Friday, October 25, 2013

Fog, Fall and UFOs

Our area has had two weeks of almost perfect fall weather. The mornings are crisp, and the sky is blue. However, that blue often doesn't appear until later in the morning, and for some parts of the Lower Mainland it hasn't shown up at all, due to the fog that moves in each night. As I was driving up the lake earlier this week the most incredible scene unfolded. It looked like someone had thrown a huge eiderdown duvet over the water, carefully tucking in the edges so not a drop could be seen. Above the blanket of fog was sunshine and a perfectly blue sky.

By the time I found a safe place to park the fog was already starting to lift.

I pulled over again a little bit farther up the lake, hoping to get a better shot. I got totally side-tracked when I looked over at the provincial campground and saw this amazing sight.

It was like nature was having a picnic, and every leaf in the park had been invited.

I don't think the fall colours are going to be with us for much longer. It isn't just the campground that is covered in leaves. The forest paths are so thick with leaves it makes it hard to see where the rocks and tree roots are. I've tripped more than once! I love hearing the sound the leaves make as I walk through them.

There are still a few trees that haven't quite reached their peak, like this one in our backyard. You can see the morning fog in the distance, completely hiding the mountain behind.

Tomorrow we are having guests. My brother and his wife are flying out to Spokane from Chicago, picking up my mom, then driving up here to spend a few days. Kellen, Anita, Alexandra and David will all be dropping in at various points to see their grandma and aunt and uncle. We also had guests for lunch yesterday. My knitting friend Maureen and her husband Ron were on their way back to Kamloops from Vancouver, so stopped by to see our new home. It was wonderful to see them. I must say though, all this activity is making me wonder if I shouldn't just go ahead and open up a B&B.

For those of you who are knitters, it's been so long since I had a knitting post you must be wondering if I have given up my hobby. The problem is this. I haven't had any finished projects to blog about. But I do have several UFOs (UnFinished Objects for those of you who don't speak knitterese) that I'm working on. You might detect a theme.

Next week I hope to be able to blog about a huge project that has finally been moved from UFO status to being completed. Yes, the book. It's printed, the publisher has received their shipment, and copies are on their way to me as I write this post. I think I might faint.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Random Helpful Hints

In no particular order, here are some helpful hints I've come up with based on my life this past week.
  • Don't trust car dealerships. If they tell you the winter servicing on your vehicle will only take an hour, realistically you are going to sit and wait for almost three hours. Prepare accordingly. I didn't.
  • Don't start watching a murder mystery on your computer after dark but before you have taken your dog out for one last evening walk. It doesn't matter if you already know who the murderer is because you have read the book. The woods are creepy after dark. The movie, for those of you who don't have a dog, or who have already put your dog to bed, is Still Life, available through the CBC website if you are in Canada. The book is available worldwide through the usual sources. This link is to the author, Louise Penny's, site. She's one of my favourite mystery writers.
  • Do use your dog as a pattern holder while you knit. Only do this once your dog is almost two years old and no longer tries to eat your knitting.

  • Do trust your readers. Thanks to all of you for your great advice about making flapjacks. I followed the recipe and advice Jean from Cornwall left on my blog and it worked perfectly.

  • Don't waste five minutes trying to get your Nike walking app to work, only to look down and realize you aren't wearing your Nike runners. Those would be the runners with the special chip so the app can communicate with them.

  • Don't tell your family you are switching to an artificial Christmas tree this year and end up subjecting yourself to two months of whining and pleading and pronouncements of "it just won't be Christmas without a real tree." Just do it and let everyone be surprised when they show up. Okay, maybe not pleasantly surprised. But by then it will be a done deal. No more needles on the floor, no more water leaking out of the tree holder, no more fire hazard, no more having to tie the tree to the wall to keep the animals from tipping it over. And best of all, no more of this...

Last, but most certainly not least, I'm sure most of you have seen this poster making the rounds on the Internet. What you haven't seen is my advice.

  • Don't die first.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Flapjack Fail

I made a great discovery when I was in the UK last month - flapjacks! They turned out to be a lifesaver on more than one occasion when Kath and I needed something gluten-free to eat. They were often the only gluten-free item available, and they had the added bonus of being healthy since they had all those oats in them. Or so we thought at the time.

When I got home I started Googling recipes. It didn't take me very long to realize those "healthy" snacks we had been indulging in were not so healthy after all. In fact, it appears the oatmeal's job in these bars is to soak up the massive amounts of butter and sugar they contain. Well, never mind that. I was determined to replicate them in my own kitchen.

I settled on this recipe out of The Guardian. I went to the British shop in nearby Chilliwack and purchased some official Lyle's Golden Syrup, and then found some Demerara sugar at the grocery store. I had butter and both regular and large cut oatmeal at home, so I was set to go.

I even weighed out my ingredients in proper British fashion to make sure I had it exactly right.

I have to admit it was a little alarming to see that huge glob of butter.

They smelled heavenly while they were cooking, and looked quite promising when I pulled them out of the oven. The problem was trying to eat them. They tasted as delicious as they smelled, but they simply did not hold together. I suspect the problem was the addition of the jumbo oats, but I'm not certain. If anyone has a tried and true recipe for flapjacks could you please send me a link, leave me a comment, or email me the recipe? Thanks - I am determined to get this right!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Burying Brown Betty

This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving. When I first moved to Canada a very American me had a difficult time adjusting to celebrating Thanksgiving the second Monday of October instead of the fourth Thursday of November. Now, more than thirty years later, I really appreciate having the holiday so much earlier in the year. The weather is often still nice enough to enjoy outdoor activities, and there is little threat of the snowy and icy roads that are common in November.

This year was a relatively quiet Thanksgiving. We had our big family gathering last weekend when Karsten, Diana and Lucy were here. We still had guests - just not the "gathering of the clan" that we have had other years. Yesterday my good friend Ellen, her husband John and their grandson Carter came out for the day. The weather was brilliant, so we spent a good part of the afternoon kayaking/canoeing on the lake. I have to admit, it was miserably cold getting into the kayak since this involved getting my feet wet, but after the initial shock, and once we paddled out into the sunshine, I stopped whining about my frozen toes. If I go again this fall I think I will take a pair of handknit wool socks to put on my feet once I get in the kayak. After all, wool is supposed to keep you warm even if it gets wet, so I figure it's worth a try.

Kellen and Anita came out Saturday and stayed overnight. Late Saturday afternoon, just as the sun was starting to sink lower in the sky, the side of the mountain looked like it was on fire. It was beautiful, and I'm afraid this picture doesn't do it justice.

We had lasagna instead of turkey for dinner, but I still made some of the other more traditional Thanksgiving foods like cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts and a pumpkin dessert. This pumpkin pudding seemed like a good gluten-free alternative to pumpkin pie for two reasons. The first is, it is very hard to make a good gluten-free pie crust, and the second is, I don't really like pumpkin pie. It turns out that pumpkin pudding is basically pumpkin pie without the crust, but it wasn't anything that lots of whipped cream couldn't cure.

Once it got dark Kellen built a fire in the fire pit in our backyard. I wasn't impressed when I looked out the kitchen window and saw him holding a can of gasoline. Sadly, my two oldest boys have inherited fire bug genes from both sides of the family.

Now, about Brown Betty. This is a sad story. It starts with my very favourite tea mug, one I bought when I was in Scotland two years ago. It has featured in many pictures on my blog. Here it is on my back deck in Kamloops last spring.

Last week my beloved mug cracked. It was a sad moment when I had to throw it in the garbage. I had no idea how the crack happened, and decided it was just a random accident of some kind. Then, when Kellen and Anita got here, I made a pot of tea in my Brown Betty teapot. I couldn't believe it when I went to pour the tea and discovered it was also cracked and leaking all over the counter! Kellen's theory is that now that the weather has cooled the granite countertop in the kitchen is cold, and when I put the mug and the teapot on the cold granite and poured the boiling water into them they cracked. I'm sure he is right, and at least I can take measures to prevent any more breakage.

As I walked over to the garbage to throw Brown Betty away I suddenly realized something. I live by Teapot Hill. Brown Betty didn't have to go into a pauper's grave. She could be buried in style. The next morning Anita and I headed out on our mission. Remember, we have the Parks people continually on the lookout for teapots, removing any they happen to find. We searched for a spot that was well hidden, and this is what we came up with. See that log in the distance, right in the middle of the picture?

It has a hole in it that turned out to be just big enough to hold Brown Betty's remains.

It will take a keen eye to spot her from the trail.

The thing is, Brown Betty is easily replaced. I can just order another one from Amazon and it will be here in no time. But to replace my sheep mug I need to go back to Scotland. Which, come to think of it, doesn't sound like a bad idea.

R.I.P. Brown Betty

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Accidental Genius

According to Howard Gardner there are nine types of intelligence. I am normally reluctant to challenge an expert, especially in a field of study I know nothing about, but I do believe there is one type of genius Mr. Gardner has overlooked. I know this because it is the only kind of genius I possess.

     10. Accidental Genius differs from the previous nine types of intelligence. The first nine types are always present in the individual, and can be counted on at all times. This tenth type of intelligence, that of the accidental type, is very unpredictable. It pops up unexpectedly from time to time, surprising both the individual and those around them.

Here is an example from my own life of accidental genius at work. When my mom was here for a visit she had a hard time getting in and out of the bath. (I will point out this did not take any kind of intelligence to discern. All I had to do was look at the towel rack that had been pulled out of the wall to know this was true.) This week IKEA was having a sale, and one of the items was the RAGRUND chair. It looked like the perfect solution for when my mom visits, and it had the added bonus of acting as extra space to hang towels - always helpful when we have guests. I made the trek to IKEA, and in a scene familiar to anyone who has ever opened a flat pack, this is what things looked like for a tense hour or so after I returned.

Here's where the accidental genius part comes into play. As the chair started to take shape, which wasn't as quickly as I had hoped due to screwing in four brackets the wrong way, an image started to form in my mind. It was a picture of a spinning chair. This odd looking, high-backed chair very closely resembled ones I had seen online. (Here is an example.) I had accidentally purchased something I had been wanting for ages!

I am now the proud new owner of a spinning chair, which, due to its extreme ugliness, I have promised Jay will only be in the living room when I am actually spinning.

I haven't done much spinning since I got Fergus, but he has settled down quite a bit, and hasn't attacked my wheel in months. I think I can safely take it out and start using it again. I ordered this fibre from Webs shortly after we moved here and can't wait to start working with it.

AbstractFiber 2-tone BFL colourway Deep Lake
I also have some beautiful fibre to spin from my blogging friend Peony. She has just done another shop update, and has some lovely fibre which can be found here.

Okay, here's the best part of my accidental genius illustration. It turns out this was a double genius event. When I put the rather homely chair into the upstairs bedroom, where it can remain safely out of sight until it is needed, I realized it had yet another use. Introducing my new sock dryer.

Do you have any examples of accidental genius to share?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Lucy Show

It has been such a great weekend! Karsten, Diana and baby Lucy arrived late Friday afternoon. It was neat to see how much Lucy had grown and changed since the last time I saw her. She now smiles and "talks" and blows endless bubbles.

Of course, being only two and a half months old she had no clue she was the star attraction over the weekend. She had aunts and uncles driving many miles to come spend some time with her, and the ones who couldn't be here Skyped with her on Sunday. Kellen and Anita drove out from Vancouver on Saturday.

Alexandra and David drove down from Kamloops on Sunday.

Grandpa had Fergus and Jenny nearby to make sure he was holding Lucy the right way.

Lucy is going to be an outdoors kind of girl. She loved her time out on the porch while we had tea on Saturday afternoon. It was fun to see the Babies and Bears sweater on her. It's a perfect fit!

She also went hiking with us up Teapot Hill, and loved being at the beach while we were kayaking.

Monday I wanted to show Karsten and Diana how close we are to the US border, so we went for a drive. The fall colours were spectacular. You can see the cut out place in the trees on the hill that mark the Canada/US border, and how the road goes right along the border.

As the road wound north again we went through farmland interspersed with land marked with No Trespassing signs, posted by the Ministry of National Defence. It seemed rather odd. There used to be a military base in nearby Chilliwack, so they must have used this area for training. One of the No Trespassing spots had an old orchard on it, and since there is almost nothing more alluring than doing exactly what you are told not to do, we naturally found a gap in the barbed wire fence and went in to pick some fruit.

I have to say, things have changed a bit since my kids were babies. Lucy has this amazing swing that has different speeds, and plays sounds ranging from an owl hooting to crickets chirping to classical music. We used to have a rickety yellow contraption called a Swing-o-matic. It operated on human power instead of electricity. When you wound it up it made such a horrible noise it would startle the baby, which would then make the baby cry. If you wound it all the way up you could maybe get fifteen minutes of swing time out of the thing, and the first five minutes of that were taken up with calming the baby who had been scared out of its wits by the wind up process. Once the baby stopped screaming you then had to face ten minutes of a click-click-click-click sound that was almost as bad as the crying baby. There's something to be said for progress. The yellow sweater Lucy is wearing in this picture is the one Jay's mom knit for Karsten when he was a baby.

I'm so happy to be living close enough that I can easily pop over to Victoria next month and visit them. I was also happy to see this weekend that living in a place that is geographically centred between where our kids live worked out so well in terms of everyone being able to visit. Now we just need to get Rebekah and Anton back on the north side of that boundary line in my picture!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Settling In

Fall's arrival this year has taken me somewhat by surprise. Before I left on my holiday the days were warm, I was still wearing shorts and sunscreen, and enjoying afternoon tea on my front porch. I have returned to be met by cold and rainy days, colours that are just starting to turn from green to red and gold, and drinking tea in front of the fireplace instead of on the porch. I have his jarring feeling of having been thrown from one season into the next.

However, fall is by far my favourite season, and October is the month that showcases fall better than any other, so I am quite happy with the change. October is the month I allow myself to wear any new socks I have knit over the summer. Today I am wearing these Mind the Gap socks I finished just before my trip to the UK.

Trailing Clouds Mind the Gap Colourway

They have the colours of every line on London's Tube in their self-striping pattern. I think they are perfectly wizard!

There was a slight break in the weather yesterday, just long enough for me to go for a hike. The yellow leaves against the mossy green made a striking contrast.

After days of torrential rain it was nice to see the sun trying to shine.

I anticipate the fall colours here being very beautiful, so you can expect to see more seasonal pictures before it's finished!

By the time I got off the mountain the clouds were starting to threaten rain yet again.

Fergus and Jenny like fall too, if for no other reason than it means a chance to sleep for hours in front of the fireplace.

I wanted to say thank you so much to everyone who left comments on my blog when I was in the UK. I read and enjoyed each one, but due to time constraints and very sketchy Wi-Fi most of the time, it was impossible to respond. And I am happy to report that I am almost over jet lag, which is a good thing since this little munchkin is coming to visit this weekend.