Saturday, March 29, 2014

Childhood Myths

I cracked open an egg the other day and it reminded me of my mom. That might sound a bit weird, so let me explain. You see, the egg had a tiny bit of red in it. When I was growing up if my mom cracked open an egg and found a bit of red in it she would freak out. The egg would instantly go into the garbage, and if she had been unfortunate enough to have cracked it directly into what she was making, the contents of the bowl went along with it. It wasn't until I was an adult and an owner of laying hens that I discovered that what my mom had taught me to be a truth was, in fact, a myth. Here, in no particular order, are some other myths from my childhood.

Myth #1

Margarine is a healthy choice. Butter is not. I held firmly to this one until about twenty years ago. My kitchen has been a margarine free zone for over two decades, but my mom still believes in the health benefits of margarine. She has made a small concession and buys butter for me before I come down to visit.

Myth #2

Eating a potato sprout is deadly poisonous. My mom was so paranoid about eyes in potatoes that by the time she got done cutting around one there was almost nothing left of the potato. Yes, potato sprouts do contain a toxin, but you would have to eat a lot of them to cause any harm.

Myth #3

If you eat undercooked pork you will get trichinosis. It turns out that trichinosis is actually extremely rare in North America. This is a recent discovery for me, and a welcome one. I no longer feel like I have to BBQ the pork chops until they resemble shoe leather.

Myth #4

Jello is a food. I grew up with Jello being served with great regularity. My Grandma Vera always served a Jello salad at family dinners. It was the kind that had cottage cheese added. I don't know if you are familiar with this culinary travesty. Trust me if you aren't - it's not a pretty sight.

However, not all the myths I was taught as a child revolved around food.

Myth #5

Putting your arm out as you jam on the brakes will prevent the child sitting next to you from being injured. I'm not sure how my mom thought her arm was going to keep me from going through the windshield if we got in an accident, but that didn't stop her from doing it. It became such a reflex action any time she had to brake quickly that she continued to do this long after we were grown up. Of course, this predates child car seats, so it wasn't like there was a better option. Well, except for keeping both hands on the steering wheel. That might have been helpful.

Myth #6

It is okay to dispense drugs without a licence. I grew up watching my mom hand out various prescription drugs to the neighbours. Our farming community was a long way from medical help, but still, my mom studied education at university, not pharmacy. She's lucky she didn't do any permanent damage (the lady she gave the tranquilizers to whose husband couldn't wake her up made a full recovery).

What is shocking is that even though my mom doesn't live on the farm any more people still seek her out for drugs. There has been an outbreak of Norwalk at her senior's apartment complex and she told me at least six different residents have called her asking if she had something she could give them. My mom must exude some kind of "medicine woman" aura.

Myth #7

Crawling under your desk at school will help protect you from a nuclear attack by the Soviets. While never put to a direct test, I think it's safe to say that this has been debunked. All that crawling under your desk is going to do is make you aware of how many previous students chewed gum during class.

There are many more, but I think I better stop there for now. What myths did you grow up believing?

And just so this isn't a pictureless post, here's another "hint of spring" picture, taken about twenty minutes from where we live. Today is a dark and brooding sort of day, but the daffodil field just coming into bloom certainly brightens things up!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Almost An Oops

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the comment section on my last post. If you like a good mystery series I encourage you to read through the comments. There are tons of ideas for shows to watch. I would also say, judging from the comments, there is one show you probably don't want to view. I had never heard of the film Seven before, and I definitely won't be adding it to my list.

I fully intended to have this post be about spring. There are so many signs of it everywhere, and I never get tired of spotting them. I discovered this in our neighbourhood this past weekend while walking Fergus. I think it's brilliant. It makes me want to start looking in the thrift shops to see if I can find an old rocking chair.

The cottage with the rocking chair also had this banner hanging off their back deck. I'm not usually a fan of banners, but this one made me smile.

A patch of sun on the floor is doggy bliss.

Even the latest teapot spotted on my hike looks a bit like spring.

And that is where today's post was going to end. Then I had my Almost Oops moment. My routine is to get up early, make a cup of tea, look at the news headlines, then read through the list of blogs I follow. When I got to Granny's World I couldn't believe Sue had finished yet another baby sweater. She is an incredibly fast knitter. And that thought almost got me into a lot of trouble.

You see, I am really quite a terrible typist. This feature is enhanced if I am in a hurry, which I was this morning. I quickly typed out a comment on Sue's blog, including the phrase that she is " the fastest knitter I know." Except, and this would be a big except, I had mistyped the word fastest. Just as my finger hovered over the "publish" button I did a quick check of what I had written. Or, in this case, what the auto-correct feature had rewritten. My comment now said that Sue was "the fattest knitter I know."

So I would like to issue an apology. If I have called you names, insulted your latest craft project, or said things that made you consider calling the police, I'm sorry. And if you have any auto-correct horror stories of your own I would love to hear about them. It would make me feel better to know I'm not the only one who has had an Oops or Almost Oops experience.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crime Show Confessions

Confession #1:

I have a weakness for a good mystery. I enjoy reading them, and I enjoy watching them. But even though I like them, I could never write one. After all, if you're writing a book it's always good to know how it's going to turn out. Since I can never figure out "whodunnit" before the end of the book/show I won't be dabbling in this genre any time soon.

Confession #2:

I just borrowed the first two seasons of Vera from the library. Vera is based on a series of books by Ann Cleeves. I've read the Shetland books by Ann Cleeves, but haven't picked up any of these, so can't say how the TV series compares to the books. However, I can say that I'm enjoying them. But here's my problem. The main character, Vera Stanhope, is played by actress Brenda Blethyn. She was the mother in the 2005 Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, which happens to be one of my knitting/comfort movies. I have watched it well over fifty times. This makes it hard for me to rid myself of the feeling that when Vera is having trouble solving a crime she is going to take to her bed with a case of nerves.

Confession #3:

Season 2 of Ripper Street has been downloaded on my computer for several weeks and I have yet to watch a single episode. The reason? I'm a chicken. It's still dark when I take Fergus out to walk right before he goes to bed and I have an overactive imagination. It's bad enough worrying about encountering a cougar. I don't want to add a serial killer to my list of fears.

Confession #4:

I just finished watching Season 2 of Bletchley Circle on Netflix. There is a scene where someone has been murdered and they are on the floor in a pool of blood. (I don't consider this to be a spoiler. Given the nature of the show you can pretty much deduce there is going to be at least one person who dies.) It was only as this scene came to a close that I realized the whole time I had been fixated on the man's Fair Isle vest. Never mind that the poor guy had just been violently murdered in his own home, all I was interested in was the pattern on his vest.

It isn't just this one character who has caught my knitterly attention either. The whole show is a gold mine of vintage knitwear. The women's sweaters are lovely. There's something about this early 1950s style that appeals to me. These pictures aren't the greatest, but hopefully they are clear enough to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

Confession #5:

This isn't the first time I have been inappropriately interested in knitwear. More than once I have found myself staring intently at a complete stranger's hat, and on a couple of occasions I have actually followed a person to get a closer look. From my perspective I'm just admiring the design and/or structure of what's plunked on top of their head. From their perspective I realize I fall somewhere on the spectrum between weirdo and stalker.

Confession #6:

I am at a loss for understanding why Sherlock only has three episodes in a season. Maybe it's for the best though. As much as I love this show, sometimes it makes me feel rather stupid. The scenes with Sherlock rapidly zipping through events in his head as he tries to figure something out stand in stark contrast to my head, which often can't remember what I was planning to make for dinner that evening, or what I walked into the room to get.

Confession #7:

I can't stand the actual crime scenes with all the blood and gore, so I turn my eyes away when those are on. Unless, of course, the victim is wearing a nice sweater or vest. The same applies for all morgue scenes.

What are your thoughts on crime dramas? Have you seen any good ones that I haven't mentioned in this post? If so, please share them in the comment section.

This has nothing to do with the rest of this post, but I thought I should include at least one cheerful picture. These are the socks I finished for the February instalment of my Self-Imposed Sock of the Month club. The yarn is from Trailing Clouds (she is the person who dyes that wonderful Mind the Gap self-striping yarn). This colourway is called Primary-Secondary.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Small Stuff

I'm not usually a fair weather walker. I don't mind going out when it is a bit rainy or windy. But for some reason it has been all I can do to make myself go out the door and into the elements the past couple of days. I think it was that first little hint of spring that I got earlier in the week that did me in. We had several days where the sun was not only shining, it was actually warm! I have been enjoying the crocus and snow drops that some of our neighbours have planted, and have made a mental note to be sure and put in some bulbs this fall. I'm anxious to get my garden boxes in and plant some seeds, and to take my kayak out on the lake for the first time this year. In other words, I'm done with winter.

Then the rain came. And it hasn't stopped. Three mornings a week I walk over to the gym that's in the basement of the recreation centre and do some weight/resistance training.  I do this not because I enjoy it, but rather to keep my bones from disintegrating as I get older. When I woke up Friday morning to the sound of rain pounding down outside the bedroom window I didn't care if my bones turned to powder. There was no way I was walking over to the gym in that deluge.

Saturday brought more rain, but there was a small window of opportunity mid-morning when the clouds turned from black to light grey, so I forced myself out the door. I was gritting my teeth as I did the rather steep climb at the beginning of the trail. It felt like hiking in a rain forest, only without the heat. Then I had an idea. I decided to change my perspective, and started looking around to see what small things I could notice as I was walking.

There were tree knots...

A stump wearing a fern wig (which, with all this rain, closely resembles my hair)...


And lichen...

It helped. Before I knew it I had reached the top and was heading back down the hill. The downside to my plan was I tripped several times. It's hard to be searching the woods for interesting bits and see the tree roots on the path at the same time. Just as I got back to my car the skies opened up. I must confess I felt quite smug for the rest of the day. I had managed to squeeze my walk into the only dry hour of the whole day.

This next bit has nothing to do with exercise, but goes with the general theme of small stuff. A friend and I are getting together in a couple of weeks to have a bunny bee. We are making the Miss Maggie Rabbits from Posie Rosy Little Things. This is something we have had planned for quite some time. Which sounds way better than saying we bought the kits almost a year ago and have put off making them until now. Cindy sews and I knit, so we have done a pre-bunny bee swap. She is sewing the dresses and I am knitting the shawls and jumpers. I finished the first wee jumper yesterday. I put my phone by it so you can get an idea of its size.

It was weird knitting this, having no idea what size the rabbit who will be wearing it is, since it doesn't yet exist. It's not like I can just shrug my shoulders and think, "Oh well, if it's too big the rabbit can just grow into it." Which is what I do when I knit something for my favourite "small stuff."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March Hygge

Hygge continues to be front and centre in my thinking. Even on the days whose only redeeming feature is getting to crawl into bed at night and cross them off the calendar, hygge has been on my mind. Of course, then it's more a case of thinking how unhygge the day has been, but still, it has me focused on the word. Here's a quote about hygge I had in my original post back in January.

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.

I like how it describes hygge as having to do with people's behaviour towards each other. One of the ways this manifests is in the giving and receiving of gifts. March has been a month of gifts, all of which were surprises. First of all, there was the giving of a gift. Remember the Tea Jenny hat I knit for my cousin Kath? Well, Kath came to visit me while I was down at my mom's so I was able to give her the hat in person instead of mailing it.

Have you ever given someone something that you knew they absolutely loved, something that you made for them hoping that would be the case? I think it is one of the nicest feelings in the world, like the goodness of tea and chocolate and sunshine and a good book all rolled into one moment. Of course, this is where the Danes show their brilliance. Instead of a string of words like I just used trying to describe that moment, they have one word, hygge, that says it all.

The other surprise gifts were ones I received rather than gave. I'm not sure if this makes me an incredibly selfish person, but I must confess I love getting gifts. The first surprise gift was actually last month. When I checked my email I had a notice from Amazon saying my friend Cindy had sent me the new Alexander McCall Smith book, The Forever Girl, as a birthday gift. I am about one third of the way through it and am really enjoying it.

When I was in Vegas Rebekah pulled a small bundle out of her backpack and handed to me. She had knit these sheep coasters for my birthday. I love these, and now have them spread around the cottage in all my tea drinking spots.

Then I got a parcel in the mail from Elginknitter (Ruth in Ontario), a long time reader of my blog. She happened to have two Aga stoves for her dollhouse, so she sent me the extra one. It's my first piece for my dollhouse, and since I have been dreaming of someday owning an Aga, it was the perfect "dollhouse warming" present.

This past week I went to visit my friend Ellen. Before I even had a chance to sit down she scurried off to her bedroom to get something. I knew she had been working on something for my birthday, because she had dropped a few hints here and there. I was totally unprepared for what she came back holding in hers arms though. She had made me a gorgeous lap quilt. I was speechless (this doesn't usually happen unless I'm in front of a crowd).

It looks so lovely in its spot on the window seat in my bedroom.

The backing is adorable!

It is actually much bigger than a lap quilt!

I'm pretty sure I had the same goofy grin on my face when Ellen gave me this quilt as Kath did when I gave her the hat. I think that's hygge, come full circle. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday Potluck

In the kitchen...

An oatmeal cookie and a cup of tea.

The thing that makes this special is the cookie actually tastes like an oatmeal cookie, not a mouthful of sawdust. Gluten-free baking can be a bit of a crapshoot, or at least it was until I found this cookbook last week when I was visiting my mom.

This book is brilliant because the people at America's Test Kitchen take only one thing into consideration when they craft their recipes, and that is taste. They don't care how many carbs the item has, what kind of flour substitutes are used, or how many calories are in each serving. Their recipes don't even pretend to be healthy. Their only guarantee is they taste good. There is a downside to all this goodness though. In the week I've been home I have already made the lemon pound cake, the chocolate chip cookies, and now the cranberry oatmeal cookies pictured above. I think someone needs to do an intervention. Or at least borrow my cookbook for a few weeks.

Out my window...

This Steller's Jay has made an appearance at our feeder. I know some people think they can be a nuisance, but I quite like them. They're wearing my favourite shade of blue.

The suet feeder we bought was specifically designed to attract woodpeckers. Last Sunday this female Downy Woodpecker paid a visit. She was sharing the feeder with one of the resident chickadees.

Then yesterday a male Downy showed up.

Out and about...

You'll notice from the bird feeder pictures that our snow has all melted away. This process has been helped by the buckets of rain that have been coming down all week. Frost Creek has been turned into a muddy torrent. I took this picture two days ago, before the Pineapple Express moved in. If the rain lets up I plan to walk back today to see how much higher the water is after this latest storm. I'm a sunshine kind of person, so all this rain is making me feel a bit unhinged.

The time change...

I am going to jump on the complainer's bandwagon. I really, really dislike the time change. (Note how carefully I worded that to make it family friendly.) It leaves me with the feeling of jet lag minus the wonderful holiday memories that should accompany it. I just don't understand why we keep doing this every year. I have lived in a place where the time stayed the same all year round. The earth didn't open up and swallow us whole. The CBC website has an article this morning about the time change. Did you know the risk of heart attacks increases by 10 per cent in the 48 hours after we spring forward? Or that there is a five to seven per cent increase in road fatalities in the first few days after the time changes?


Thank you for all your kind words about Strokkur. And thank you for all the fun comments on my post about Las Vegas. Thanks to you all I now know I was sitting "up in the gods" at Celine Dion, and that it was, indeed, a hummingbird moth. And just in case there was confusion about which one I was in the Budweiser picture, I'm the one on the right in the black jacket, not the one in the red dress on the left. :-)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I didn't have time to blog about my Olympics knitting project before I left for Las Vegas. I did manage to finish it two days before I drove to Spokane, but I wanted to wash and block it before I took pictures. I had originally planned to use some souvenir stash yarn from Scotland to knit a cabled sweater for my Olympic project. That plan got shelved the minute I saw this blog post by Ella Gordon.

I was still determined to use stash yarn, and remembered I had some Beaverslide I had purchased some time ago to knit Blaithin. (After hearing about the amount of finishing required for this sweater from a friend who knit the child's version, I had abandoned that project before it even got started.) I dug and dug and dug but could not find the yarn. It was sort of making me crazy. I knew I had it. My stash is fairly well organized. Yes, there are four tubs of yarn, but how hard could it be to locate multiple skeins of a distinctively coloured worsted weight yarn? When I finally did find it, a full three stash dives and a few bad words later, I realized why it had been so difficult to spot. Hint: when you reuse oversize Ziplock plastic bags to store your yarn, scratch out the permanent marker with the name of the previous contents on it.

Once I found the yarn I checked and double checked the yardage requirements. According to my calculations I had about 100 more yards than I needed. I cast on with confidence. That confidence held until about halfway through the second sleeve. Suddenly it was looking like I had a lot more knitting to do, as in the whole yoke and the neck, and not very much yarn to do it with. I fretted. I tried to tell myself all would be well. Then I fretted some more. I'm not very good at playing yarn chicken.

Finally, after another day and a lot more yarn had been consumed, I caved. I knew I had just barely enough time to order one extra skein (thankfully, Beaverslide still had the same dye lot available), and have it shipped to my mom's. I could finish the sweater the day I got down and still get my self-awarded Olympic Gold Medal. I breathed a knitter's sigh of relief and knit on. Then something strange happened. For the first, and probably only time in my life, I was annoyed to find out I really had had enough yarn to finish the sweater. Just barely. But there had been enough. This meant I had spent money on a skein of yarn I didn't need, and the Express Post fee to go along with it.

So here, sandwiched between the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics, is my Strokkur, a design by Ysolda Teague.

The sweater turned out to be a perfect fit. I count this more as luck than skill. No matter what needle size I tried I simply couldn't get gauge. In the end I went with the gauge I was actually getting and going down a size in the pattern to compensate.

This was my first time knitting a Ysolda Teague pattern, but it won't be the last. She is a brilliant designer, and the pattern was well-written. Here's a close-up of the colourwork in the yoke.

I am so happy with this sweater I'm willing to let go of my annoyance over ordering that extra yarn. I have a skein of cranberry Beaverslide too, and I'm sure with the extra blue skein and the leftover green and white there must be something I can make for Lucy. I would love to hear your suggestions!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

What Happens In Vegas

I think my mom's 80th birthday trip to Las Vegas was everything she hoped it would be. Kellen, Rebekah, my brother John, and my sister-in-law Cheri were there to share the adventure with us. That's the really great thing about family - you can be in the middle of the desert and still have a great time.

My mom loves lobster, so for part of her birthday present my brother and I treated her to a lobster dinner.

We took in the bright lights of The Strip.

There was some gambling. My mom loves the penny machines.

We went to two shows. The first was Celine Dion. Celine is the cilantro of the performing arts world. People either seem to love her or hate her. I happen to love her voice, and thought the show was terrific. One thing Rebekah noted when we were all together was how thrifty we are as a family. She's right of course. Most of what we did was free, or cost very little. The shows in Vegas aren't cheap, but John and Cheri had managed to find a very good deal on the Celine tickets. I took this picture when we got to our seats. It illustrates our thriftiness quite nicely. In Canada there is an expression for the seats at the top of the hockey arena. They are called "nosebleed seats." I'm not sure what you call seats that are beyond the nosebleed range.

The Colosseum at Caesars Palace was almost full by the time the show started. It holds around 4000 people. I find it quite amazing that this show sells out night after night, year after year. The other show we saw was a ventriloquist named Terry Fator. He was very funny. I think he would have been even funnier had I not had an allergic reaction to something I ate at dinner and been so sleepy from the Benadryl I ended up having to take. He performed in a smaller venue, so our thrifty seats were close enough we could have gotten a nosebleed if he had used a puck instead of puppets.

We stayed at a hotel called Treasure Island.

It was in a good location, but one of its best features was the fact it had complimentary wheelchairs. That allowed us to take in much more than we would have been able to if my mom had had to walk.

If I was asked for one word to describe Vegas, it would be artificial. There is everything from a replica of the Eiffel Tower, to an exploding volcano, to soaps that look like cupcakes.

Of course, there were some real things as well. The palm trees were beautiful. I hadn't realized there were so many different varieties! We were fascinated with these huge moths. I'm not sure, but I think they might be hummingbird moths.

As we were walking through one of the casinos there was a crowd gathering, so we went to see what they were looking at. It turned out to be one of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses! When they saw my mom at the side in her wheelchair they led the horse over to her so she could pet it. You can see the Clydesdales in this Budweiser commercial from the last Super Bowl.

The first of two surprising things that happened to me while I was in Vegas was ending up on the Bud Light Facebook page.

The second surprise wasn't quite as pleasant. When going through security at the Las Vegas Airport on the way home they indicated I should go to the line for the full body screening. I asked how I could get in the other line - the one for the regular screening. They immediately shouted out "We have an opt out." A female TSA agent came over, escorted me to the side, put on gloves, and gave me a pat down. As she was patting me down she commented on how easy it was to do since I was wearing such plain clothes. I had on a long-sleeved Merino wool shirt (we were heading back to winter conditions in Spokane) and a pair of cords. It's about as fashionable as I get. Oh well. I'm glad I was able to make her job a little bit easier.

Now I am back home, and we are in the midst of a snowstorm. It's hard to believe that just a few days ago we were surrounded by sunshine, palm trees, slot machines and the bright lights of Vegas. I'm so glad we were able to do this trip with my mom. We might not have hit the jackpot in terms of gambling, but we certainly did in terms of having a great birthday celebration!