Thursday, June 26, 2014

Quick, Quick, Quick

Our English guests are here and I only have a few minutes before we need to pack a picnic lunch and head out for the day. I thought a short post would be better than no post at all, so here goes. I picked John and Gill up in Spokane and we headed directly to Kath's home on Lake Pend Oreille in Northern Idaho. At the end of our time with them in Wales last September Kath had issued the invitation, so it was fun to see it actually happen. Here we are, along with Kath's husband Jack.

The visit included an introduction to both kayaking and s'mores, along with tons of great food. I warned John and Gill that unfortunately there was going to be a downgrade in hospitality when they got to our home here at Cultus Lake. Kath spoiled all of us.

Monday was the long drive from Kath's home to ours. We did manage to see a few interesting things along the way. This is a viewpoint overlooking the Columbia River.

We've been up Teapot Hill.

Here's John imitating a teapot.

There's been more kayaking, and when we were out we spotted this mother merganser and her duckling. I wish I had been able to get a better picture. The duckling was adorable - it had spots on its back, and when we got close the mother had the duckling jump on her back to protect it.

That has me caught up, and now I need to go throw some lunches together. I'll be back in a few days, and hope to catch up on my blog reading then too.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Almost One!

I've just returned from a quick trip over to Victoria, and I can't believe how grown-up Lucy has become since I saw her last month! This has resulted in a few changes in their house, which now resembles a fortress.

Lucy loves the outdoors, and we went for several walks and one longer hike while I was there. Child backpacks have definitely improved since I used one with Karsten when he was a baby. Here's Lucy playing Peekaboo with me while Karsten adjusted the straps on this Cadillac Carrier.

For the hike we drove out towards Sooke and took the coastal path to Beechey Head. I loved these old pilings in the water. I have no idea what they were for, or if they are still used.

We saw lots of bull kelp floating in the water.

There were flowers along the trail. Some were growing on the rocks.

Others were hidden in the grass.

My favourite sighting of the day was this lizard. We actually saw several, but this was the only one that would sit still long enough to take a picture of. It was like trying to get a picture of Lucy!

We're almost to Beechey Head, but Lucy needed to stop for a snack.

We made it! You can see the Olympic Peninsula in the distance.

All that hiking tired her out!

Now I'm back home, but only for a day. Tomorrow I drive down to Spokane, then on Saturday I pick up our English friends John and Gill, and we are heading to my cousin Kath's house for a "Welsh reunion." After that John and Gill are coming up to our cottage for a week, and we will be exploring the area with them. Even though we'll be busy, I'm sure I'll still have time to miss this little munchkin.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Spinach, Swans and the Plot

The communist garden plot is coming along nicely. So far I have harvested rhubarb, lettuce and spinach. Sadly, the asparagus crop was a disappointment. The asparagus spears were thin - many of them not any thicker than the double pointed needles I use for knitting socks. I think the bed needs another year to get fully established.

The artistic members of our garden committee, along with some help from their grandchildren, painted these rocks to mark the rows.

This Mr. Potato Head marker is my favourite.

However, this is the one I want to talk about.

Last week I picked some lettuce and spinach, washed it, and put it in a bag in the fridge. I have a fair amount of lettuce from my own garden boxes, so didn't get around to eating this mix until Tuesday night. Within minutes of having dinner I started to feel unwell, and continued to feel horrible for the rest of the night. In fact, I felt exactly the way I do if I eat quinoa. But the thing was, I hadn't eaten any quinoa.

When I got up the next morning I decided to do some Googling. I had remembered a couple months earlier feeling like this after eating a spinach and chicken salad for dinner. At the time I thought it might have been because the spinach had been sprayed with something (it was the tub of organic baby spinach from Costco, but you never know). It put me right off buying spinach at the store, so I haven't eaten much spinach since then.

I was shocked when I read the Wikipedia article saying quinoa is closely related to beetroots, spinach and tumbleweeds. I checked some other sources to confirm this, and yes, it's true. How weird is this? How do allergies suddenly pop up in one's life? I think it's interesting that tumbleweeds are also in that list of things related to quinoa. I had horrible environmental allergies when we lived in Kamloops, and tumbleweeds are a part of the landscape there. Did constant exposure to them set me up for these allergies? All I know is I will now avoid spinach like the plague, which is too bad because I love spinach. Has anyone else had this happen - developing an allergy in adulthood? It has left me feeling rather reluctant to try the other thing listed as related to quinoa - beets. I feel like my world will be just a little bit smaller though without the possibility of a good bowl of borscht.

While I was focused on taking pictures, one of the two resident swans decided to come over and investigate. He/she stood just on the other side of the gate and would not budge. These signs aren't kidding.

When the swan attacked me last winter I had jeans on, so no real damage was done. This time I had on shorts, so there was no way I was going to try to get past it.

It took a full five minutes for that bird to decide to move. It could have at least had the decency to look up so I could get a good picture!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Garter Gutter

Back in March a sweater pattern popped up on Ravelry that looked like it would be fun to knit. I had the perfect yarn in my stash, so immediately cast on. There were a couple of things about this sweater that I liked. The first was the fact it was garter stitch. I was in the mood for a bit of garter stitch. The second thing it had going for it was its unique construction. 

You cast on enough stitches to take you from one wrist to the other, and knit back and forth until you got to the part where you had to do some shaping for the armholes. It was a lot of garter stitch. Miles and miles of it. Enough to dampen even the most enthusiastic knitter's will to knit on. But knit on I did. I was rather proud of myself as I cast off the stitches for the arm shaping and put the remainder on waste yarn. I was finally able to stretch out my work and check to see if the size was right.

Bad news. Very, very bad news. Unless you were a double arm amputee. When I held it up to me, rather than stretching from wrist to wrist, it went from just below elbow to just below elbow. I could have wept. (To give you an idea of how much knitting had gone into this, what I was holding was the equivalent of a garter stitch scarf in length and width.)

I immediately assumed it was my fault. I checked my gauge again, thinking this had to be the source of the problem, but it was spot on. I read and reread the instructions, trying in vain to figure out where I had gone wrong. Try as I might, I couldn't figure it out. I went to bed with a severe case of knitter's gloom. Then, in the middle of the night, I woke up and started doing some mental math. Wait a minute! When I divided the number of cast on stitches by the stitches per inch it didn't even come close to the measurements given in the pattern schematic. Someone had made a mistake, but it was starting to look like it might not be me. And yes, waking up and thinking about knitting in the middle of the night is perfectly normal behaviour.

First thing in the morning I emailed the pattern designer. To her credit, within a few hours she had emailed me back saying that in spite of the extensive testing and proofreading that had been done, there had been a mistake with the gauge requirement. Okay. I accept that there are going to be mistakes in knitting patterns. I can handle a mistake in a chart or some other similar non-project threatening error. But gauge? To put this in perspective for all my non-knitting readers this would be like buying a new car and the manual telling you it runs on diesel when it's really supposed to run on gas. Your new car is toast from the moment you put diesel in the tank. That was this sweater. Doomed from the moment I cast on.

Part of me wanted to have a hissy fit. Sort of like my dad the time the fertilizer company applied the wrong product to one of his fields and ruined the crop. My dad, who was known for his kindness and generosity, totally lost it. He stood in the middle of the field yelling at the poor rep from the fertilizer company. In that moment the enormity of the mistake, and the inability of the company to own up to it, turned my dad into something he usually wasn't. A raving lunatic. I think the thing that kept me from going over that edge was the fact the designer owned up to the problem and apologized. 

There was no way I was starting over again. That sweater and I were finished. However, I really liked the yarn, and I still wanted to do something in garter stitch. That's when it came to me. I needed something dependable, a pattern I could trust, with maybe a bit less knitting involved. In other words, what I needed to knit was Elizabeth Zimmermann's Rib Warmer Vest.

This is my third Rib Warmer, and definitely my favourite. These vests are perfect for cool spring or fall days, and they have a bit of that retro hippie look that appeals to me. I have the DVD from Schoolhouse Press, and part of the fun is knitting along with Meg (Elizabeth's daughter) as she takes you through each step.

It seemed a little strange putting on jeans and a wool vest on a warm, almost summer day in order to take these pictures.

I'm not crooked. It was the photographer.

The colour is more accurate in the pictures of me wearing the vest, but you can see the details better in the pictures below.

Thank you for all the comments you left on my Fergus Friday post. I think I've turned the corner with this cold, and hopefully in a few day will feel 100% again. In the meantime it gives me an excuse to get some extra knitting and tea drinking in during the day. Please feel free to share your own knitting/crafting horror stories. It would make me feel better to know I'm not alone.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Fergus Friday, June 6

My energy levels are pretty low right now, thanks to the cold I've managed to pick up. I've decided about all I can manage is another Fergus Friday post. If only I could be like Fergus today - napping most of the day, having someone else serve me my food, and generally being waited on hand and foot. Oh well, I'm definitely better than yesterday, when I felt like I had been run over by a truck. Today I feel like it was just a small car that knocked me down.

I've been thinking about how odd it is that the same traits in Fergus that are quite endearing are considered to be totally obnoxious in a human. Let's start with his sense of entitlement. As you can see, he still thinks the pillows belong to him.

He is a tattletale. When he sees Jenny sneak behind the door under the stairs to eat the cat's food he starts in with his high-pitched alarm bark. I think you have to be a Westie owner to fully appreciate how ear-piercing this can be. 

This doesn't mean Fergus himself doesn't frequently sneak in to eat the cat's food, which makes him a complete hypocrite

Most of his day is spent carefully watching out the window, waiting for a squirrel, rabbit or neighbourhood dog to bark at. We are talking hours of uninterrupted viewing, which makes him the dog equivalent of a channel surfing couch potato.

Fergus is also codependent. He wants to be wherever I am. Right now while I am sitting on my front porch drinking tea and writing this post, guess who is out here with me? 

See what I mean? Nobody would want to hang out with a person who had these traits, but somehow in a dog they are funny and/or sweet. After all, it's impossible not to love a face like this.