Saturday, November 29, 2014

Simpleton Sewing

Thank you everyone for your comments on my post about the trip to IKEA. I'm feeling much better about the whole experience now, partially due to having had a few days to recover, and partially due to reading that so many of you also use IKEA for some of your home furnishings. In fact, Sarah from Down By the Sea has actually just ordered the same couch and for very similar reasons. They are the owners of a new Westie puppy (be sure to click on the link and scroll down to see the adorable new addition to their family), and Sarah is hoping this couch proves to be Westie proof. I'm hoping so too, Sarah!

Okay, on to today's topic. Sewing. Given what I know about sewing the post should end here. I'm still learning how to thread my new Janome machine, and how to make it do fancy things like stitch forwards and backwards. So, given my distinct lack of skills, you might be surprised to hear that I am going to give you instructions for a sewing project. And no, it isn't a lesson on how to run over your finger with the needle.

If you live in a cold climate and need a quick last minute gift item for someone on your list, I suggest making them a rice bag. In fact, if you live in a cold climate I suggest making yourself a rice bag first, then making one for that person on your list only if you still have enough time. Rice bags and a hot water bottle are my best friends during the cold winter months here in Canada. And because I am such a wimp, they are also my friends during the cool late autumn and early spring months. Which means that basically the only time I don't use them is during the summer.

For those of you who aren't familiar with rice bags, they are exactly what the name implies. Bags filled with rice. The magic happens when you heat the bag up in the microwave for a few minutes. The cold cloth filled lump becomes a wonderfully warm tool for heating beds, sore shoulders, or shivering people.

You really can't go wrong when you make these. Just take some flannel and cut into squares about 13" X 13". Sew up the sides, leaving a space about 4 inches long open so you can fill it with rice, then hand sew it shut when you're done.

It couldn't be easier, right? Well, there's a reason the title of this post is Simpleton Sewing.

Yes, I managed to fill both bags Wrong Side Out before I noticed what I had done. This meant I got to do the rather tedious step of filling the rice bags twice.

You don't want to put too much rice into them or they will take forever to heat. Anywhere between ⅓ to ½ full should do.

There is one small word of warning I should issue if you decide to make one of these for a gift. Choose the recipient wisely. All the women in our family love rice bags. And pretty much all the men hate them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An Unplanned Couch

When I got up on Sunday morning I had that rare but extremely blissful realization that I was facing an entirely free day. There was nothing on my "to do" list, I didn't have to go anywhere, and best of all, because it was a Sunday, I didn't have to cook anything for dinner. (Sundays are our leftover/clean out the fridge days. This was a brilliant plan I came up with several years ago, and my only regret is I didn't implement it sooner.)

This wonderful feeling lasted right up to the moment I sat down with my early morning tea and checked my inbox. There was a notice from IKEA saying their living room event ended the next day, and all their fabric couches were on sale. It was a buy one, get the second one half off sale, which sounded tempting enough to check out.

The reason I have been on the lookout for a new couch and love seat is a long and sorry tale, so I will spare you the details and just sum it up in two words. Fergus and Jenny. The problem has been finding a suitable and affordable replacement for what they have managed to destroy. I needed something comfortable and indestructible. If it didn't look like the dog's breakfast I would consider that to be a bonus.

I'm sure every one in the world already knows about the EKTORP furniture that IKEA sells, but its existence was news to me. The appealing thing about this furniture is every part of the fabric cover for both the cushions and the frame is machine washable. There are even YouTube videos with EKTORP owners showing their system for washing them and getting stains out. This sounded like the perfect solution for our less than perfect pets.

I checked the store availability and was alarmed to discover they only had one love seat left in stock (they had several of the full size couches, so that wasn't a worry). I phoned to get some more information. Would they hold the last love seat for me?  No. Would they give a rain check if they ran out of stock? No.

I would normally avoid IKEA like the plague on a weekend, especially a weekend this close to Christmas. But I was pretty sure that one lone love seat would be scooped up by some other owner of loveable but destructive pets if I waited until Monday to do my shopping. In fact, because it takes over an hour to get to IKEA from where I live, I wasn't sure it would still be there even if I left right away. Which is exactly what I did, and why my blissful Sunday turned into the shopping trip from hell.

Once again, I'll spare you the details. This is already a very dull post. But I will say that I was successful, and I managed to get both the couch and the love seat. As I was driving home from Vancouver late Sunday afternoon I wasn't sure if I should feel happy that I was getting what should be a good solution for life with dogs, or depressed that I'm in my fifties and still furnishing my home from IKEA.

Now, to brighten up what is a rather boring and mundane post, here are a few Lucy pictures Karsten has sent me this week.

She discovered the stash of spare pandas...

She's also discovered crayons...

And this is my favourite. I laugh every time I see it...

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I wish I had an excuse, but I just can't seem to come up with one. Back in March of 2013, several months before we moved to our cottage here at Cultus Lake, I knit a pair of Mukluk Slippers. I know it was that long ago because I just looked them up on my Ravelry project page. The slippers were a quick knit. I started them on March 8th and finished them March 14th.

I wore them for the first time yesterday. Finally. You would be right to wonder why it took me over a year and a half to actually put them to use. I'm wondering the same thing myself. All that needed to be done to make them functional was to sew leather soles on the bottom. And that was all the reason I needed to hide them deep in my craft closet.

In the summer of 2013, a number of months after knitting the slippers, I took a brave step towards completing them by going to Paradise Fibers  to buy leather soles when I was down visiting my mom (if you are ever in Spokane be sure to stop in and have a look at this wonderful store!).

A few months later I went to Fabricland and bought the thread to sew them with. A few months after that I decided it would be really nice to be able to wear them, so pulled them out of hiding so I could sew the soles on but couldn't find the thread. Defeated, I shoved them back into the recesses of my craft closet.

There they sat until the cold snap that hit us last week. I decided enough was enough. On Monday I went back to Fabricland and bought another spool of thread, came home, and marched upstairs to retrieve the slippers from their hiding spot. When I pulled them out I was puzzled by the lumpy object shoved deep inside one of the slippers. Brilliant. It was the lost spool of thread.

Monday was a rather bad day, which meant it was perfect for sitting down and doing the dreaded deed. If it had been a good day sewing those leather soles on might have tarnished it, but there wasn't much more damage they could do to the Monday I was experiencing. Two hours later I was the proud owner of a pair of Mukluks that were functional.

They aren't super brilliant, and my sewing skills are somewhere between a preschool and kindergarten level. But they are toasty warm, and I'm very happy with them. So here's my question. Why did I put off a simple two hour task for over a year and a half? I could have worn these all last winter. Sigh... Oh well. I'll have them this winter, and hopefully I've learned a lesson.

Now for the neighbour update. I ran into her again a couple days ago when we were both out walking our dogs. I got brave and asked her The Question. "Do you happen to be a knitter?" She got a big smile on her face and I knew the answer before she had a chance to speak. It turns out she loves to quilt and knit, and get this - her favourite thing to knit is socks!! The bonus was finding out she also loves nature and likes to walk every day, rain or shine. Which is where I'm headed as soon as I hit the publish button for this post - out to walk with my new neighbour. Finally!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Five on Friday

In no particular order, here are my Friday Five:

New Neighbours!

A retired couple from Ontario has just moved into the cottage kitty-corner from ours. I introduced myself to the woman, who seemed very nice. As we stood visiting by the moving van I couldn't stop myself from peeking in to see if there was any sign of fibre in her life - maybe a spinning wheel, a bag of tangled circular needles, or some plastic containers marked "stash." I didn't spot anything, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. I really, really wanted to ask her if she was a knitter, spinner, crocheter, but thought it might seem odd since we had just met. I've seen her once since the weekend when we were both out walking our dogs, so that makes two official meetings. What do you think an appropriate number is before I can pop the question?


You might have noticed I put a link to Instagram in my side bar. I am new at this whole Instagram thing. I know many people have abandoned blogging and moved to this platform instead, but I can safely say I have no plans to follow their example. My blog will continue. However, I do like taking pictures and I think Instagram might be a fun way to pursue that interest.

My problem is I really don't know what I'm doing. So far I have just posted a few pictures with short captions. Am I missing something? Are there other things you Instagrammers are doing that I don't know about? If you are using Instagram and have some tips I would really appreciate hearing about them in the comment section. Also, if you are on Instagram please leave your details so I can find you there and follow you.


I bought four portobello mushrooms when I was grocery shopping this week. Now I can't find the recipe I was planning to use them in. Does anyone else have this happen? I'm open to suggestions as to what to make with them.


Okay. I might have hit an all-time low in the fashion department. A couple weeks ago I was thumbing through the latest Lands' End catalogue and came to the section with the turtlenecks. The caption at the side read "Maybe it's back-to-back super cold winters. Maybe it's the fun patterns. Whatever it is, the turtle is enjoying its day in the sun." Really? I hadn't been aware that turtlenecks had ever had their day "out of the sun" and have been wearing them under my wool sweaters for decades.

Then there was the lady on Gracepoint. Gracepoint is the North American version of Broadchurch, and has many of the same characters, including the crotchety, chain smoking, tough old woman who lives near the cliffs. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I saw the costume department had dressed her in a barn jacket from LL Bean. The exact same jacket I own.

Teapot Hill Meet-Up

It's been a happy discovery to find that one of my blog readers, Ellen S., lives in nearby Chilliwack. Today we met for a hike up Teapot Hill. It is a gorgeous day - cold and clear. Halfway up the path we started seeing the most unusual ice crystals.

They were scattered everywhere, and if you stepped on them they made a slight crunching sound.

There were lots of smaller chunks broken off by previous hikers.

And, of course, there were teapots. This was my favourite. It was perched on a huge mushroom on the side of a tree.

Happy Friday!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Whidbey Weekend

Friday morning I drove down to Whidbey Island to meet my cousin Kath and friend Melissa for a weekend getaway. Melissa grew up on Whidbey, and her parents had very kindly offered us the use of their home.

Here we are on the first day, hiking near the bridge that connects the island to the mainland. This bridge was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), a relief program set up to provide employment to young men during the Great Depression. Melissa's grandfather was one of those young men who took part in its construction.

The view along the path was spectacular. The dark things in the water are kelp beds.

Saturday morning we headed to Coupeville, a picturesque town that has several great features. The first is it has lots of cute shops filled with everything from Japanese antiques to Dutch treats. The second feature, and the main reason we were there, is it has a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi (Melissa's parents have a dial-up Internet connection, and we needed something faster).

Normally we could have survived without Internet for a weekend, but the thing was, one of the reasons for our getaway was to plan our trip for next September. We spent an hour and a half at the coffee shop, Googling and checking out ratings for various walking tours. The first hour we were thinking Ireland. We were a bit concerned about the rain, but when we read they normally don't get any more than Seattle we figured we could live with that. But another problem emerged. After last year's experience on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path we are sort of off the idea of doing a hike that involves cliffs. We can handle a few cliffs no problem, but five days straight seems a bit much. A lot of the walks in Ireland seem to involve the coast. And cliffs.

So, after spending all that time talking about Ireland we decided to check out Scotland. This made me happy. I could go to Scotland every year and never get tired of it! We scrolled through lists of walks and looked at picture galleries and comments from people who had completed the various walks. The one that looked the most intriguing was the Great Glen Way. We haven't made a final decision, and are open to ideas. If you have suggestions for walks in Ireland, Northern Ireland, or Scotland I would love to hear them!

One of the other nice bits about Coupeville is the yarn shop, Whidbey Island Yarns. It's a lovely little yarn shop, and the owner offers something I've not seen anywhere else. You can choose the colour of yarn you would like and she will dye it for you. If you are interested you can get more details by clicking the link.

Then we did another hike. This path goes along the top of some bluffs which overlook the water, then winds down to the beach and back to the starting point. It brought back lots of good memories from our walk in Wales last year.

We finished just as the sun was setting.

There was another reason we had gathered together for the weekend. Actually, it was the main reason we had gotten together. Kath and Melissa had been working for months making a book of our trip to the Cotswolds and Wales, and it was finally finished. Saturday night was the great unveiling, and I could tell they were a little nervous when they pulled the books out of the box. It was going to be the first time they had looked at the completed books, so they had no idea if they had turned out. They needn't have worried. They were works of art! Here's the cover, which has the upside down acorn that  was the symbol of the trail we walked on in Wales.

Here's a glimpse of the inside.

So many beautiful pictures, and so many wonderful memories. Thanks Kath and Melissa for all the work you put into the book. It's perfect!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Soup and a Sore Throat

Wow! I was completely gobsmacked by your response to my post about whether or not to abandon knitting the Bressay Dress. I was sure you were all going to say that I was crazy to be knitting a dress, and of course I should change it into a sweater. Instead, with the exception of one brave dissenting vote, every single one of you said stick with the dress, so that is what I intend to do. A word of caution though. This dress is being knit with fingering weight yarn on very small needles, so please don't expect to see a finished object any time soon. Thank you everyone for your input, and also for pointing out to me that the yarn will felt slightly once it is washed.

It was a very busy weekend here. We celebrated Jay's birthday a few days early. Karsten, Diana and Lucy were here for several days, and on Saturday Kellen and Anita came out from Vancouver and Alexandra drove down from Kamloops. It was a full and busy cottage, and at one point I looked around and was gripped with fear as I thought about an additional six people being here over Christmas. But then I realized that would mean an additional six people to keep an eye on Lucy, which can only be a good thing. She is one very busy little girl, and oh so much fun!

I tried my hardest to get a good picture of her with her granddad, but she had a cold and wasn't too pleased to be held by someone other than her mom and dad. I think the look on her face says it all.

Jay and Lucy

She had happy moments too, and especially loved being outside.

Karsten and Lucy

The sweater I knit for her last month is a perfect fit!

Diana and Lucy

Everyone has gone home and it is very, very quiet here. The rain has returned and the sky is dark and threatening yet another downpour.

Lucy might be gone, but she has left behind something to remind me she was here for a visit - a sore throat. Spending time with a sick toddler is a bit like cuddling up to a Petri dish that's incubating a virus. So today will find me sticking pretty close to home. I've got a delicious smelling lentil soup cooking, the new Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook to peruse, and beautiful colours surrounding our cottage. If you have to be sick, this is definitely the way to go about it.