorted out.

There is another reason I am so interested in the story of the Titanic. Just one and a half months before the Titanic,  March 1, 1912 to be precise, my grandpa boarded a ship and sailed to America to start a new life. He was just sixteen years old. It is hard to imagine by today's standards - a sixteen year old boy making that kind of life changing decision, and his parents allowing it to happen. But life in 1912 was different than life in the year 2012. At sixteen my grandpa was considered to be a man, not a boy. This was my grandpa's house in Denmark. (This picture was taken many years after my grandpa lived there, thus the bike in front of the house.)

My grandpa was from the small Danish island of Aero. His family was quite large, which was more common than not at the turn of the last century. Three of his siblings had already immigrated to the United States, and my grandpa desperately wanted to join them. It was decided that his oldest sister Christine, the one discussed in this post, would loan him the money he needed for his fare, and he would pay the fare off by working on her farm.

When I think about the Titanic, and those who went down with her in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, I think of all the stories that ended in that moment. More than 1500 people died, and of those more than 1000 were immigrants just like my grandpa. There were people from at least 28 countries on board that ship. We tend to think of the passengers as being Americans, Irish and British. While these were definitely the majority of the passengers, there were also people from countries as diverse as China, Mexico, Turkey and Spain. Out of the ten Danes on board only one survived. There were just fourteen survivors out of the thirty-four Canadians. The only country with a 100% survival rate was Japan - the lone Japanese passenger having somehow managed to make it off the ship before it went down.

This is the ship my grandpa sailed on.

The Oscar 2

My grandpa made it to America. The dreams he had as a sixteen year old boy came true. He eventually had his own farm. I have talked about that farm several times on my blog. This is a picture painted from an old black and white photo of my grandpa harvesting wheat.

He got married and raised two children. The boy in the photos is my dad.

Their two sons grew up, and they each had three children. Those six children have gone on to have eleven children. I am sad to say that none of these eleven ever had the privilege of meeting their great grandfather. He was a kind and generous man, and his story is an inextricable part of each of their stories.

The immigrants on The Oscar 2 all had a chance to live out their dreams. Their stories continued. An obscure ship sailing across the cold Atlantic just six weeks before the doomed Titanic. Both ships heading to New York. One sailing into port, the other sinking off the coast of Newfoundland. One famous, the other I am quite sure you had never heard of before this blog post. Quiet success has a way of staying out of the history books.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


There have been lots of surprises around here lately, and they have almost all been good.

Surprise #1:

Alexandra is making a faster than expected recovery. I knew she was feeling much better the first time I saw her venture into the kitchen to cook something. She still tires out easily, and it will be another week or two before she can go back to work, but she is headed in the right direction.

Surprise #2:

This arrived in the mail last week addressed to Alexandra. It is a get well present from her Aunt Cheri. I want those sheep cupcakes for my next birthday!

Surprise #3:

Another parcel arrived for Alexandra today, this one looking quite mysterious. It was from fellow blogger Rick (RicAdeMus) at Waiting For Wisdom.

Rick adopted a red panda for Alexandra through the National Zoo's Adopt a Species program. The box had a photo of the red panda, a card explaining the program, and a stuffed red panda. It definitely brought a smile to her face when she opened it up. Thanks so much Rick!

Surprise #4:

This surprise was for someone outside our family. I knit a shawl for a friend, and I have to say I was quite pleased with how it turned out. It is Stephen West's Boneyard Shawl pattern knit with Madelinetosh Pashmina yarn.

Surprise #5:

This Easter was going to be a quiet one. I wasn't even going to make an Easter dinner. When Alexandra and David found out I wasn't planning to do anything they took matters into their own hands. Alexandra said she would make a lasagna and David said he would do a Caesar salad. They phoned Anita and she said she would cover the dessert. (I think I should say I am not cooking more often!)

Fast forward to Easter afternoon. It was a warm day - so warm that I was sitting out on the back deck reading a book, enjoying the warm sun on my back. Alexandra was in the kitchen starting her lasagna prep and all of a sudden there was a commotion at the front door and Alexandra called out, "Rebekah and Anton are here!"

I had no clue they were driving up from Vancouver to spend Easter with us! Alexandra and David had managed to pull off this surprise without me being even a little suspicious, which, if you know me, is quite a feat! What was extra special about this particular surprise is Rebekah leaves this week to go teach English in Korea for a year. She had come up for a goodbye visit a couple weeks ago, but her visit coincided with when Alexandra was in the hospital, so it really had not been a terrific time. This redeemed the whole thing.

Surprise #6:

This is the only lemon out of the bunch. After Easter dinner I asked Kellen if he would help me find my all season tires under the deck so I could get my snow tires off this week. In case you are wondering why I needed help with this task, there are five vehicles between our two residences, and all extra tires get stored under our deck. (All tires look the same to me. Black.)

We looked through them multiple times and no matter what could only come up with three of my summer tires. I am embarrassed to admit it took at least three times sorting through the tires for me to remember that last fall I had a nail shred the side of tire number 4, and instead of replacing it I just put the winter tires on. "Why do today what can successfully be put off until tomorrow" is only a good motto to live by until tomorrow arrives.

Today I went to Kal Tire to buy two new tires, knowing that you can't replace just one. What I had also forgotten, along with the fact I had shredded a tire, is that I own a Subaru. It is all-wheel drive. Which meant I owned three perfectly good, but also perfectly useless tires. With all-wheel drive you have to replace all four tires at the same time. And really, could there be any more boring way to spend money in life than on tires?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fergus Friday

I have decided to add a new feature to my blog. I am calling it Fergus Friday. It is hard to resist filling my blog with pictures and stories about Fergus, so I thought I would limit myself to the occasional Friday post.

Fergus is now 3 1/2 months old, and has he ever grown! This is most noticeable when you look at his ears. Adult West Highland Terrier ears stand straight up. The transition from floppy puppy ears to grown-up ears is both slow and hilarious.

Now that both of his ears are up the next step is for him to grow into them. From the front he looks like a rabbit.

The back view is closer to Yoda.

He is slowly morphing from a roly-poly puppy into a traditional Westie. I consider it a "cute for handsome" exchange.

Mischievous would be the one word I would use to describe Fergus at this stage. Turning my back on him for even a few minutes can result in scenes like this.

Or this.

By the way, this puppy has settled the age-old question about why dogs love to chew on shoes. It turns out to have nothing whatsoever to do with liking the shape or taste of the shoe. It is all about the smell. How do I know this? Simple. He totally ignores the shoe that goes on David's scent-free prosthetic foot. When Fergus grabs one of David's shoes it is always the left one. The one David wears on his real leg - the leg with the real, smelly guy foot attached.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Old Man's Hat

Several years ago I made a felted tea cozy. I love that cozy, and it brings back some fond memories. Due to the fact I own a front loader washing machine that seems to only be able to felt the things I don't want felted, I took my project down to my parents' home to run through their washing machine.

They had been introduced to the process of felting on a previous visit when I took down a pair of slippers to run through their machine, so they weren't surprised when I pulled out an oversize object to throw in the washer. What was completely new to them was the actual item I was felting. They had never heard of a tea cozy! I don't know who was more shocked. My parents by the fact that people covered their teapots, or me by the fact that there were people who didn't know a teapot should be covered to keep the tea warm. For the rest of that visit the tea cozy sat propped up on the counter to dry. Every time my dad walked by it he would get this funny grin on his face.

Fast forward a few years and hundreds of cups of tea later. Last week I finished up a few knitting projects I had been working on and decided to take a detour from knitting items that people or dogs could wear. I decided it was time to knit something new for my teapot so I pulled this book off my shelves. My felted tea cozy is very dressy looking - something I could use if the Queen ever drops by. I decided I needed a more down-to-earth cozy for those days I run in from the garden, dirt still on my hands and clothes, to have a quick cuppa. Enter Old Man's Hat.

It only took a couple evenings to knit the various pieces, and when they were finished I looked at the pile of parts with a feeling of dread.

I despise sewing knitted bits together. I knew it would be foolish to put these pieces in a bag to put together later. At least it would be foolish if I ever wanted to have a tea cozy that didn't need to be held together with safety pins. So I gritted my teeth and spent the next evening putting the pieces together.

I love the patches for the holes in the Old Man's Hat. They were done with scraps of sock yarn.

The tea cozy fits my teapot perfectly, and thanks to the two layers of Rowan Cork yarn it should keep my tea piping hot.

There's just one small problem. It is like one of those pictures that, depending on how you look at it, can appear to be two completely different objects. I was hoping that it was just me, and to the rest of the tea drinking world it would just look like an Old Man's Hat. However, my worst fears were confirmed when my husband, walking by my computer and seeing the pictures I was editing for this post, commented, "What's with the eyes on the tea cozy?"