Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Glancing Back, Looking Ahead

As we journey through life there is only one direction we can go, and that is forward. But I think there are times that it's helpful to take a glance back at the road we have recently travelled. So before I look ahead to 2014, I would like to take a look back on 2013, a year that was beyond anything I could have imagined 365 days ago!

Here is where I thought I was headed at the beginning of 2013, along with updates:

  1. I hope to get a book published this year.  Getting Ting Ting published was a dream come true. It has been an amazing experience from start to finish. I still can't believe it actually happened!
  2. I would like to go to Shetland, and also possibly Wales and Scotland. Not only did I make it to Shetland and Wales, I also managed to see some of the Cotswolds. I have so many great memories from my travels with Kath, Melissa, John, Gill and Jean, not to mention a bit more souvenir yarn that has been added to my stash! 
  3. I would love to move to a small cabin on a few acres somewhere, anywhere where there are trees. It is starting to feel like time to leave Kamloops. We might not be on a few acres, but I'm okay with that. I love our cottage, and we are definitely surrounded by those trees I was longing for. Back in January this move didn't seem remotely possible, yet here we are!
  4. 2013 seems like a good year to become a grandparent. It was definitely a good year to become a grandparent! In a year filled with so many wonderful things, Lucy tops the list.
  5.  I hope to knit several of the patterns out of the Colours of Shetland book by Kate Davies. I would like this to be the year I knit my souvenir yarn - the cashmere from my trip to China and the yarn from Scotland. After all, if I make it to Shetland I will need that room in my stash for all the Jamieson & Smith yarn I intend to come home with! I hope to knit at least a few of the fun things out of the Arne and Carlos books. And last but not least, I know several people having babies, so there will definitely be some baby knitting in 2013. This was a hit and miss category. I have yet to knit a single project out of Kate's book, although I am partway through her Northmavine hap. And does it count that I bought the yarn at J&S for her Scatness Tunic? As far as getting some of my souvenir yarn knit up, that was a complete miss. Which is probably why the Jamieson & Smith yarn I bought in Shetland is still in the bag I brought it home in - there's no room for it in my yarn bins. I did manage to knit Hannah from the Arne and Carlos Knitted Doll book, and I got loads of baby knitting done. 

I closed last year's list of the directions I would like to be heading in 2013 with these two sentences, having no idea at the time how true they would prove to be:

I think I should dub 2013 as The Year of Thinking Big! It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Our new home...

My book...

UK 2013...



And best of all, Lucy...

Now it's time to look forward. Here are my New Year Directions for 2014.

  1. I hope, with the help of some friends, to get a couple of garden boxes set up this spring. I really miss my garden, and am itching to be able to play in the dirt again. 
  2. I would like for this to be the "year of the memoir." I have wanted to get our family's adoption/homeschooling story written for some time. I have finished a first draft, but it needs to be completely reworked. It's a big undertaking, and not one I am confident I can succeed at, but I would like to at least make the effort. You may be seeing bits and pieces of the story on this blog if all goes as planned.
  3. I would like to get another book published this year. It's such a short sentence for such a big thing!
  4. On the knitting front I am doing something odd and not setting any goals. I'm going to see where my needles take me this year. I'm still firmly entrenched in my Fair Isle phase, and don't see that ending any time soon. There will be more knitting for Lucy, and maybe another Arne and Carlos Knitted Doll. Ellen and I have established another Self-Imposed Sock Club, but this time have decided to skip June, July, and August as that was when we fell apart with our last Self-Imposed Club. 
  5. On the travel front, if all goes as planned there is going to be something a little different happening this year. My mom has stated that she would like to have her 80th birthday dinner in Las Vegas. She randomly told me this last time I was visiting her. I was driving down the road and almost drove in the ditch as she said it. Her birthday is in mid-February, so we need to get moving on this. Ellen and I have also been talking about going to Peru this spring, but given we are both a little short of funds, this seems like a long shot. 
  6. This year, for the first time ever, I am picking a word for the year. The word I have picked perfectly captures the direction I want to head in 2014, and I am quite excited about it. However, it deserves its own blog post, so more on it next time!
Thank you for journeying with me this past year. Happy New Year to each one of you!

"You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream."  C.S. Lewis

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Post Christmas Post

That's it for Christmas 2013, and I'm officially declaring it a success. Well, except for the ongoing saga of the washer and dryer. But I'll save that story for another day since this post is meant to be about happy things, a category those two appliances are not even close to qualifying for.

We have a big family, and it keeps growing as the kids get older. Our old house in Kamloops easily had room for everyone to stay over, but that is not the case with our cottage here at Cultus Lake. So we decided to rent a small cabin a few miles away, and that worked out perfectly. It was a pretty basic place, meaning the floors were covered in worn linoleum and soap wasn't included in the rental price, but it was clean and warm and only needed to be used for sleeping, so it was adequate.

This year we made two major changes to our usual holiday celebration. Instead of me doing all the baking, everyone made an item and brought to share. It was sort of like an "in family cookie exchange." I think Lucy would have liked to try one. Next year!

The other change was our Christmas meal. This fall we bought some beef, lamb and pork from a rancher we know near Kamloops. I decided with all that meat in our freezer it would be silly to go out and buy a turkey. So this became our year of "lamb and ham." I think everyone enjoyed the change, and the added bonus was I didn't have a twenty pound turkey taking up most of my fridge space leading up to the holiday. I would say the dark horse in terms of food this year was the parsnip and potato puree dish we had. Everyone loved it! The recipe can be found here. It's a keeper, and will definitely make an appearance again next year.

You would not believe the amount of food that was consumed over the course of the five days we had People here. Two mornings I made scrambled eggs for everyone, and that alone depleted the egg supply by some 28 eggs. Massive amounts of cheese, cold cuts, apples, bananas, oranges, and crackers disappeared at an alarming rate. Both the crockpot and the enamelled cast iron pot had to be used to hold all the chili it took to feed us on Christmas Eve. The great thing this year was that Karsten had volunteered to make the Christmas Eve dinner, and Rebekah volunteered to make the Boxing Day meal. I love the fact that all of my kids know how to cook!

The one unfortunate event that happened over Christmas, aside from the appliances that shall remain unnamed, was David had planned to drive down from Kamloops on Christmas Day, but got sick on Christmas Eve with a bad case of food poisoning. We were all sorry he wasn't able to make it, but we did manage to save him some of the cookies and sent them home with Alexandra who is going to deliver them to him.

We managed to work in a couple of walks, which was good given all the food we had eaten. Here we are on Christmas Day. It's a herd of Hammonds.

On Boxing Day we walked along a path that follows the Vedder River. It was a beautiful setting, and we even managed to spot a bald eagle in a tree along the river bank.

We were all laughing at Lucy, who had fallen asleep with her bottom lip sticking out. Here's a closer look.

Another new thing this year was a dice game called Moose Farkle. Of course, this being our family, we couldn't just play the game. There were extended stoppages of play for discussions about probability theory and which rolls of the dice had the best odds of happening. This made me feel like Lucy looks in the picture above.

Lucy's Christmas surprise was discovering she had yet another uncle!

I probably don't need to tell you what the highlight of this Christmas was!

Adding in an extra little person made taking the annual Christmas picture a bit more challenging. I took a lot of pictures before we finally got a keeper.

It was great, but truth be told, I'm tired. Lucy might not be the only one going down for a nap.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas, and that you get a chance to put your feet up, drink a cup of tea, and recharge before the New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Old Traditions In A New Home

The snow is falling outside and it has turned our cottage community into a winter wonderland. I fear it has also turned the roads into a nightmare, making me very glad I decided to do the big pre-Christmas food shopping trip yesterday. As I drove home, my vehicle filled with enough food to feed an army, I was struck by the same feeling I have the moment I board a plane for my next adventure.

All the planning, the lists, the mad scramble to get out the door and to the airport in time for my flight - when they close the plane door it's a done deal. I may have forgotten to pack something or do some important errand at home before I left, but at that point it is too late. It's both an exhilarating and terrifying feeling. And that's the feeling I had driving home yesterday. Shopping was a done deal. I will not be entering a store of any kind again until after Boxing Day.

Today will be spent watching the snow fall, listening to some Christmas music, and making cut-out sugar cookies. I think that's just about the best kind of day there is, don't you? But first I wanted to share a little bit of our first Christmas here at our cottage with you. This manger scene is from Mexico, and has been in our family for many years. It has been carefully packed away for almost a decade. I finally have a mantle to put it on where it will be out of harm's way. Harm being loosely defined as our cat.

My Korknisse have put on their appropriate winter attire, and the angel chimes finally have candles.

Rose windows help brighten these darkest days of the year.

These reindeer have been a family favourite for many years.

It would hardly be a Hammond Family Christmas if we didn't have an appliance break down. This year it was the washing machine, which died Monday. We have been promised the new washer and dryer will be delivered before Christmas. I sure hope they are telling the truth, since there will be eight extra people showing up for various lengths of time. It would be nice to be able to offer them clean towels. And one of those people is Lucy.  I think in terms of dirty laundry one baby equals about three adults.

In case you are wondering about our broken appliance tradition, here are the links to the story of how it all started. It is a tale of Christmas disaster like no other. It might not be quite as famous as A Christmas Carol, or It's a Wonderful Life, but it has become something of a tradition here at North of 49 to share this each Christmas. So find a comfy chair, make a cup of tea or hot chocolate, and enjoy a story of a holiday gone wrong. Very, very wrong.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7

Merry Christmas to all of you! May your homes be filled with family, good food, and holiday cheer. And last, but certainly not least, may all your appliances keep working over the holiday season.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Looking Brighter

Thursday turned out to be one of those days that was death by a thousand cuts. The kind where it isn't one major thing that does you in, but, rather, dozens of little ones. It was my regularly scheduled shopping day and I had several extra stops added to the list of regulars, so I knew it was going to be challenging.

I tried to go into it with a positive attitude, and I really think I succeeded for about the first four stops. One of the things I was looking for was a box of the special candles that fit into our angel chimes. This was a maddening thing to have on my list in the first place, since I already own two boxes of these candles, one in red and the other in white. And, in one of those moments of "old house clarity" I have experienced multiple time since moving to our cottage, I knew exactly where they were. In our old house.

They lived in a drawer in a piece of furniture we no longer own. The items we kept in those drawers are now packed up in boxes, stuffed deep within our crawlspace. This basically means those little candles are buried alive, like all the other victims in the boxes labelled Misc. Stuff. (Hint: if you move do not label a single box as Misc. Stuff.)

Let's fast forward to stop number six. Not only did I still not have angel chime candles, I hadn't managed to get to the food purchasing part of my trip to town yet. My positive thoughts were becoming as elusive as those blasted candles I couldn't find. Ten stops later I had food, but no candles and no good thoughts. Not a single one.

We have a shed attached to the side of our cottage, and when I got home I went into it to put a few things in the freezer. On a mood rating scale of one to ten I was hovering around a zero. That is when I noticed that both bags of potatoes and the two butternut squash I had stored there had frozen in our recent cold snap. Lesson learned - I can't keep food in the storage shed in the winter.

The potatoes went straight to the garbage, but I decided I could probably salvage the squash. I set about making this squash soup recipe, which I highly recommend. While preparing the squash I somehow managed to flip the spoonful of seeds I had just scraped out of the centre, sending both seeds and squash entrails flying. The result looked like a food fight had just broke out in my kitchen.

I cleaned up that mess, then went to get the butter out of the fridge. I needed to melt a bit to rub the top of the rather oddly textured thawed out squash. When I cut a chunk of butter something happened - I still have no idea what - and the chunk of butter fell down. As it fell it managed to break into bits, leaving a greasy trail all the way down the front of the cupboard door on its messy way to the floor, where it sat in a malicious lump.

This is not a comprehensive list of Thursday's woes. It's a sampler. It turned out to be the kind of day that you know there is only one cure for - bedtime. As usually happens, when I got up the next morning the world seemed a bit brighter, in spite of the fact it was a grey and rainy day. When I took Fergus out for an early morning walk, I spotted this. I love how the individual drops of water light up these branches.

I finally finished my pair of traveling socks, and as I sat on the couch Kitchener stitching the final toe, I realized the colours of the socks were a perfect match for the bright lights on our Christmas tree.

Jay had to go to town yesterday, so I assigned him the task of checking out the remaining stores I had on my list of "angel chime candle hopefuls." In a move reminiscent of days gone by, he did something that had not once occurred to me. He pulled out the phone book and called around until he found a shop that carried them. It took less than five minutes. I'm trying not to be bitter.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Peerie This and Peerie That

Remember that kit I bought when I was at Jamieson & Smith's in September? The one I hadn't intended to buy when I entered the shop, but fell in love with the minute I saw the knitted up sample? I started the wee little sweater soon after I got home. I even gave a sneak preview of it in a previous post. Remember this?

It normally wouldn't have taken two months to finish such a small project, but I hit a fairly major roadblock. I ran out of yarn. This meant placing on online order with J&S, then having to wait for the "saviour skein" to arrive. And yes, for those of you who feel the need to ask, I did manage to top up my order with a sweater's worth of yarn to make it worth the shipping fee. :-)

I finished knitting the little jumper a few days ago, which should have meant all was well. Which it was, as long as I didn't look at the wrong side. It looked like someone had thrown the jumper into the food processor. Sorry for the rather blurry picture. I must have been trembling in fear as I looked at all those ends that needed to be woven in.

This is where a responsible person would be telling you they gritted their teeth, got out their darning needle and scissors, and set to work tidying up that unholy mess. I am not such a person. I turned it back to its right side, stuffed it back into the project bag, and promptly cast-on for an "avoidance project." I'm quite happy with the result. Peerie Weerie Booties, from Mary Jane Mucklestone's Fair Isle Style book.

Peerie means small in the Shetland dialect, and although it might not be apparent from the pictures these booties should be just the right size for Lucy to wear this winter. I'm hoping the high tops mean they will stay on her feet better than socks and keep her toes toasty warm.

These were so much fun to knit, and such a great way to use up bit and pieces of leftover yarn from my stash, and there was still that little jumper with all those ends waiting for me...Yes, I cast on for a second pair.

As visions of a third pair were dancing in my head I decided I needed to get a grip. Those ends weren't going to weave themselves in all on their own. I put on last year's Call the Midwife Christmas Special and set to work. I love that show, and figured even the most onerous of tasks would seem easier with it playing in the background.

When I sewed in the last straggling piece of yarn and turned the sweater back to its right side I was every bit as smitten as I had been that wonderful day in Lerwick back in September. This sweater is a size 2, so won't fit Lucy until next year, but that's okay. This will be her first little girl sweater, and I'm fairly certain she will be able to wear it for two winters. I am also fairly certain, given that it's knit with Jamieson & Smith yarn, it will last for many years and be handed down to any future grandchildren.

Knit with a lot of love and maybe a bit of sweat, here is Lucy's Christmas present, the Peerie Bairn Jumper (the kit is available from J&S, but please read my Ravelry notes before ordering, as you will need more of the MC than the pattern calls for).

Here's a closer look.

And the view from the back.

Now I might just go knit a third pair of those Peerie Weerie Booties!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Beautiful British Columbia

In her latest post my blogging friend Kate said, "There are times this place takes my breath away. Times I am overcome and unable to believe this is where I live, that this is my daily luck, my never-ending backyard." She perfectly summed up how I feel about this place I call home. I love my little cottage, nestled in the woods and surrounded by mountains. But this is just one little corner of a very big province, and the amazing thing is the rest of this province is every bit as beautiful. Vancouver Island is no exception. Here's part two of my Victoria adventure.

We bundled up and went for a walk along the waterfront near Karsten and Diana's home. It almost looks like I'm back in Shetland!

There was a yarn crawl. I'm fairly certain Lucy is going to be a knitter, so she might as well start inhaling wool fumes at a young age. Some people might call this indoctrination, but I prefer to think of it as education.

We drove out to Goldstream Provincial Park to take in the very end of the salmon run. The tree Karsten, Diana and Lucy are standing in front of was huge, but there were even bigger ones sprinkled throughout the park. There were seagulls everywhere, feasting on the carcasses of dead fish.

We went to Merridale Ciderworks and I got to do a cider tasting. It was fun, and better yet, the cider was every bit as good as Jean's beloved Weston's.

I think Lucy is going to be an outdoors kind of girl. She loves being bundled up and going for walks. Diana had been wanting to go to Kinsol Trestle, so we made that the last stop of our day trip. The sun was starting to go down, so it was hard to get good pictures.

Squeezed in between all of our outings was the thing I most enjoyed while on Vancouver Island. Lucy time. Lots and lots of it, but at the same time not nearly enough.

Unbelievably, on the return ferry ride I got one of the coveted three front places again! It was a beautiful day, but absolutely freezing. I quickly took this picture as we sailed away. That's Mt. Baker in the distance.

My adventure finished at my friend Ellen's home, where they were celebrating the last day of Hanukkah.

I hope you don't mind that I split my trip into two posts. So much happened in the six days I was away that there was no way I could do it justice in a single post. From the very start when I met the Ferry Lady, to the dinner out with the publisher and other authors, the book launch, the time spent with family, exploring a bit of Vancouver Island, and finishing with a Hanukkah lunch, it was perfect. Every single moment. (Well, okay, maybe not that bit where I had to stand up in front of people and talk.) Shalom.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Gathering Up My Courage

Sorry for the blog silence. I just got back from my trip to Victoria a few hours ago and feel like I am miles behind in everything including my blog.

The trip over to Vancouver Island was uneventful. Not only did I have enough gas, I also had a reservation (this was an authentic reservation, unlike Shetland where we pretended to have one), so I wasn't worried about getting a spot on the busy Friday sailing.

While I was waiting in the line-up to board I noticed the lady in the car next to me was knitting. Being a double introvert, I'm not the kind of person who usually strikes up a conversation with a perfect stranger. I do, however, make exceptions for fellow knitters. We had a quick conversation about the fingerless mittens she was making for her granddaughter and I assumed that was the end of that chance encounter.

Shortly after that it was time to drive on the ferry. That turned out to be quite the experience since I was first in line, which meant I was the first to board. This also meant I got one of the coveted spots at the very front of the ferry. The view was gorgeous, and I didn't leave my vehicle the whole time except to pop out and take a couple of pictures (the ride is an hour and a half long). In case you are wondering how many cars I was competing with for one of those front three positions, this ferry holds over 400 vehicles.

A sample of the view I had from my vehicle!

Just as we were pulling into the terminal on the Victoria side someone knocked on my window. It was the knitting lady. It turns out their car was the one next to mine. She wanted to know if I was from Vancouver Island, and when I told her no she filled me in on where all the good knitting shops in Victoria are. I thanked her and rolled up my window.

Then I remembered that I had some Ting Ting bookmarks and her granddaughter was eight years old, so, gathering up my courage, I went over to her vehicle and knocked on her window. I told her I was going to Victoria for a book launch, and thought she might enjoy the bookmark. She thanked me and rolled up her window.

A few minutes later there was a knock on my window. It was knitting lady, and she was quite excited. It turns out the mother of the granddaughter she was knitting the fingerless mitts for is Chinese, which means her granddaughter is half-Chinese. She told me she would definitely be buying the book for her. As I rolled up my window I was really pleased about the whole thing, not so much because she was going to buy the book, but more because the book was going to find its way to someone who seemed to be the perfect recipient.

Friday afternoon Jenny Watson, one of the other authors involved in the book launch, came over to Karsten and Diana's for tea. I was a bit nervous about meeting her, but it ended up being a lot of fun. We compared notes about our journeys on the road to getting published. She couldn't believe I had had the nerve to phone the publisher, and I couldn't believe she had ignored the publisher's calls for a week thinking they were from a telemarketer.

Friday evening Diane Morriss, the owner of Sono Nis Publishing, hosted a dinner at a great little restaurant in downtown Victoria. More courage was needed on my part since social functions involving people I don't know is not one of my strengths. As usual, I worried about nothing. It was a lot of fun, and I especially enjoyed finally getting to meet Diane in person.

The next day was the book launch, an event I had been both dreading and looking forward to. The problem is this. I have a horrific fear of speaking in public. I'm living, breathing proof that there really are people who would rather attend their own funeral than get up and talk in front of a crowd (crowd being loosely defined as a gathering of more than three people). Writing and public speaking are two completely different skill sets, sort of like knitting and crochet. I can make a complicated cable sweater, but couldn't produce a granny square if my life depended on it.

In the end there was a compromise. It was agreed that I wouldn't do a reading. I would just get up and say a few words. Even this seemed like more than I might be able to handle, so I decided I needed some help. Yes, I shamelessly, or perhaps I should say shamefully, took Lucy up with me. I figured she would steal the show, and even if I was a blethering idiot she would more than make up for her ridiculous grandma. It turned out to be a brilliant plan.

The event was an enjoyable experience once I got rid of that microphone. There were plates of goodies, which in my nervous state I forgot to take a picture of. People bought books, and I even signed a few copies.

Here's the really neat part. Just as things were winding down I was approached by a lady holding out the copy of Ting Ting she had just bought. It was the lady from the ferry!

I'll tell you about the rest of the trip in my next post, including an update on this little munchkin.