Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Out of Sync

I mentioned in a recent post that I was trying out Whispersync. This is something Amazon provides that allows you to sync your Kindle books and Audible books across devices. I have used it many times to sync between my Kindle and the Kindle app on my iPad. But this was my first time using it to sync between an Audible book and my Kindle.

Well, I should back up and admit it's the second time to try using it between my Kindle and Audible. The first time reminded me of last fall when I stood on the road trying to get the Nike app on my iPhone to work, only to realize after multiple attempts that I was wearing my hikers, not my Nike runners with the chip in them that communicates with the app.

I had the book loaded on my Kindle and the wi-fi enabled. I started listening to the Audible book through iTunes, and when I went to pick up the written version was excited to see if it would work. It didn't. Nothing I did would make the two communicate. At least when I had the Nike app incident it only took a matter of minutes for me to figure things out. This time it took about a day until the realization dawned on me that if I wanted my Audible book to communicate with my Kindle book I needed to be listening to the Audible book through the Audible app, not through iTunes.

So fast forward to my first successful attempt at using Whispersync. After going back and forth with it while reading/listening to the last book in the Julia Spencer-Fleming series I have to say I have mixed feelings about the experience. On the plus side, it was great to be able to switch to the Audible version and listen while I knit Toatie Hottie. I can't read and knit Fair Isle at the same time, so this allowed me to keep moving forward in the story. I didn't have to choose between finding out how the book ended or making pompoms.

On the negative side, I have to say it was rather jarring to make the switch. Imagine you are watching a movie, and about every twenty minutes the actors get completely changed. It was sort of like that. We all create the voices and images in a written story in our minds, and what we create is unique to each of us as readers. I think this is one of the reasons movies based on well-loved books so often disappoint. They never match the story as we saw and heard it in our mind. At least when you see the movie adaptation you aren't going back and forth between the two.

I'm not saying I won't ever do another Audible/Kindle combo like this, but I don't think I'll try it again any time soon. Have any of you tried using Whispersync? I would love to hear what your thoughts are. Maybe after using it for a few books it doesn't feel as out of sync.

Not that this has anything to do with the subject of this post, but I thought I would mention I finally got around to getting a haircut. This is a big deal for me. It takes me about three months of telling myself I need shearing before I can force myself to call for the appointment. I detest sitting there covered in a hideous cape, inhaling all the chemical smells, and having to make small talk with a complete stranger.

I'm not good at small talk. Especially with strangers. This time we got on a topic I thought I could safely maneuver - dogs. I mentioned something about pit bulls, something not very complimentary, because, after all, with the exception of drug dealers everyone is afraid of pit bulls, right? Wrong. It turns out she used to own and love a pit bull. There are two people you don't want to upset when you are sitting in their chair. The dentist with his drill and the hairdresser with her scissors.

The other thing I detest about getting a haircut is having to sit there and look at myself the whole time. There was one point in the ordeal when my hair was wet, which makes it go mostly straight, and she was pulling the front edges forward and down (this was before the pit bull comment, or I would have been very worried). The thought that went through my head, was, "Oh dear, I look just like Severus Snape." If the cape draped over my shoulders had been black instead of blue I would have been a dead ringer. Not quite the look I was hoping for.

I hate to leave you with that image, so will leave you with this one instead. Although today is rainy and grey, last week we had several days of glorious weather. I took advantage of it to walk down to the point where Frost Creek flows into Cultus Lake. It was quiet and peaceful, with only the sound of the birds in the trees and the water gently lapping up on the shore. I feel very fortunate to live in this little corner of Canada.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Toatie Hottie

I'm a big fan of hot water bottles. That's probably because I'm an even bigger fan of being warm. When we moved from Kamloops to our cottage here at Cultus Lake we exchanged one kind of cold for another. Kamloops winters have sub-zero temperatures, moderate amounts of snow, and lots of wind. Winter here at Cultus seems to be much milder in terms of the actual temperature, but there is a dampness in the air that permeates everything.

All I can say is thank heavens for wool. You name it - wool sweaters, wool socks, wool blankets, wool shawls, and even wool underwear - if it's made of wool, I probably own it and use it on a daily basis. So when Kate Davies came out with this kit right before Christmas how could I resist? After all, it combines two of my favourite strategies for staying warm in these coldest months of the year, my favourite knitwear designer, and yarn from one of my very favourite places.

My Fair Isle phase shows no signs of letting up.

I love that this knit is both pretty and practical.

Well, it was practical until I put these on. I couldn't resist.

Toatie Hottie, my first completed project for 2014.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Today's post is a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. In no particular order:

There's been a grave robbery. I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and hiked up Teapot Hill last Thursday. I was disappointed to see that Brown Betty's remains have been disturbed. Whoever took her from what was supposed to be her final resting spot deserves the mess they are going to have when she leaks all over their kitchen. A few new teapots have been added since I was last there. This miniature Winnie the Pooh was my favourite.

These tree trunks remind me of Celtic cables. Maybe I'll try hiding my next broken teapot under one of them.

I love this article about a couple who have been married for 78 years. 

Has anyone else noticed the new and extremely lazy labelling on fresh produce? I used to be able to pick up something like a container of spinach, lettuce or kale and see where it was grown. Now every container says the same thing: Product of USA and/or Mexico. This really irks me. Sorry, I know I shouldn't be so negative, but it matters to me where my food originates, how it was grown and harvested, and what standards are in place to make sure there isn't a boatload of chemicals dumped on what we consume. I'm not saying we eat only organic foods, but I do try to avoid buying food from places where there is little incentive to raise food in a way that makes it safe for consumption. And I don't understand why it is when someone visits Mexico they have to be very careful not to eat unpeeled fresh fruits and vegetables, and they are never supposed to drink the water straight from the tap, yet we get all these imported items from there that are supposed to be okay. Am I the only person who has noticed this new labelling? 

On a more positive note, it seems like my generation can breathe a collective sigh of relief. We were the ones who grew up with parents who smoked like chimneys, and for years have been reading how all that second-hand smoke we breathed in was almost as bad as if we had our own two pack a day habit. It turns out that was a myth. As the child of two heavy duty smokers this was definitely good news. 

Remember the socks I knit up last summer out of Rowan's new Fine Art sock yarn? I wasn't sure at the time if the yarn was best suited to making socks. I wanted to give an update and say these socks have actually been some of my favourites this winter. They are toasty warm and have held up very nicely, which is saying something since my socks tend to get a good workout because of all the walking I do. 

My husband enjoys drinking craft beer. I'm not a beer drinker, and to me connecting the word craft with beer seems wrong on so many levels. This is the specialty beer he had yesterday. 

I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Is it a take-off on the new holiday fad of finding the ugliest sweater possible to wear to the Christmas party? Or did the brewer have a bad experience with a Mary Maxim sweater when he was a child? 

I should never have said in my last post that I hoped the appliance guys' arrival didn't end up being material for another blog post. If I told you that on Wednesday afternoon they phoned from their truck to say they had just turned onto the Columbia Valley Road - this would be the only road that goes down the lake to where we live - and the RCMP had the road blocked off in both directions, would you believe me? Probably not. I wouldn't have believed it myself had it not been for the fact that they never showed up. Delivery was rescheduled for Saturday, and I'm happy to report they actually did arrive. I was pretty much alone in that feeling of happiness. When they looked at the machines wedged tightly against the wall they were incredulous. 

I sat on the couch madly knitting away trying to calm my nerves while I was looking over at scenes like this.

This is the back deck after the now "not so new" machines got unwedged. The replacement machines are the white ones. The picture is a bit deceptive in terms of size. It makes it look like the new white machines are about the same size, but if you look at the size of the door opening you can tell they are actually quite a bit smaller. 

The truth is I already hated the new washing machine they hauled away. After almost every load I would find an item of clothing caught up in the rubber seal around the drum. And it had committed the unpardonable sin of felting Fergus's red sweater I knit for him. I have never, ever had something knit with superwash yarn felt in the machine before, and I have washed loads of superwash items over the years. I'm encouraged by the fact these are European machines. After all, they make terrific cheese and chocolate. I'm hoping that skill set somehow carries over to appliance design. Now this really should be my last post about the washer and dryer!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Cold Cuppa

At 4:00 Saturday morning (which, trust me, feels a lot more like night than morning), our power went out. We knew the power had gone out for two reasons, the first good, the second not so much so.

I knew when we moved here that power outages were going to be a fact of life, so when I saw some Canadian Red Cross Blackout Buddies at Costco I picked up a package. These things are brilliant. You plug them in and they function as an ordinary night light. But they also have two other features. They are rechargeable flashlights, meaning we no longer run into that age old problem of blindly rummaging through drawers in the midst of a blackout trying to find batteries. They also shine a bright light when the power goes out, illuminating things so you can find your way around.

This last feature proved helpful when it came to sorting out the second, not so good thing about the power going out. For some reason it set our smoke detectors off. Waking up to the high-pitched squelching of the smoke detectors was not a good start to the day. Fergus didn't think so either. The smoke alarms hurt his ears and always send him into a fit of whining and yipping. The dog/alarm combo was not a good one. I will say this was a moment when it was good to be short. I'm 5'4". Jay is 6'4". Guess who had to crawl out of bed and take down the smoke detectors?

Things finally settled down again, and I was just ready to fall back asleep when I was struck by a terrible thought. If the power was out, how was I going to make my morning cup of tea? Obviously my kettle wasn't going to work, and we have an electric hot water tank, so it wouldn't take long for the water in it to cool down. It was my turn to crawl out of bed. Guided by my handy dandy Blackout Buddy I made my way to the kitchen and filled my travel mug with hot water from the tap, wrapped the mug in towels, and crawled back into bed feeling proud of myself for having been so brilliant.

My early morning routine is to turn on my computer, and while it's starting I make my tea. There was no point in firing up the computer since our wireless was down due to the power outage. So I went straight to the tea making. I wasn't expecting a brilliant cuppa, but I figured it would be better than the alternative, which was to go without.

I was wrong. When I went to pour the water from my travel mug over the tea bag in my cup the water was only lukewarm! So much for that travel mug. But, being desperate, I persevered and ended up making the worst cup of tea I have ever had in my life. Did you know that tea doesn't even really steep when the water is only warm? My "tea" was basically a cup of warm water coloured the faintest shade of brown imaginable. It tasted like swamp water. It wasn't even sweet swamp water, because not only does the tea not steep, the honey doesn't melt.

The power came back on at 7:00 AM, and you can guess what the first thing I did was. And I know I shouldn't be whining about being without power for such a short amount of time, especially after the power outages so many people in Eastern Canada, like my blogging friend Anne, have faced over the past few weeks.

The wind that caused the power outage was unbelievable. We had branches down all over the cottage development, and it even blew over a stop sign. Maybe even worse than the cold cup of tea was our bird feeder. The wind had knocked it down during the night.

One of the feeders was broken.

Luckily the new squirrel proof feeder and the suet feeder were okay.

In the meantime, this guy thought he had struck the jackpot!

The excitement for today is the new, downgraded washer and dryer get delivered. Yes, it was supposed to happen on Monday but they didn't have the stacker pieces so it got delayed. It was interesting to read all your comments and realize we are not the only ones who have problems with appliances. I'm really hoping the appliance guys' arrival doesn't end up being material for another blog post!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January Hygge

We aren't quite to the middle of January yet, but I can already see the form hygge is taking for this first month of 2014. January can be a challenge. It sits in an awkward spot on the calendar. The holidays are a thing of the past, but it is still a bit too early to be thumbing through seed catalogs. It seems to me that if ever there was a month that home was the place to be, this is it. I am thinking of it as "hygge hibernation."

So on this grey and rainy Sunday morning I am looking around and feeling quite content. I'm in the middle of a great mystery series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. Am I the only one who discovers a new series and devours them, one after the other, without picking up another author in between?

One of my favourite places to curl up with a good book (or, as more often is the case, my Kindle), is this window seat.

As you can see from the bags tucked in the corner, it's also a favourite spot for knitting. This is one of those rare, treasured days without a single thing written on my calendar or "to do" list that needs attending to. Translation - lots of knitting time! I'm just getting started on a couple new Fair Isle projects. Here's a peak.

These more than make up for the lack of brightness outside.

I'm quite sure lemon curd tastes better in January than any other month of the year.

Especially when it's slathered over some scones that are hot out of the oven. Oops. It looks like an extra glob accidentally fell onto my plate. :-)

Accompanied, of course, by a cup of tea with a spoonful of local honey stirred into it.

I am only a couple weeks into my year of hygge, and I can already see it was the perfect word choice. It's making me look around and think, I mean really think, about my attitude and approach to each day. Normally January is a month that leaves me feeling deflated, but I'm hoping as I try to incorporate this concept of hygge into my days that at the end of the month I will feel every bit as hopeful and positive as I did at the beginning.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Appliance Hell

Warning. This post is not for the faint of heart. If you or your family have suffered the indignities that can only be inflicted by modern appliances - modern being loosely defined as those having motherboards or any other fragile computer circuitry made in a country far, far away - you might be too emotionally fragile to read what follows. Also, if you are prone to appliance flu hypochondria please stop reading and just scroll to the bottom of this post to see the nice bird pictures.

Here goes. About a week and a half before Christmas our washing machine broke. It wasn't like this was a huge surprise. The realtor told me when we moved in that the washer wasn't great and we would probably want to replace it sooner rather than later. To be honest, I wasn't even sorry that it broke. I hated the thing. The only thing I was sorry about was the fact it had broken right before Christmas.

My dislike of the washer was twofold. First of all, it was an itty-bitty apartment sized machine. I realize that this would be the norm for most Europeans, and that I sound the tiniest bit whiny and spoiled by complaining about the fact it was so little. But you need to understand the washing machine we had in Kamloops was so big you could have thrown three teenagers in and had some room left over. I suddenly felt like I was washing clothes in something better suited to a dollhouse. The second annoying bit about the washer was it only gave you one option for water temperature - warm. I think my grandma's old wringer washing machine had more options than that!

The space for the washer and dryer was wide enough to move up a size, which I happily did. The appliance Delivery Guys showed up as promised on the Monday right before Christmas, and I was so happy it was all going to work out. That thought lasted about thirty seconds, which is the time it took Delivery Guy #1 to walk in the house, look at the place in the closet that holds the machines, and ask if we were sure they would fit.

I assured him they would, but said there was a yardstick right there by the machines and did he want to measure. He eyeballed the space and said that he thought they would make it. I felt a sense of relief wash over me. That lasted about thirty seconds, which brought me up to the point Delivery Guy #2 came to the back door, stuck his head in, and shouted to Delivery Guy #1 "It's a no go!"

You see, he had just taken the new dryer out of the cardboard box and the dryer was severely damaged. The left front corner looked like someone had taken a sledge hammer to it. We had just set a new Hammond appliance breakdown record. This poor machine hadn't even made it inside before it had problems.

Now remember, it was two days before Christmas. I was having ten people here over the span of several days. One of those was a dirty laundry generating baby. In other words, I was desperate. I asked if the machine still worked if we could keep it until a new one could be sent out to replace it. I think Delivery Guy #2 could see the semi-crazed look in my eyes, so he phoned the store and got the okay to leave the machine. I breathed a sigh of relief. That lasted about twenty minutes, which was how long it took them to remove the old machines, stack the new ones, and wheel them into the closet where they were going to live happily ever after. Or, more accurately, try to wheel them into the closet.

The problem was, while we had carefully measured the area the machines were going into, we hadn't taken into account the slope of the ceiling behind the stairs, and in order to get into their designated space they had to be able to move past that slope. Words were spoken. Not good words. Words like "tight", "something's scraping", and "impossible". Now the dryer wasn't the only thing that was damaged. A good chunk of drywall had been ground out of the wall. The machines sat partway back, wedged between the sloped ceiling and far wall so tight it was now impossible to reach in and turn the closet light switch off. The Delivery Guys declared they would not push them all the way back, because if they did they would never get them out again. We were told we needed to cut out a piece of the drywall first, then they would come back and exchange the dryer.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Kellen is an expert at repairing drywall. He would be able to cut out the piece so the machines had room to be pushed back into their designated spot. That relief lasted until Kellen arrived on Christmas Eve, took one look at the wedged machines and said sure, he could cut out the drywall, but only if the machines were moved first. This is the point in the story when I stopped breathing sighs of relief. The machines and I were at a stalemate.

There is a bit of good news in the midst of all this. Even though the washer and dryer weren't where they belonged, they were hooked up properly and they actually worked! Better yet, the washing machine seemed so big to me after dealing with the apartment sized one that I felt like I could make a cup of tea and go sit in it if I needed a quiet spot over the holidays. So we carried on, had clean clothes, and I basically Scarlett O'Harad the whole thing. "I can't think about that right now. I'll think about that tomorrow."

This is already way too long, so I'll spare you the part of the story that became my Rhett Butler "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" moment. This past Saturday I phoned the appliance store, said that what we have isn't going to work, and could we exchange these machines for an apartment sized washer and dryer. It took a bit of doing, but they have agreed to make the switch. It really helped that they already had to come out because of the damaged dryer. We have to pay a restocking fee of 10% on the washer since we used it, but that's okay. If I had to drive back and forth to the laundromat and spend money there to do my laundry it would have added up to about the same amount.

So next Monday the Delivery Guys will come out and try to dislodge the appliances that are currently residing her, and replace them with brand new itty-bitty appliances. I'm getting a European brand in hopes that it might be designed better than our old ones. At least the washer has temperature control choices, so that's good. But here's the thing that is the hardest to take. These itty-bitty machines actually cost more money than the full sized ones. No matter how I look at it I can't avoid the rather ugly fact that I am paying more and getting less.

On a more positive note, the birds seem to be enjoying our feeders, which hang from a pole on our back deck.

I especially like our new suet feeder. The part that extends down is for woodpeckers to balance against while they eat. I'm hoping to get a picture of one before the winter is over with.

I love how low tech bird feeders are. The day they start putting motherboards into bird feeders is the day the birds around here go on a diet.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

In A Word

Sometime around the beginning of December I started to give serious thought to the word I was going to choose for the year 2014. This was going to be my first go at having a theme word for the year, and I wanted to get it right. The word needed to resonate with me. I wanted a word that would seem as fresh at the end of the year as it did at the beginning.

Like so many things in life, this seemed a difficult task right up until the moment it wasn't. I played around with several word ideas, but quickly discarded each one. There were only a few weeks left in the year and I was starting to think maybe this word thing wasn't such a brilliant idea after all. Then I read a piece by Clara Parkes in the Knitter's Review where she talked about the Danish concept of hygge.

To say I was excited would be the observational equivalent of saying I only have a few skeins of yarn in my stash. I had found my word for 2014! But it was more than that. I had discovered there's a word for something I have known about for many years. The reason I hadn't had a word before this is simply because I was searching in the wrong language.

Hygge is a Danish word that is hard to translate into English. The word cosy is sometimes used, but it falls short of conveying the true meaning of this Danish concept.  I like what this blogger has to say about hygge.

A love of or need for hygge is an important part of the Danish psyche. Hygge is usually inadequately translated as cosiness. This is too simplistic: cosiness relates to physical surroundings – a jersey can be cosy, or a warm bed - whereas hygge has more to do with people’s behaviour towards each other. It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment rolled into one.

Denmark is rated the happiest country in the world, and I'm sure their focus on hygge contributes to this. This doesn't mean the Danes go around in a state of euphoria and laugh their way through yet another appliance disaster (more on this in my next post). What it does mean is that they try and create a sense of hygge whenever possible. It is a priority, not something they put off for some day in the future when life is perfect and all their ducks are lined up in a row.

This "ducks in a row thing" is what keeps me from experiencing hygge more often in my own life, and it is the thing I'm going to be working on in 2014. No ducks. No rows. I want to strive for a sense of hygge each day this year. It might be crawling into cosy flannel sheets on a cold winter's night with a hot water bottle and a good mystery book. It might be sitting on my front porch and looking at the mountains. It might be visiting with a good friend. It might be sitting with a cup of tea and looking at knitting patterns. The possibilities are endless.

As I move through this year I hope to post every month on this word, and give you some examples from my life. In the past I have done some posts on Frugal Luxuries, and in some ways I think the essence of those posts comes very close to this idea of hygge. It isn't something money can buy. It's a way of experiencing the world and sharing that experience with those around you, and that would include all of you who read my blog.

On a knitting note, here's my final completed project for 2013, a pair of Cloisonne mittens, knit with some Cascade 220 Superwash I had in my stash. I love this pattern!