Friday, November 30, 2012

Whew! I Made It!

Thirty days hath September, April, June and, thankfully, November. As much as I have enjoyed the challenge of blogging every day, I have to admit to feeling a sense of panic leading up to each blog post. For thirty days straight I have worried that one morning I would wake up and have absolutely nothing to write about. Which is why I am thankful November has thirty days instead of thirty-one. I'm quite sure when I get up tomorrow my mind will be empty, but it won't matter because it will be December.

Here's a quick update of some of the things I have written about this past month. First up are the knitting related items.

I finished my Woolly Wormhead Mystery Knitalong project, and it is lovely. It has been cold enough that I was able to wear my rediscovered sweater on a walk. It washed and blocked up very nicely! But it hasn't been cold enough yet for Jenny to wear her new hat. She's delighted by that fact. I got lots of great suggestions for British TV shows and movies to watch while knitting. I just finished watching Life On Mars and look forward to trying some of the other suggestions. I'm still waiting for my new knitting book, Knit Your Own Scotland to arrive. The burning question I have is, will it or won't it have a pattern for haggis?

There are also non-knitting updates.

After reading through the comments on my post about the high cost of veterinary care, Jay and I decided to get pet insurance for Fergus and Jenny. I knew it was the right thing as soon as I did it simply because I was able to stop worrying about the "what ifs."

The Gym. Well, this is a good news, bad news scenario. The good news is Mr. Strut has stopped coming. I overheard him say he was training for a competition, and that must be over with. The bad news is Mr. Rip's shorts now have a tear down the other side.

Now for my favourite update. After writing the post about my grandpa and his brother Hans I got a Facebook message from my cousin Missy. Hans was Missy's grandpa. Since she was only five years old when he died she didn't know him very well. She told me how much she enjoyed reading about him, and then told me it explained her love of harmonicas. She owns three! I think that is awesome.

This brings me to the final thing I wanted to say about this past month of blogging. The thing that has made it worthwhile has been the interaction with all of you who read my blog. The comments here and on Facebook, along with the encouraging emails I have received, have turned something that could have been a chore into a great experience. I would like to say thank you to all of you, and what better way to do that than to have a giveaway? If you leave a comment here or on Facebook saying you are interested I will throw your name in a hat (probably Jenny's since she isn't wearing it yet) and draw a name out December 4. The contest is open until December 3, 6:00 PM PST. If you are leaving a comment here but don't have an account to sign in under, that's okay. The comment will be labelled anonymous, but you can just leave your name at the end of your comment to identify yourself.

Here's the prize. No, they are not handknit. These might be even better than handknit, if such a thing is possible. These are Korean socks, purchased from a cart at the market in Guri, South Korea, waiting to be gifted to one of you. They look a little bit small in the picture, but trust me. They are very stretchy and will fit a woman's foot.




These are colourful enough to make even the longest winter day seem a little bit brighter. Better yet, did you notice two of the pairs have ears?





Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Garden That Keeps On Giving

My garden has more than made up for its disappointing performance this past summer. This has been my best fall/winter garden ever! I can't believe it is almost December and I am still heading out almost every day to harvest something.

Last weekend I dug up some parsnips and carrots and we had delicious oven-roasted veggies. One of the drawbacks to fall/winter gardening is the dirt is very cold when you put your hands into it. After I dug up these parsnips I hurried inside for a cup of tea.




The herb garden has been amazing. I have never had herbs last this late in the year. I think I accidentally stumbled on to the secret for keeping them alive later in the season. Don't cut them back. I meant to prune them in early October, then that whole nightmare with Alexandra's surgery happened, and I just never got around to it. I love it when procrastination pays off.


Parsley


Sage

Rosemary

Thyme

Best of all is the kale.




I planted several different varieties this year. The curly variety is perfect for making kale chips.




Kale is easy to grow. For a fall/winter crop you need to plant your seeds around mid-July. Kale is best harvested after several good frosts. It gets much sweeter tasting once it has been exposed to the cold. Most people think kale tastes awful because the only kind they have ever tried is from the grocery store. If you are from Canada or the US, unless you are buying from a local market I can almost guarantee you that the kale you get is from California. A state known for its warm climate.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Art We Are

Until I did all that blogging from the coffee shop in Korea I thought I wasn't the kind of person who could get anything done in such a busy place. It was a surprise to discover I could shut out all the noise and activity around me (well, except for that day the Moonies were sitting next to me) and carry on with my writing.

At the time I wondered if it was working simply because the alternative was to write from my room at the Love Motel. Or, more likely, because I treated myself to a gelato every day when I was finished with the post. When I got home I decided to see if it would work, minus the Korean incentives.

Kamloops has a funky little cafe/coffee/eclectic craft shop called The Art We Are. I love this place. It is like stepping back into my years spent in the Kootenays. The ladies running the shop have dreadlocks and tattoos.



Not a single piece of furniture matches.




The art for sale is, well, eclectic.




Bits of folded paper are randomly sprinkled between the bricks. I grabbed the closest one and unfolded it to see what wisdom it would impart. It was a great pick for a knitter! It said "When the snow flies wear a toque." (Maybe I should take it home and read it to Jenny.)




You never know from day to day what your tea pot and mug will look like.






My routine right now is to come here three mornings a week. Some days, like today, I write a blog post.



Some days I work on other things. But the important thing, the thing that keeps me coming back is the fact I can get more done in two hours in these rather unique surroundings than I can get done in eight hours at home. There are no jobs that need to be done, no dogs that need my attention, no phone calls. Nothing but me, my computer, some noise cancelling headphones, a cup of tea, and occasionally one of the amazing Art We Are gluten-free muffins.




It might not be The Elephant House.




But that's okay. I'm not J.K. Rowling, Ian Rankin or Alexander McCall Smith.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Help, Thanks, Wow, The Review

Right now I am reading Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott. I know Anne Lamott is not everyone's cup of tea, but I happen to love her writing. I appreciate her honesty, her ability to look at life in a fresh way, her sense of humour, and how what she says rings true to everyday experiences. Here's an example:

"This morning at six when I awoke, loneliness was sitting on my chest like a dental X-ray apron, even though I was buried in hairy dog love. I prayed: 'Help. I am sad and lonely, and already it looks from here like today is going to be too long.'"

I read this yesterday, which also happened to be the day that started out with a jar of honey falling out of the cupboard and landing on the edge of a bowl. Things would have been easier if the bowl had been empty. It wasn't. It held the two eggs I was planning to use to make an omelet. Those babies departed that bowl like they had been flung from a slingshot.

Later yesterday morning I stopped by the Hyundai dealership to order a replacement taillight for our Tucson. We have no idea how the light got bashed in. There are no signs of the vehicle having been hit, and the last time it was driven it was fine. It bothers me a lot to think it might have been vandalized, but I can't come up with any other explanation. Shock doesn't begin to describe my reaction when the parts guy told me what the replacement piece was going to cost.

Enter Anne Lamott. The sad and lonely part might not have been applicable, but I grabbed onto that part about how "it looks from here like today is going to be too long" the same way Fergus grabs a bone.

Even if the rest of the book wasn't filled with Anne's unique way of looking at things, which it is, and even if it didn't make me laugh out loud in parts, which it does, this book would have been worth the cost for just these three sentences:

"Another damn wind. I hate wind so much. It can make you feel hopeless, even in world-class beauty."

I live in a place where the wind rarely stops blowing. This is an especially bad feature if you hate the wind, which I do. There are times when the wind blows so hard here you can feel it hit the house. It screeches and roars and howls and just basically makes me all kinds of crazy. I want to frame that quote from Help, Thanks, Wow and put it on my wall. And from now on every time the wind blows I can look at it and know I'm not alone. Someone else hates the wind as much as I do.

There's a great comfort in knowing you're not alone, and that realization is the gift Anne Lamott gives with this book.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Dog Shaming

I have to admit I am a bit embarrassed about the latest project off my needles. But there is a really good reason I knit this particular item. Last winter we had several days when the thermometer dipped to -25C (-14F). That is the kind of cold that hurts. It also freezes exposed bits, including a small dog's ears. We would carry poor Jenny outside to do her business, then rush her right back into the house. Still, by the time the thermometer climbed back up to more normal winter temperatures, Jenny had some frostbite around the edges of her ears.

I decided that this year we need to have a better plan. She now has that cute little red jacket to keep her body warm, so I decided a red and white hat would just the thing to keep her ears warm. I cast on yesterday afternoon and a few hours later my mission was accomplished. Jenny will now have warm ears no matter how cold it is outside.

My kids are appalled. I sent Karsten a text with a picture of Jenny in her new hat and this was his reply:

"I don't know what to say. Any dog that needs a toque should be ashamed." (Canadian to American English translation: toque = hat)

I sent one to Alexandra, who was out with a friend, and she told me her friend laughed his head off when he saw it.

I must admit they have a point. No matter which way you look at it...





She does look a bit ridiculous. Okay. More than a bit. Do you think it would be mean to submit her picture over at Dogshaming.com?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Danes

My Grandpa Chris emigrated from Denmark when he was just sixteen years old. I have talked about him before in this post. He came from a large family and several of his siblings had already immigrated to the United States before my grandpa came over. One of those siblings was Hans.

Hans had been trained as a cobbler while he still lived in Denmark, but when he came to America he abandoned shoemaking and pursued his dream of becoming a farmer. Several years later my grandpa, who shared the same dream, also became a farmer. Here they are together in their adopted country.

Great Uncle Hans is on the left, Grandpa Chris on the right
My mom showed me this picture when I was down visiting a few weeks ago and commented on how these two brothers never had a cross or unkind word spoken between them. Those smiles on their faces are quite genuine. They loved spending time with each other. I can remember as a little girl being fascinated as I listened to them talk and laugh together, their conversation an incomprehensible stream of Danish sprinkled with a few heavily accented English words.

Every person who ever met them held them in the highest regard. They were gentlemen. They were kind. They made you feel safe and loved. I have two memories of my Great Uncle Hans that stand out above the others. He loved to play the harmonica. I can still picture him smiling as he put the instrument up to his lips to play a tune. And he always had a roll of 5 Flavour Lifesavers he would pull out of his pocket and give to me when he came to our house for a visit.

When Jay and I were in Denmark back in 1980 we stayed in the small town my grandpa and Uncle Hans were from. Several of their siblings had opted to remain there, and the youngest was still alive. My Great Uncle Albert had followed in his dad's footsteps and had spent his life on the sea as a cargo ship captain. He told us a story about the time my Great Uncle Hans had gone back to the old country for a visit.

Hans went out on Albert's ship with him. A huge storm blew up on the North Sea. It was so bad that Albert couldn't leave the command in someone else's hands and go check up on his brother. He worried about him, knowing he would be scared and most likely very seasick. When he finally was able to steal away for a few minutes he hurried below decks to Hans's room and burst through the door, expecting the worst. What he didn't expect, what took him completely by surprise, was opening the door and being greeted by the sight of his brother, sitting on his bunk, playing his harmonica and looking like he was enjoying himself immensely.

This painting was done from an old photo of my grandpa harvesting wheat back in the 1920s. It is my grandpa, living out his dream.





Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dispatched!

Rebekah, if you are reading this post please STOP now! You may come back and read it after Christmas.

Yesterday was a big day. I finally got Rebekah's Christmas parcel mailed. It might not sound like a big deal, but I was under a deadline. The Canada Post cut-off for getting parcels to South Korea was looming and as of Friday I still hadn't finished her gifts. I did something completely out of character for me and stayed up late (meaning after 10 PM) and knit away into the night until every single item had been cast off.

By the time I got to the post office Saturday morning I was practically delirious. I'm not sure if it was with relief, exhaustion, or a combination of the two. I asked the lady behind me if she would mind taking a picture of me. She gave me an odd look as she reached for my phone, but I was too tired to explain.




That small box is packed with goodness (and a lot of love). Hopefully enough goodness to keep Rebekah from being too sad on what will be her first Christmas away from family. There is a gift from her sister Alexandra, and several things from me. These two come with instructions to unwrap as soon as they arrive. I thought she needed some things to make her apartment look a little Christmassy. It's a candy cane Korknisse and one of the Christmas balls by the famous duo of Arne and Carlos. They are the perfect ornaments for mailing - small, lightweight and unbreakable.




Next up is the project that caused some wailing and gnashing of teeth. It all came out fine in the end, but here's a piece of knitting advice. If you are knitting something that has a chart, and your son comes for a visit, DO NOT keep knitting while you chat. You might make a mistake that means tinking back four rows, resulting in the loss of all gains made that afternoon plus taking up a good chunk of your evening knitting time to fix.

Here is the Woolly Wormhead Mystery KAL hat, hot off the needles and on its way across the Pacific to Rebekah. Note this is the wrong daughter modelling it. Also note it was a bad idea to ask the non-recipient daughter to model it. She liked it so much she has now requested I knit her one of her own. I told her not to mention it again until after Christmas.




Friday, November 23, 2012

Fergus Friday Guest Post

This is Jenny, the other dog in the Hammond house. I have been asked to write this guest post supposedly because Fergus's person thought it would be nice to give me some blog exposure for a change instead of her own dog. I am a very bright little dog, and she doesn't fool me for a second. She is getting tired of blogging every day and has run out of things to write about. Still, being a typical dachshund, I don't want to turn down any opportunity for attention so here goes.

I am a gentle, quiet, mostly well-behaved canine. Actually, I was perfect until Fergus entered our lives. A little bit of his badness may have rubbed off on me. The thing is, he is stupid and bad. I'm sneaky and bad. For instance, if you are going to chew up something that belongs to your person either eat the whole thing or hide it under something. Don't sit there with the destroyed object right beside you. You look like a ninny.




And this is no way to get your paws on some human food. It's way too obvious!




Here's a tip from a pro. You sit in your human's lap while they are watching TV and pretend to be asleep. Then, just as they raise their arm to shove some food in their face you quickly snatch a bite, then run away as fast as you can. The TV remote does not have a dog or food retrieval button on it, so there is very little chance the human will do anything other than say some words. The words might be bad but you don't care because you don't speak English.

Sometimes I admit I am a little envious of Fergus and the fact he is an Internet star. But I am special too, and I have proof. For instance, Fergus's person knit me my own sweater. She could never knit one of these for Fergus because he is so silly he would eat the thing right off his own back.




And today, because she knows I hate the cold and winter is just around the corner, she bought me this beautiful new coat. Fergus likes the cold, so he doesn't get one.




Mostly I like Fergus's person. She is nice to me and likes to scratch my ears, so I try to not be jealous of all the attention she gives to her dog. Besides, deep down I know that I am really the most famous dog in this house. Here's my picture on this bottle of wine.




Not that I'm vain, but how about a close-up?




In spite of his many shortcomings, I have to admit I quite like Fergus. And I really don't mind him getting so much of his human's attention, or the fan comments from all of you who read her blog just as long as you remember this one thing. I'm the Top Dog in the Hammond house.



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dangerous Links

When I was reading Jean's blog this morning she mentioned Arne and Carlos have a New Easter knitting book out. Then she went on to say that while looking at that book, Amazon led her to another book. She didn't say what the book was. She just shared the link, followed by the declaration that she "had to have it."

Okay. The small voice in my head telling me not to click on that link got completely drowned out by the louder voice saying "trust Jean." I clicked, and faster than Robbie Burns could pen poetry this found its way into my cart.



Here's the Amazon UK description:

Scotland is one of the greatest small countries in the world. Now you can have your very own miniature woolly version to celebrate Scotland in all its glory. With Robert Burns as a knitted National Bard, Braveheart William Wallace, Billy Connolly, Andy Murray, Nessie, a Scotty dog, a knitted Saltire flag, and much much more! Knit Your Own Scotland is a unique and beautiful collection of iconic symbols from Scotland. There's even a Scotch pie or some shortbread if you're feeling hungry. All knitted, of course.

I was probably doomed anyway, but here's the thing. See the wee Scotty dog on the cover? Now imagine the black yarn exchanged for white. Exactly. I was powerless to resist. Are you?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Low Fashion

I have made the best footwear discovery ever. Bog boots. A friend bought a pair of these last month and went on and on (and on and on) about how wonderful they are. Then she suggested I look up the reviews on Amazon. I did, and couldn't believe what I was reading. Really? All these people gushing over puddle boots? They were using descriptive language one would usually expect to see directed at a much-loved family member or spouse. Not boots.

Being the owner of Fergus (or owned by Fergus, I'm never sure which it is), I knew I needed something practical to wear for walking him this fall and winter. I didn't want to fool around with lace-up boots, needed whatever I chose to be warm and have good traction, and also needed them to be waterproof. The Bogs seemed to be the answer. I took a chance and ordered them from Amazon.

Due to a combination of being totally fashion unconscious and frugal, I ordered the basic high handle black boots. After all, these are for walking the dog through snow, slush and mud, not spending a night out on the town. I was worried when I slipped them on the first time. It was going to be a major pain to have to mail them back if they didn't fit...

That was the moment I became Grace Makutsi, the loyal assistant to Mma Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. As readers of this series know, Mma Makutsi's shoes speak to her. Well, these boots spoke to me the minute I slipped them over my wool socks. They told me we were going to be best friends, that they would keep me warm and dry, that even though they might be plain on the outside, they were beautiful on the inside.




Now I understand the reviews at Amazon.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tossers and Unmitigated Asses

Most people have until December 24 to finish buying Christmas gifts. However, this does not hold true if you are a knitter whose gifts must run the gauntlet of both foreign and domestic postal services to get to the intended recipient. This is November 20 and I am running out of time. In fact, I am feeling panicked enough that I am doing something I never do. I am knitting during the weekday afternoons. A combination of guilt and more pressing things that need attended to (well, more pressing if we want to eat, have clean clothes and the bills paid) usually keep me and my needles apart until after dinner. Not so this week. I am knitting like a mad woman.

Thankfully I have a collection of my favourite DVDs to keep me and my needles company. These shows are like old friends, and because I have seen them all before it doesn't really matter if I'm following a difficult chart and need to keep my eyes on my knitting rather than the show. I know the scenes. I know the lines. I know the looks on the actors' faces.

I thought I would share my list of British favourites with you. Hopefully there will be quite a few new ideas here for my readers from outside Britain, and I am hoping my British readers can chime in with some more suggestions for me to add to my list.


  1. Pride and Prejudice: I am sure most of you are aware of this DVD. The dilemma is which version to watch. If I am in need of a quick P&P fix I pop the Keira Knightly one in my computer. But when I am wanting perfection it is the BBC version with Colin Firth that tops my list. 
  2. Jane Eyre: Please avoid at all costs the horrid 2011 version of this show. It is the 2006 BBC television series you want to watch. 
  3. North and South: I find myself at a loss of words for this one. If you haven't yet read the book or watched the movie you are missing out on a wonderful story. Plus this show was my introduction to Richard Armitage. Oh my.
  4. The King's Speech: I'm pretty sure people on both sides of the Atlantic know about this movie, but I couldn't not mention it. Colin Firth and this movie deserved every single award they got for it. 
  5. Inspector Morse: I have borrowed almost everyone of these old programs from our library. John Thaw is wonderful as Inspector Morse. 
  6. Goodnight Mister Tom: This movie is from a book with the same title. It is a touching story of a small boy who is evacuated during WW2 and ends up staying with a crotchety old man, brilliantly played by John Thaw. 
  7. Judge John Deed: I have only watched the first couple in this series, but have enjoyed them immensely. I am waiting for our library to get the rest of the series in. The judge is played by another one of my favourite British actors - Martin Shaw.
  8. The Murder Room: This movie scores double points. It stars Martin Shaw, and the story was written by P.D. James.
  9. MI-5: This show ran for 10 seasons. I just finished the final one and was sorry to have it end. One word of warning though. The British kill off their main characters at a rate most North Americans would find alarming. Just so you know.
  10. Twenty Twelve: Oh. My. This is one of the funniest programs I have ever watched! It was Jean Miles who first put me onto this show, and am I ever glad she did. Even my husband, who is seriously humour challenged, laughed at this one!
  11. Downton Abbey: I know. You would have to be living under a rock to not already be aware of this show. But just like The King's Speech, I couldn't not list it. I am a Downton Abbey fan, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. In my defence I would like to say I fell in love with the program before it became a hit on this side of the Atlantic. 
  12. Doc Martin: I love this show! Martin Clunes plays the part of a surgeon who has developed a fear of blood. He ends up working as a small village doctor. He hates the people. He hates the place. He hates his job. In spite of all this he is quite endearing. And very, very funny.
I would love to hear your suggestions for more shows I can watch while I try to finish off this Christmas knitting. And does anybody know what two shows inspired the title to this post?



Monday, November 19, 2012

Backtracking (A Bit)

Blogging friend Kate commented yesterday that she kind of cringed for poor Merritt and hoped nobody from there reads my blog. I will say that I am almost certain that nobody from Merritt does read my blog, but just in case they do I decided I needed to do some backtracking.

As I thought through my reasons for classifying Merritt as one of BC's armpits I realized something. Those reasons have absolutely nothing to do with the city itself. No, my opinion of Merritt has been entirely shaped by the fact it is the only city located along the Coquihalla, the major road from Kamloops to Vancouver. It is a road that goes over high mountain passes, is dangerous even when the road conditions are good (due to a deadly combination of transport trucks, inexperienced drivers, and speeding), and one that I have blogged about before.

If my experience in that blog post had been my only bad one on the Coquihalla I might not harbour such bad thoughts about that highway and, because in my mind the two are connected, the city of Merritt. However, there are three others to go along with it. I'll spare you a lengthy post and just tell you about one.

My worst ever winter driving experience happened about twelve years ago on what is called the Coquihalla Connector. This is a high mountain highway that connects Kelowna to Merritt, where it then joins the Coquihalla. It was one of my many trips with Alexandra from our home in the Kootenays to Children's Hospital in Vancouver. We were partway along the Connector when a huge blizzard hit. The snow was so thick it was impossible to see the road. Lest you think I am exaggerating, my friend Barb opened the passenger side door to see if she could make out where the road's edge was. An edge, I might add, that dropped off a steep embankment.

There was nothing. The whole world was white. I couldn't see the road. Barb couldn't see the edge of the road. There was no visible centreline. Just nothingness. We were like a plane in a fog bank, except we didn't have the ability to navigate using instruments. My first instinct was to stop. But there was a problem with that plan. Since the visibility was zero, there was no way a car, or worse, a transport truck, could see us stopped in the middle of the road even if I had my hazard lights flashing. In the end I moved forward at a snail's pace. My hope was if we started over an embankment I would be able to feel it in time to stop before we plunged completely over. It was the best I could do.

This went on for about ten minutes. Looking back on it I wonder if I even breathed during that time. I remember being more terrified than I had ever been in my life. Even writing about it all these years later makes my stomach feel icky. The thing that probably saved us is the fact both Barb and I are good in a crisis. I might, in fact will, fall completely apart after the fact, but in the moment I usually manage to keep a cool head. (In this case I literally had a cool head since I had opened my window and had my head stuck out as I crept along, hoping I might at least be able to hear an oncoming vehicle even if I couldn't see it.)

An hour later we arrived in Merritt, shaken but alive. We still had about three hours of the Coquihalla ahead of us, but the conditions the rest of the way were much better. Every once in awhile when Barb and I are talking this story comes up. I think the terror of that trip has left its mark on both of us. In my mind it began the association of Merritt with bad things, which is, of course, very silly. It isn't Merritt's fault that bad things happen on this highway.

Even more than that is has left me with a much healthier respect and fear of driving in winter than I might have otherwise had. The respect is a good thing, the fear not so much so. I try not to let it cripple me to the point I won't drive that highway from November to April, but to be honest I have to force myself to do so. It is also why I harass certain family members who think All Season tires are good enough for winter driving. They aren't. They are for all seasons except winter. So my heartfelt apologies to the citizens of Merritt. It really, truly isn't your fault and I need to stop blaming you.

At least I didn't have to worry about winter conditions this past weekend for the meat-up. A warm front has moved in, melting the snow on the mountain passes and in our backyard.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Meat-Up

Yesterday I drove an hour south of Kamloops to Merritt, BC. British Columbia is a beautiful province filled with charming towns, mountains, rivers, lakes, ranch land, and vineyards. There are more great places to see and things to do than the average person would ever have time to experience. It is why visitors return to our province over and over again. Having said that, I also have to admit that for such a beautiful province we seem to have more armpits than an octopus, and in my opinion Merritt is one of these. Which is my long-winded way of saying I don't have any pictures from my visit to Merritt.

I went to Merritt to meet Ellen. Every year we go in on an order of beef, and I had her half ready to deliver. Ellen lives in the Vancouver area, so it means we pick a point partway between our homes to do our beef handover. This is what half a steer looks like, cut and wrapped.




This is grass-fed beef from the 4 Bar S Ranch in Barriere, a small community about an hour north of Kamloops. If you click on that link it will take you to an interesting video done by the daughter of the ranch owners. 4 Bar S Ranch is at the Kamloops Farmer's Market every Saturday, and over the past several years I have gotten to know the owner Cindy and her daughter Melanie. These women are amazing. They do all the cutting and wrapping for their ranch operation, they attend several farmer's markets, they knit, they spin, along with a thousand other things that need to be done to keep a ranch running. I really appreciate being able to purchase my meat from people I know.

We have been having unseasonably warm weather this weekend, which made it the perfect time for a "meat-up." We didn't have to worry about snow on the mountain passes. What I hadn't counted on was the wind. It was so strong that several times I had to grip the steering wheel tightly to keep the vehicle on the road. Still, it beat driving over snow and ice. I see Ellen has posted on Facebook today that she is making a "good English roast dinner" today. I must admit to being a bit envious. You see, my freezer isn't big enough to hold a whole beef. So I had to clear Ellen's out before I could get mine, which will hopefully be sometime this week. Which would explain why we have had two vegetarian meals in a row.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Backyard Chickens

Last weekend my mom and I went to visit my cousin Tammy and her husband Russ. They now have six chickens in their backyard, and to say I was jealous would be a huge understatement. When Tammy took me out back to have a meet and greet with the birds my jealousy grew. The reason? Two of their chickens are Araucanas.

If you aren't familiar with Araucanas I will tell you the thing that sets them apart from other breeds. They lay coloured eggs! When we lived in the Slocan Valley Karsten and Kellen had a chicken business. They had a great business plan. Jay and I covered all the expenses and the boys pocketed all the money from egg sales. There was never a problem selling the eggs either. Jay would take them to his office and they were scooped up right away. I think one of the reasons they were so popular was because every carton of eggs included a couple of the coloured Araucana eggs. The colours ranged from pink to purple to aqua. It was like Easter every day of the year.

Of course my mom just doesn't get the chicken thing. Her question was why on earth would anyone want to bother with messy chickens when they can just go to the store and buy eggs. Here's the answer in pictures.

They don't sell eggs like this at the grocery store

The eggs they do sell don't have yolks this colour

And your omelet won't taste as good as this one


I finished the last of the eggs Tammy and Russ gave me this morning. Happily I still have some farm-fresh eggs in the fridge thanks to my friend Maureen, who gifted me with a dozen yesterday. Not so happily, Kamloops continues to refuse to pass a bylaw allowing backyard chickens. This city needs to get with the times. Even Vancouver allows backyard chickens now! It will happen eventually, and the minute it does I'll be putting in my order for chicks, including a couple of Araucanas. And if the neighbours are unhappy about a few weeds, imagine how they are going to feel about the chickens.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lagging Behind the Neighbours

No matter where we have lived we have always ended up being the neighbourhood misfits. I think this might have something to do with the fact that when we were in our active parenting years we had five kids living under our roof. When you think about the shoes, boots, jackets, bikes, hockey sticks, etc. that accompany just one child through their growing up years, then multiply that by five, well, you can see how things might have had a tendency to not always be neatly sorted and stored.

In my defence I would like to say that we might have had 20 pairs of shoes scattered around our front door and another 10 pairs heaped in a pile on top of the shoe rack, but we almost always could find the pair we were searching for. This shot was taken a couple of years ago. I have no explanation for the empty rack. Or the top one.




I thought that once the kids moved out our days of being the neighbourhood misfits would be behind us. I was wrong. Now the issue is our backyard. I have two garden boxes that take up most of the flat space, the slope is sprinkled with various grasses, bushes and trees, and the upper part is a dry-land xeriscape. It is the xeriscape that is the source of the problem.

The neighbours on the other side of the xeriscape are a very nice retired couple. The problem is they are perfectionists. No weed would dare make an appearance on their property. The lady spends countless hours worrying about her flowers and their location. She is constantly moving them around to get the right colour combinations, and when we have a backyard chat she spends great amounts of time telling me about her plans. 

This is all fine. I get having a hobby. But here's where the problem comes in. Her anxiety over having the perfect yard has spilled over to my yard, garden and property. Countless times this past summer she would Not So Subtly tell me that I had some weeds up on the xeriscape. She would go so far as to offer to pull the weeds for me. Well, remember, I am the kind of person who the minute someone tells me to do something a switch goes off in my brain preventing me from doing the very thing they have told me to. I left the weeds. Besides, by most people's standards there were no weeds. Not only that, they were in a far corner out of my sight.

I'm not even sure what the point of this post is. All I know is when I had Fergus out in the backyard yesterday I was looking around and thinking what a relief it was to know I don't need to worry about the weeds, or pointed comments about the weeds, again until next spring. I can let my irritation hibernate over the winter.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Vet Nightmare

Jay came running upstairs saying the kitten was really sick. I felt fear grip my heart, partly due to worry about the kitten, and partly due to worry about what it was going to cost at the vet's office. Then I woke up and realized we don't have a kitten. It had just been a bad dream. I felt that shaky sense of relief you experience when you slowly come awake and realize the events weren't real.

I am sure this dream was brought on by Jay telling me yesterday that one of his sisters just spent $3000 on vet bills for her 12 year old cat. That is the kind of nightmare you can't wake up from! My daughter-in-law's cat was sick last month and the vet offered to do an ultrasound that was going to cost hundreds of extra dollars, and also suggested the possibility of the cat being referred to an internist. I had no idea there was such a thing as a cat internist before this happened. We had our own real life cat drama a couple of years ago, and that ended up coming in at just under $1000.

A few weeks ago I was walking Fergus and some random guy pulled over, rolled down his window and started telling me about his West Highland Terrier. It is only three years old, and had recently jumped off something and dislocated its hip. The bill so far was over $6000 and the dog still isn't 100% well. (And yes, when I am walking Fergus complete strangers approach me. Or, rather, Fergus. I have even had a carload of teenage boys yell out of their window, "Cute dog!")

All of this has me wondering. And a bit worried. What if something like that happened to Fergus? Where would I get $6000, and could I justify spending that amount on a vet bill? I used to mock people who did that kind of thing. That was before these big brown eyes got a hold of me.




I am curious to hear how other pet owners determine where the line is as far as vet bills go. Are the pet insurance policies they sell a rip-off, or are they a wise expenditure that can save you from a $6000 bill somewhere down the road?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Movie Suggestion Plus Some Fibre

Yesterday I mentioned mailing some parcels while I was down in the land of cheap postage rates. One of the packages I mailed was to my blog friend Anett. I am not going to show you what was in the parcel because I don't want to ruin the surprise, but I can show you what she sent me last month.



Isn't it beautiful? Anett is a very talented hand dyer from Hungary. This is 100% merino, and should spin up into some lovely yarn. If you are a spinner interested in adding some great fibre to your stash, there is a link to her online shop on the side bar of Anett's blog, The Crafty Side of Life. I haven't done any spinning since I got Fergus, but I think he is almost civilized enough now for me to bring my wheel out again. Hopefully he is past the stage he was in a couple months ago when he decided to use the treadle on my wheel as a chew toy. It now looks a bit like The Wheel of Misfortune.

Here is today's movie suggestion. Do not go to a movie about things going wrong on an airplane if you are afraid of flying. It turns out this is a very bad idea. I know this because my mom and I went to the movie Flight last Sunday. Without giving away the plot I think it is safe to say things go wrong on the plane. Very wrong. I did mention to my mom before we went that I wasn't sure it was a good pick for me. She told me I could just cover my eyes. It didn't work.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Knackered

I'm back home. It was a long drive, part of which was done over wintery roads. I'm too knackered to write a proper post. Instead I thought I would show you one of several things I mailed when I was in Spokane. Postal rates in the US are a fraction of what they are in Canada, so I decided to take advantage of that fact.


Dispatched to a special person who shall remain unnamed since they won't have received them yet are these mittens. They are the Yarn Harlot's Cloisonn├ęs. I love these and will be knitting more when the Christmas rush is over.


Now I need to go unpack.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The World's Worst Christmas Ornament

Every time I come down to the US I find one thing so tacky, so incredibly gauche, so, well, awful, that it rises to the top of the societal litter pile. Now before my American readers get upset and decide to leave me nasty comments, I want to say that Canada has its own societal litter pile. It's just that we have different garbage piled in ours than you Americans have in yours. I am sure that foreigners arriving in Canada are just as appalled at some of what they encounter there as I am by what I see when I go South of 49. Here is this trip's winner loser.

My mom received a Christmas gift flyer in the mail from a local store. She was flipping through its pages when suddenly I heard her say something I won't quote. The paraphrase would be along the lines of, "Oh my, what will they think of next." Possibly with a bit more colour than that.

Here, on the top of page 7, is an ornament that claims to be from heaven.


I think the GPS on this one got the source location wrong by about 180 degrees.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reservation Remembrance

When I was down on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation last week I happened upon this veterans memorial.

Warriors and Veterans of the Coeur d'Alene

Inscribed on the stone are the names of 65 members of the Coeur d'Alene Indian Tribe who have served their nation from WW1 up to the present time. Many of the men from WW1, WW2 and the Korean Conflict died while serving their country.


The inscription on the large grey stone in front of the memorial reads:

VETERANS OF THE SCHITSU' UMSH

Our sons and daughters were taken from us while defending America. We hear their heartbeat. We hear their laughter in the breeze and we see their tears in the rain. We will never forget them.

We pay tribute to the service of our men and women of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect this great nation. As their ancestors before them, they served with distinction, pride and honor in times of peace and conflict.

For them there is no more sorrow or pain. Let them forever sleep in peace and their dreams be realized by those who they defended.

We honor all of our Coeur d'Alene warriors. We keep vigilant in our hearts those who sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom. The sound of their heartbeats will echo throughout time.

Here is a link to a post I wrote two years ago about two other men from the Coeur d'Alene reservation who served their country, one in WW2 and one in the Korean conflict. If you haven't read it before I would encourage you to spend a few minutes reading it this Remembrance Day.