Saturday, May 31, 2014

May Hygge

I've been thinking a lot about community lately, and how it relates to the Danish concept of hygge. The Oxford online dictionary defines community as "a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common."

For most of my life I have been a part of some very closely knit communities. Many of those have fallen into the first part of that definition - communities of place. I grew up in a farming community where neighbours would pitch in and help each other out. A few years ago when I was down visiting my mom we watched a story on the local evening news about a farmer who died in the middle of the harvest season. The footage showed dozens farmers and combines from all over the area showing up to finish cutting the wheat for this family. This happened just a few miles from our old family farm.

There is nothing like the comfort and caring that comes from someone showing up at your door in a time of crisis, casserole or pot of soup in hand. I have been on the receiving end of this kind of community care several times. There was the casserole that a friend brought the day after Jay returned from Romania with Alexandra, the soup and buns that were delivered a couple years later when Alexandra was flown to BC Children's Hospital by air ambulance, and the many offers of help from our neighbours in Richmond when Jay became ill. These are just a few examples from decades of living amongst people who care about each other.

Not all the communities I have been a part of have revolved around a place. Some fall into the second part of that definition - they are communities where the members have a shared interest. Blogging would be one of those. I feel a great sense of community here in my little corner of the blogging world. We bloggers seem to share a love of writing, seeing different places, and meeting new people. While I drink my morning tea I can visit Australia, Tasmania, Ireland, Norway, France, Costa Rica, the UK, multiple states and provinces, and many other spots around the globe.

There are many other ways I experience a sense of community, but the one I want to focus on for this post is knitting. For many years people have been gathering together with their needles and yarn.

Now, thanks to the Internet, the knitting community has expanded beyond our own neighbourhoods. There are knitting blogs, and of course, there's Ravelry. It might seem odd to think of a community of knitters, so I will give a few examples from this past week so you can see what I mean.

When Kate Davies came out with her latest design, a Hap for Harriet, I wanted to try knitting it. But the thing is, I'm not a lace knitter. I emailed Jean and she wrote back, assuring me I could do it. Then, out of the blue, I got an email from someone I didn't know. It turns out this person is a knitter who reads Jean's blog, and she had read that I was nervous about casting on this project. She is knitting it herself, and very generously offered to send me copies of the row charts she had made to keep track of where she is as she knits. It's sort of the virtual equivalent of someone showing up at your door with a casserole.

Then on Tuesday I had a chance to meet up with Lynne from the blog The Sock Lady Spins. I've been reading Lynne's blog for years, and admiring her amazing colourwork socks and gloves. She was traveling south and was going to be driving through Chilliwack. We met at Tim Horton's at 1:00, and spent the next two hours talking non-stop. Lynne showed me some of the gloves she has recently knit.

Then an amazing thing happened. Lynne pulled out some socks. She had knit wee socks for Lucy, and these incredible knee socks for me!

The knee socks were knit with yarn she spun and dyed herself. I'm torn between wearing them and framing them to hang on my wall. Here we are together. I should point out the Tim Horton's employee who took our picture was also a knitter, and had come over to admire Lynne's work.

The odd thing is, as much as I love where we now live, I don't feel that same sense of community here as I have in other places we have lived. The reason I say it's odd is because this place is promoted as being a cottage community. Maybe it's due to the fact many people are only at their cottages on weekends and holidays (only 10% of the cottages have year-rounders like us). Or maybe it's because many of them have owned their cottages since the development first started and already have established groups of friends. Whatever the reason, I have to admit it's a bit lonely here. But that just makes me appreciate the community I have through blogging, and knitting, and my friends in far away places that much more.

A warm welcome to all the new readers and followers here at North of 49. If you want to find out more about hygge you can find my previous posts here: January, February, March and April.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Five Things I Forgot

I think I need to do some serious brain decluttering. Multiple times over the past few weeks I have forgotten something that I used to know. Actually, I think I still do know these things, it's just that so many other things have entered my brain since I filed these bits of information that they are now "old news." Buried like yesterday's headlines.

  1. I used to live in Vancouver. I know it rains a lot in this corner of British Columbia. Yet somehow the fact it has been pouring for two straight days has taken me by surprise. I wish some of Jennifer's attitude about the rain would rub off on me.
  2. I know I can't blow-dry my hair unless I am going to be pulling it back into a ponytail. There is something very bad that happens when I apply heat to my curls. So why did I think it would be any different this morning? Somehow the fact that it's wet and cold outside shoved this important piece of information to the dark recesses of my mind. Now I look deranged.
  3. I always check the dog poop bags before using them just to be sure they don't have a hole. This is a very important thing to remember when you are a dog owner. So why, oh why, did I forget to check the bag a couple days ago when I was out walking Fergus? As an aside, I would also like to know why the one time I forgot to check was the only time there has been a hole? 
  4. I use green cardamom pods approximately once every two or three years. I came across a recipe this week that I want to make that uses them, so picked up a package at the store. I was surprised by how pricey they were, and also by how many were in the packet - way more than I would ever use in a lifetime. Well, make that two lifetimes. While digging through my spices this weekend trying to find something else (another sad story, but I'll spare you the details), guess what I found? The saddest part of this whole thing is that now I can't remember what recipe I was going to make that called for the green cardamom pods.
  5. Forgetting something, then being reminded of it again, can also be a positive experience. It has been many years since we have had a hummingbird feeder up. It was so windy when we lived in Kamloops that the hummingbird juice would get blown all over the back deck, so we didn't put one up. And prior to that we were in Richmond, and our backyard there wasn't really suitable due to some huge trees. Now we are in the perfect spot to have a hummingbird feeder, and I had forgotten how much fun it is to see these little birds zoom around the yard, and jockey for a place at the feeder. Yesterday I counted seven, and they managed to empty the feeder by nightfall.

If you have a list of five (or ten, or twenty?) things that you have forgotten I would love to read it. And thank you to everyone who commented on my post about the letters I received from the Grade 3 class. I even got a comment from the Grade 3 class themselves! I'll come back to the subject of my book, and answer a few questions that have been asked about it, in a future post. If I remember...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Best Letter Ever!

A few days ago when I pulled the mail out of the box I was surprised to see that mixed in with the bills and advertisements was a real letter. What I mean by a real letter is the old-fashioned kind, with a stamp and handwritten address on the front. Part of the surprise was looking at it and thinking, with a fair amount of nostalgia, that it had been ages since I last received a letter in the mail. The other part of the surprise was looking at the return address and realizing I didn't have a clue who it was from.

I opened the stuffed envelope the minute I got back to the cottage, totally unprepared for what spilled out. I'm going to step aside now and let the contents tell the rest of the story. (For privacy reasons I have hidden names and addresses, but other than that will keep the letters in their original forms.)

Dear Kristie,

Wow! What a great book! My sister-in-law recommended Ting Ting to read to my grade 3 class. My students and I absolutely loved the story.

Thankfully I read the book on my own first so that I didn't cry too much while I read it aloud to them. My class is in an inner city Toronto neighbourhood. There are only a few families in our school who have immigrated from China but 95% of our population has immigrated in the past generation or two from other countries. So, needless to say my students connected greatly to Ting.

My favourite part of reading the book aloud to the kids was that when we'd finish a chapter they'd pipe up, "No, keep reading!"

A couple of students have written you notes. They are not hugely detailed. Unfortunately they can be hesitant writers at times but they all really enjoyed reading Ting Ting.

Thanks again for an amazing book. Please keep writing.


Dear Kristie Hammond,

I really enjoyed your book called Ting Ting. My favourite part was when Ting loved donuts like me. I have some questions for you. Can you make a book with my name in the story? Can I be the main character in the story? Please! Let me know when you're done! Thanks a lot if you let me in your new book. My name is D. 

From, D.

Dear Kristie,

I think the Book Ting ting is amazing Book.
I love that Book.
Do you mind coming to our school S?
I think my class will love that.
thank you again for writing that Amazing Book for the wrold.
Make another Book.
I am so exsited to read it.


Dear Kristie,

I really like your book Ting Ting. It showed how she felt in Vancouver, Canada. Will you write a book continued from the previous one? Is Ting Ting real? Next time, will you write another book? Anyways you're an amazing author. Also keep trying your best to write cool books. 

From, S.
Signature, S.

Dear Kristie Hammond,

What is the next title of your book? Now we're reading Anne of Green Gables.
We're on Chapter 6.
We just finished reading Ting Ting.
My favourite part of the story is when Ting Ting begged her mom to go and watch the show Anne of Green Gables but she said we don't have money. 
That was my favourite part of the story.
I thought it was funny.

From H.

They were the most heartwarming, endearing letters I have ever received, and I have to admit I shed a few tears. The idea that my book touched the hearts of a class of children, many of them immigrants just like Ting, makes me one very happy author.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ten Random Things

Annie over at Knitsofacto started the Ten Random Things posts that seem to be popping up everywhere, like here and here and here. I love random things, so thought I would join in.

1.  I grew up in Idaho but went to school from kindergarten to grade 12 in Washington. Our farm was
a few miles from the border, and the closest school was just across the state line. This meant my parents had to drive us to school and we didn't get to take the school bus like all the other country kids. I always felt a little bit cheated by that.

2. I used to play the clarinet in the school band. I think there was a collective sigh of relief around the world when I quit. I'm not very musical. 

3. I think the most important trait to have is kindness.

4. We have a vaulted ceiling in the living room, with a fan and light at the very top. I have no clue how we are going to change that light bulb when it dies. 

5. Nothing could ever inspire me to knit intarsia. Not even Lucy.

6. Today is Victoria Day here in Canada. I had never heard of Victoria Day until we planned our wedding. We needed to pick a date that worked for Jay's family to drive down to our farm from Vancouver, and the Victoria Day weekend was suggested. That was a long time ago. We celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary tomorrow.

7. I can ride a pogo stick.

8. I am not an insecure person, but I am an insecure writer. I often wonder why that is. And why, if I feel that way, I keep writing. I must also be a glutton for punishment.

9. I have a stash of huckleberries in my freezer. I will share most things, but not these. My mom buys me a gallon of them every summer when they are in season. I love the flavour, and more than that I love the memories of my childhood they bring back every time I bite into one.

10. My husband is an expert at identifying wildflowers. Not only can he name almost every wildflower that grows in British Columbia, he can also tell you the Latin name and what the plant was traditionally used for. Due to health reasons he no longer goes out traipsing in the woods, so when I get stuck identifying one I take a picture and ask him what it is when I get home. I didn't need his help on this one though. The thimbleberry bushes are in bloom. I am looking forward to being able to walk out my door and pick a handful of these yummy berries later this summer. They are almost as good as huckleberries.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Home Again

The drive home from my mom's was uneventful, which is always the best kind of drive to have. I finished listening to Louise Penny's book A Fatal Grace as I made my way across Washington State, which killed two birds with one stone. (Has this become a politically incorrect expression?) First of all, it helped pass the time during the seven and a half hour trip. Secondly, it got me caught up in the Chief Inspector Gamache Re-Read.

Yesterday was spent playing catch-up. It's one of life's great mysteries to me how I can go away for five days and have it take two days to get caught up on things when I get home. In the afternoon I decided to go hike Teapot Hill. It's a good workout, and I decided I could spare the hour it takes to do the walk. It was quite a surprise to be greeted by a new sign at the start of the trail.

Residents of BC tend to develop an immunity to bear warning signs. We frequently see generic signs warning us bears populate the same places we do. The rough translation of those signs is "there could be bears here, so be on the lookout." That isn't what this sign means. This one is saying "there is a bear here." I looked around the parking lot and saw quite a few other vehicles, so decided it would be fine. However, I did make a mental note to bring my walking stick the next time I came.

About halfway up the hill I was happy to spot a new teapot.

I continued on for another five or ten minutes and was just about to get to the last steep bit of trail before reaching the top, when two young women came running down the trail. Their eyes were huge, and they were doing that nervous, semi-hysterical kind of laugh that happens after a near miss. They said they had heard a noise in the bush next to them and thought it was a large dog. It started running at them and that's when they realized it wasn't a dog - it was the bear!

Here's the pathetic part of this story. They hurried on down the trail, while I stood there for several minutes weighing out my options. Should I or shouldn't I? I had spent much of the past five days sitting in my vehicle and/or sitting in my mom's apartment. I'm not very good at sitting, and had really been looking forward to the workout I get at the last bit of the trail. The part I was just approaching. The part with the bear. In the end common sense won out, but only just barely. I turned around and headed back down. I'll wait until next week to go back. By then the bear will have moved on, either on its own or with some help from a conservation officer.

I'm happy to report that on the knitting front I am sticking to my pledge to only knit plain vanilla socks.

I love Opal self-patterning yarn, and when I look at these I wonder why I even bother knitting socks with complicated patterns when the yarn can do all the work for me!

Monday, May 12, 2014

It's Lucy Time!

I'm in Spokane visiting my mom right now. We're having a great visit, made even better by the extra visitors that arrived on Saturday. Before I get to that bit I have a couple of stories to share with you. The day before I got here my mom went to her hairdresser. This might not seem like a big deal, but in my mom's case it is. Her hairdresser, the one she insists is the only one that can do her hair properly, is an hour's drive away, near where my parents had their farm. Add to this the fact my mom's driving is sketchy at the best of times and, well, you can see why something a simple as a haircut and perm can be a cause for concern.

When I got here Friday afternoon my mom proceeded to tell me about her adventure the day before. She said towards the end of her appointment the hairdresser started talking strangely. Then when my mom got to her car and was having a hard time focusing it slowly dawned on her the problem wasn't the hairdresser, it was her. My mom is diabetic and her blood sugar had gone extremely low. Instead of going back into the shop and asking for help, she dug around in he purse to find something to eat. She finally discovered a Halloween size packet of M&Ms, ate them, then started driving back to Spokane. She said the next thing she remembered was "waking up" and realizing she had missed the turn-off for Spokane and was partway to Couer d'Alene.

Then Saturday morning we headed out to do some errands, one of which was to fill up my mom's gas tank. My mom has never filled her own tank. Because, thankfully, she doesn't drive very much (please refer to the paragraph above), she somehow manages to make it until my brother or I come to visit before she needs more gas. I'm more than happy to gas up my mom's car. What I'm not so happy about is the fact she won't let me adjust the rear view mirror or side mirrors because she doesn't know how to put them back where she needs them.

In order to see out the rear view mirror I have to lean my head against the side window and scrunch down a few inches. When I point out to my mom this makes it rather difficult to back out of her garage stall, she tells me to just go straight and not turn the wheel and I'll be okay. I counter with the fact that I still need to make sure there's nobody behind me, and my mom passes on more driving advice. "Just go. That's what I do. I figure if someone is there they'll see me and stop."

Saturday afternoon we had visitors from Victoria! Karsten is on holiday for a couple weeks, and they decided to spend some of that time on the Oregon coast. When they found out I was going to be in Spokane this weekend they decided it would be nice to swing by on their trip to Oregon so my mom could see Lucy. I don't think my mom could have had a better Mother's Day present! Here they are getting reacquainted.

Almost every picture I took was blurry. This baby never stops moving!

She loved exploring around her great grandma's apartment.

Getting Lucy to pose for pictures is not easy...

Maybe the trick is to let her take selfies...

I'm fairly certain that any baby who is more interested in yarn than food is going to be a knitter...

Early exposure can't hurt...

This morning Lucy heads off to Oregon, and my mom and I have a few more errands to run before I head home tomorrow. I'm not sure we'll get everything checked off our list, but I do know this. I will be driving, and we will be in my own vehicle.


My mom just asked me what my blog post was about. Oops...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Slow Learners

When I went down to the communist garden plot this past week I was surprised to see the local population had expanded.

My first reaction was, "Oh, look at the goslings! They're so cute!" I mean, how could anyone not like these sweet little yellow fluff balls?

But then I remembered something. Those little fluff balls will, in a matter of months, turn into full grown Canadian geese. And that's a problem. You see, these geese were introduced to the area around our cottage a number of years ago when Stanley Park was being overrun by the birds. Their solution was to relocate them to where we live. When will the Powers That Be figure out it almost never works to introduce animals into a new area?

These geese are aggressive, and if it wasn't for the two swans that have been brought in to discourage geese from nesting at the pond there would be more than we already have. How aggressive are these geese? Well, I call this Mother Goose the bridge troll. She built her nest right by the little wooden bridge and attacks anyone who passes by. Last week a male goose attacked one of the garden club members - it flew straight into her head!

So now we have a goose problem, and, no surprise here, Stanley Park is still overrun as well. Oh, and those swans that were introduced to scare away the geese? They are even more vicious, and the community has had to add on liability insurance to cover any lawsuits that could result from someone being attacked by one of them. There wasn't such a thing as an aggressive swan rider, so they have been listed as vicious dogs. Slow learners, all the way around.

I've had my own run-in with a bout of slow learneritis. (Auto-correct wants to fix that word, but I'm not going to. If it doesn't already exist I think it should.) Last week I took out all the knitting projects I have on the go and lined them up on the window seat. This was followed by a feeling not unlike one gets about twenty minutes after ingesting a huge amount of sugar. I felt awful. How did I let things get so out of hand? I phoned a friend and her advice was to quickly put some of the projects back in their hiding places. I did put away one project, but left the others there to guilt me into action.

I took stock and decided things had gone off track when I started knitting patterned socks for my regular sock knitting. I know better. I have run into this problem before. I always have a pair of socks on the go. They are my easy, relaxing knitting, and I usually just knit plain old socks. (By plain, I mean the pattern is basic, not the yarn itself.)

For some reason last fall I had started a pair of Hermoine's Everyday Socks instead of sticking to my regular routine. I got as far as one sock being completed and the ribbing on the second finished before they got set aside. Then, because I really am a slow learner, for my March Self-Imposed Sock of the Month Club instalment I decided to knit some Jaywalkers. Again, I stalled after one sock.

So for the past two weeks I have gritted my teeth, stayed completely away from the other things I have on the needles, and made myself finish these two projects. I'm happy to say that the Hermoine socks are finished.

And before the end of today the Jaywalkers should be done as well.

From now on if I do socks that involve any kind of thinking they are going to be put in my other category of knitting and not be counted as sock knitting. For me knitting socks is sort of like a beach read, and nobody in their right mind would take War and Peace to the beach. And how crazy is it to feel depressed and overwhelmed by your own hobby? Am I the only person who falls into this trap? Please tell me I'm not alone!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Memory Lane

Two things this week have brought back some fond memories of when my kids were little. The first was my weekly trip to Hofstede's Country Barn in nearby Chilliwack. I was surprised to see a bin of fiddleheads along with the more regular vegetable offerings like eggplant, broccoli and carrots.

Even more surprising than seeing the fiddleheads for sale was seeing what they cost. (I'm going to refrain from going off topic and discussing that apostrophe.)

Who would pay this for something you can go out and pick for free in the local woods? I took some pictures and texted them to Karsten and Kellen, telling them they had missed out on a business opportunity when they were younger.

For the best part of their childhood years, the ones where they were old enough to be outside on their own but not yet so old I had to force them out the door for fresh air, we lived in a log house in the woods. It was a truly amazing property, and if you asked the boys where their best childhood memories are based this is the place they would name. (The girls were too young when we lived there to remember very much about it, and we hadn't yet adopted David.)

And if you asked them what their favourite activity was when we lived there I'm pretty sure they would both say Fiddlehead Wars. It was one of those elaborately concocted childhood schemes that had spoken and unspoken rules. It basically boiled down to flinging the ferns at each other in such a way that they would sting when they hit the other person. Early spring was the best time for the game because the stick part of the newly sprouted ferns packed way more punch than the later full grown ones. The reason I told the boys they had missed a business opportunity is because they would pop off the curled heads like the ones you see in the picture above - the ones they are charging $14.99/lb for - and throw them on the forest floor since the ferns launched better without them.

The second thing that brought back a flood of memories has to do with pandas. When Karsten was little he had a stuffed panda that he loved. It went everywhere with him, and by the time he outgrew it, it was a rather pathetic looking creature. Over the years I sewed numerous eyes back on and replaced the mouth multiple times. It had matted fur, and the stuffing had congealed into oddly placed lumps dotted around the bear's body. His feelings for Panda were very much a case of love being blind.

Just before last Christmas I was in IKEA and saw they had some panda bears. Now, I had made a vow to myself that I wouldn't buy Lucy a bazillion stuffed animals, but I couldn't seem to stop myself. This panda was soft and cute and, best of all, washable. I thought of Karsten as a little boy and how much he loved his Panda and thought he would appreciate the gesture if I bought one for Lucy. Now I didn't for a minute think Lucy would take to this panda the way Karsten had taken to his. It turns out I was wrong.

She loves her Panda every bit as much as her dad loved his. In fact, she loves it so much that she won't go to sleep without it. A decision was made. Spare pandas needed to be purchased as back-ups. Yesterday I came home from IKEA with an embarrassment of pandas. There's one to stay here, one for their car, and two "just in case."

Here they are, joined by the Panda that started it all.

Panda has been given a bath and as soon as he is dry I will put him back in the drawer where he now lives.

But before I do that I think I'll look for some black felt and sew on a new nose. :-)