Monday, December 21, 2015

Almost There!

In a few days the Big Day will be upon us. I would like to tell you that I have everything under control, that my larder is stocked, and the presents are wrapped and under the tree. The reality is that if my guests walked into this cottage right now I think they would call the public health department and have us condemned. Well, at least my mom would. The presents are wrapped, but there is no way we can put them under the tree. The cat would eat all the ribbon off, and the dogs would take care of what remained.

As far as the food is concerned, I am only halfway there. Tomorrow should finish the job, although I am more than a little concerned about where all the food is actually going to go since my fridge is already stuffed. The good news is that I have a wonderful neighbour who has agreed to let me put some of the overflow in her fridge. It all balances out, as another neighbour has her turkey in our freezer.

I will return in the New Year, but before I sign off I want to leave you with some Christmas shopping advice. If you find yourself at the grocery store with a cart piled high with food, it really isn't a good idea to plop a huge container (think Costco size!) of grape tomatoes on top of that stack of food. It's an even worse idea to reach over the top of that pile of food to grab the specialty cheese you have your eye on. If you do happen to have such a lapse, my next piece of advice is to stand still. Do not move. Failure to follow this advice will lead to the strange sensation of dozens of tomatoes popping under your shoes. At this point I have no other advice to offer, other than to maybe take a second, more competent adult shopping with you.

This Christmas picture of me was taken in 1959 (Call the Midwife era), which puts me right between the ages of Lucy and Ella.

And here I am with my brother, in what I'm guessing must have been 1965. I'm very happy that he'll be spending Christmas with our family this year, along with his daughter Danielle and my mom.

I hope that wherever you find yourself over the holidays that you have a wonderful time, and I'll touch in again in the New Year. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Clueless in Cultus

Sometimes I feel like I go through life knitting with just one needle. Or, roughly translated for you non-knitters out there, I'm not always the sharpest crayon in the box. For instance:

:: Until two weeks ago I had never heard of Adele. You might think I'm making this up, but it's true. Now that I know she's the world's most popular and apparently most talented female singer it occurs to me that I must have run across her name before. But I'm not much for following stories about celebrities, so I guess I never paid any attention. Not paying attention happens to be one of my specialties.

:: I had no clue I couldn't bring back a bottle of whisky from the US if I hadn't been out of the country for at least 48 hours. On previous day trips to Bellingham I've purchased wine and/or beer at Trader Joe's and brought it home without a problem. So last week when I was there and read in their Christmas flyer that they had a Trader Joe label single malt Scotch whisky that, if it had the label on from the distillery it came from, would be recognizable as a quality Scotch whisky, and was being sold for only $34.95, I figured I didn't have anything to lose. Wrong. It turns out that the import taxes on a bottle of whisky, no matter how great a deal it was, are $55.00. Luckily for me the nice gentleman in the customs office let me off with a warning. His words to me were, "I can see you're not a bad person." My reply was, "No, but I am a stupid one."

:: While I was at Trader Joe's I also bought some chestnuts. I love roasted chestnuts, but I've only ever eaten ones I've purchased from a street vendor. You know - the kind that get scooped out and put into a small bag and handed to you by a person who looks like they haven't washed their hands in the last 25 years. I'm thinking these aren't going to be quite the same. In fact, I have no clue how to roast them. If you have any experience or tips for cooking chestnuts please share in the comment section.

:: I was digging around in our crawlspace looking for Rebekah's baby book - the one where I recorded memorable things from her first year like when she started solids, when she got her first tooth, etc. I never did find it, and after giving it some serious thought realized she was the third child and actually, even if such a baby book exists, it's probably almost completely blank. But I did find Karsten's baby book, and was surprised when I opened it up and a bank book from 1982 (the old-fashioned kind that used to keep track of how much you had in your account) fell out. It was for a savings account in Chicago, opened my my brother on Karsten's first birthday. I have no memory of this gift. I phoned my brother. He has no memory of giving this gift. Not only that, when he contacted the bank it turns out that after three years they no longer keep accounts. So much for that $100.

:: I spotted this strange bird on my walk to Lindell Beach last week. I have no clue what it is. Is it a domestic bird? A wild one?

:: When I started Lucy's Christmas sweater I didn't take into account that it was going to need 30 eyes sewn on. The quest for buttons, and the application of those buttons after I finally found them, took more time than the actual knitting of the sweater.

:: I found a seasonal doormat at IKEA a couple weeks ago. Perhaps I should have looked a bit more closely before I purchased it.

:: And just so I don't leave you with the impression that there's a total vacuum between my ears, I do manage to get a few things right. Here's Ella, sporting the new hat I made for her. Ravelry details here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Odds and Sods

:: Those of you who come to my blog to see what I've been up to in the crafting department are probably wondering what's happened. I would like to reassure you that crafting is taking place, but there's a reason I haven't posted any pictures lately. In a word - Christmas. January should be awash in pictures of finished projects.

:: Gardeners, procrastination is not your friend. A fellow Garden Club member and I were in charge of planting garlic in the community garden. We had been talking about the need to get it in the ground since the beginning of October. Had we taken action back then we wouldn't have frozen our hands stiff planting it this week after an Arctic front had moved in.

:: Fresh turmeric stains everything it touches. I did not know this. I used it for the first time last week in a Jamie Oliver recipe, and for several days afterwards my fingers looked like they belonged to a 90-year-old smoker with a three pack a day habit.

:: My first book, Ting Ting, was just included in Great Reads For Kids, a booklet put out by the Toronto Public Library. It's a collection of over 200 recommended books for children ages six to 12.

:: The storm clean-up here at The Cottages continues. Our cottage wasn't damaged, but several others were. This cottage with the tree on its roof is just down the street from us.

:: Scarier yet is this cottage that has been impaled. The bottom part of the branch is sticking through their bedroom ceiling. Imagine what it would have done to a person!

:: Teapot Hill took quite a hit as well. There were over twenty trees down on the trail. This one was the most impressive. You can see how massive the root system is. Either that, or I'm very short. Or both.

:: Still on the topic of Teapot Hill, yesterday morning both our telephone and cable were down. It seemed odd to me that the two would have gone out at the same time, but we were in the middle of another windstorm, so I just figured that was the problem. Not. It turns out that in the middle of the night thieves cut through the wires right at the base of Teapot Hill and stole $10,000 with of copper wiring.

:: The latest windstorm came as an Arctic front made its way into our area. The waves on Cultus Lake were spectacular!

:: This wasn't quite what I had in mind when we put up the bird feeders.

:: Fergus and Jenny have both corners of the couch covered. They consider it their job to make sure no neighbourhood dog goes by unnoticed.

Have a great second half of the week! And Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Stormy Days

I’m composing this post in the midst of a storm. It’s the fourth storm we’ve been hit with this month, and it’s by far the worst. The wind is howling and the trees are bending over, looking like they might succeed in their attempt to touch the ground. Branches litter the ground, and the threat of another one coming down when I took Fergus out this morning made for a very short walk. 

In a storm earlier this week a neighbouring cottage had a branch impale their roof. I shudder to think what the outcome would have been had it hit a person. And when a friend and I were hiking Teapot Hill a few days ago we were shocked to see this huge tree that had fallen across the trail. 

We discussed whether or not one would have enough warning to get out of the way if they had been in that spot when it toppled over. We came to the conclusion that no, there was probably not enough time to react. 

Fergus is totally fed up with the stormy weather. He despises the rain, but still hasn’t caught onto the fact that walking slower makes it worse, not better. 

Between storms we have had a few spectacular fall days. We have also had our first frost. 

Our power is out right now, and I’ve got candles lit. In spite of the fact it’s mid-morning, the storm has made for a very dark day. I don’t mind the power outage. The cottage is so peaceful and quiet without any appliances running. The flickering candles send out a warm glow, and I’ve got a nice cup of tea sitting next to me thanks to the Thermos I filled with boiling water last night. I plan to spend my day knitting, reading, and listening to the storm raging outside. I feel very privileged to be able to have a place where I am safe and warm, sheltered from the storm. 

***Our power was out until late last night, so this post is going up a day after the storm. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Brunch to Remember

I had something very exciting happen Saturday. Earlier in the week there was a writing contest. The contest was being run by North by Northwest, a weekend morning program on CBC Radio. To enter you had to write a paragraph of no more than one hundred words using titles from books published by Alexander McCall Smith. The six best entrants would win a pair of tickets to have brunch with Alexander McCall Smith Saturday morning in Vancouver at Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks.

I entered the contest and anxiously waited to see if I would get an email informing me I had won a pair of tickets. Sadly, no such email ever arrived in my inbox. But one did arrive in my friend Cindy's! She had written a great entry, and the judges obviously thought so too. When she asked me if I wanted to go with her it took me less than half a second to say yes. (The half second was spent feeling guilty because if I went that meant her daughter Jennifer wouldn't be going.)

We headed into the city early so we would have time to browse at the bookstore, one neither of us had ever been in before. It was an incredible place! Also, a dangerous one as my friend pointed out before we arrived. (We both have a weakness for cookbooks.) Imagine a whole store devoted to nothing but books about food. In addition to cookbooks there were books about travel and food, and classics that have a strong food theme running through them.

At the far end of the book store there is a kitchen, and an island to seat people. The store does quite a few cooking classes, as well as hosting events like this one the CBC was sponsoring. Here they are, prior to the brunch, getting things ready.

Aside from the fact I was in a store filled with nothing but books about food, the biggest surprise for me was being given a drink before we ate. And by drink, I don't mean a nice cup of tea. The only other time in my life I've had alcohol before noon is when I've indulged in a splash of whisky over my porridge.

The brunch itself was delicious, sort of a take-off on a traditional full English//Irish breakfast.

As soon as we finished eating the host of North by Northwest, Sheryl MacKay, interviewed Alexander McCall Smith. That interview will be on the radio either this Saturday or Sunday. You can check the link at the top of this post later in the week if you are interested in listening, and if you can't listen to it when it's broadcast you can always catch the podcast.

He is an incredible man, and also happens to be my favourite living male author. At one point in the interview he talked about the importance of forgiveness, and about how we have lost our sense of community. They were the very words you would expect to hear Mme. Ramotswe speak on those subjects. It wasn't all serious stuff though. The humour you read in his books also comes out in real life when he speaks.

His latest book is another in the No. 1 Ladies Detective series, The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine. There's something very appealing about that title. There was something also very ironic about it, as Vancouver was in the midst of what is known as a rainfall event. Here we are, getting our copies of the book signed.

Thanks Cindy for inviting me!

And for those of you who are wondering what was in that drink, here you go...

Flemington Cocktail from the book: Apothecary Cocktails by Warren Bobrow
3 Tablespoons muddled stone fruits ( I used frozen pitted cherries)
1 ounce Honey Simple Syrup
3 ounces Scotch Whisky
1/2 ounce Sweet Vermouth
Few drops Angostura bitters
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 large sage leaf, chiffonade
Muddle the fruit in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.  Add the honey simple syrup, Scotch Whisky, sweet vermouth, bitters and lemon juice and shake for 20 seconds.   Strain the mixture into a martini glass and garnish with the chiffonade sage leaf.  Sip slowly until the dark clouds start to lift.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fast Forward

My apologies for such a long absence. It seems like someone hit the fast forward button on my life in October. It zoomed by in a flurry of family and road trips, with a bit of crafting and hiking squeezed in when time would allow.

On October 25th my mom flew from Spokane to Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham is just over an hour from our house, not counting the wait at the border, which, sadly, can sometimes be as long as the drive itself. I drove down a little ahead of her flight so I could stop at Trader Joe's. It's the only store I have ever been in that makes grocery shopping a fun experience. While I was there I wandered over to the beer aisle to pick something out for Jay. I'm not a beer drinker myself, so have to base my purchasing decisions on factors other than knowledge about the actual product. Which is how he ended up with this, a six-pack with a knitting theme.

Monday we drove into Vancouver, where my mom got to meet her new great granddaughter. I think they look quite pleased with each other, don't you?

In the latest development since I last saw her, Ella has turned into dedicated thumb sucker.

Thursday we headed over to Victoria so my mom could spend some time with Lucy. I think we were both humbled when were there. I can not for the life of me figure out how to undo the gates they have to keep Lucy out of trouble. Lucy has no problem whatsoever opening them. And my mom, who has owned an iPad for two years but has yet to figure it out, sat and watched Lucy play games and switch between apps.

Just in case you're wondering, in spite of what Lucy is wearing in this picture it wasn't an unseasonably warm day. My mom brought her this new outfit thinking it would be perfect for next summer. Lucy tried it on and refused to take it off again.

Friday was a very long day. We left Victoria at 7:45 Am and didn't get to Spokane until 8:45 PM. The main interstate highway across Washington was closed in central Washington due to a dust storm, which slowed us up considerably. I managed to take this picture as we drove along rural side roads, trying to find our way past the closure. It's very unique countryside. Interesting to look at, but I don't think I would want to live there.

This was my first trip to Spokane since my brother moved there, and it was nice to see his new home and do a bit of exploring on the trails that are right out his back door.

Now I am back home, and I have to confess I'm quite happy to be here. After being away for much of September and October I'm ready to settle in until next spring. Am I the only one who gets the urge to hibernate at this time of the year?

Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Crafty Post

It's been an interesting week. Canada has a new prime minister. He might be new to the job, but it won't be the first time he's resided at 24 Sussex Drive. This isn't a political blog, so please don't take this as an endorsement of a particular candidate, or a comment on the outgoing prime minister, but I have to say I'm relieved it's over with. The political ads, the candidates' signs sprouting up like dandelions on lawns, roadsides and billboards, the negativity that oozes out of the pores of social media...well, to be honest, I find it quite exhausting. But I am also very aware of what a privilege it is to live in a country where issues can be discussed, and every citizen is free to cast their vote for the candidate who best represents them.

I've finished two craft projects, one sewing and one knitting. I'm rubbish at sewing, but I think I might be improving slightly. I still haven't gotten brave enough to actually wear anything I've made, but once the weather gets colder I think I might actually put this on. It has the unlikely name Dress No. 2, and is from 100 Acts of Sewing.

I made this with some flannel I purchased at our local quilting store. I think it will be nice and cosy to wear this winter with leggings and a merino shirt.

Next up is my souvenir knitting from Ireland. Whenever I travel I like to buy some yarn to remind me of my trip. These are my Lambing Mitts, a free pattern from Tolt Yarn and Wool. I knit them with some Studio Donegal Aran Tweed yarn I bought in Cork at a shop called Vibes and Scribes.

This is a very simple pattern to knit, and a great introduction to mitten construction for beginner knitters. In fact, a friend of mine who is just getting started knitting is making a pair. I love how the cuff at the end of your fingers rolls down to completely cover your hand if it's super cold outside.

Finally, since I started out with something that had nothing to do with crafts, I might as well finish that way too. This past weekend I drove up to Kamloops to visit Alexandra and David. The weather was beautiful, and on the Saturday Alexandra and I hiked in Kenna Cartwright Park.

It's a terrific view from the top. You can just make out in the distance the point where the North and South Thompson Rivers join together. You can also see that my daughter's idea of what is appropriate footwear for a hike, especially given we were walking where there can be the occasional rattlesnake, is not the same as mine.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Small Celebration

This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving. I've decided this is my favourite holiday of the year. It has so many great things going for it - good food, family, and almost no hype. I'm almost afraid to add this final item to the attribute list. No gifts are exchanged. I realize that makes me sound like a total scrooge. The truth is I like giving and receiving gifts, but still...there's something really freeing about a holiday that doesn't require buying or making Stuff.

This year there were only five of us gathered together to celebrate. By Hammond standards that is a very small group! But I think it worked out really well. Alexandra and her partner Josh came down from Kamloops for the day, and Josh brought his three year old daughter Nevaeh to meet us. Had all of us been squeezed into this cottage I think she might have felt a bit overwhelmed.

You know how much I love fall. And I know I already showed you some fall pictures in my last post, but I just can't seem to stop myself from adding some more.

Empty parks after a very busy summer...

Fall reflections...

Fallen leaves...

Mashed neeps, tatties and carrots...

Pumpkin butter...

Roasted pumpkin seeds...

And pumpkin scones (I sub gluten free flour for the wheat flour)...

I promise my next blog post will be a crafty one, without even a hint of a fall theme to it. Have a great week!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Home Again

It's hard to believe that just a week ago I was still in Ireland. It was an unbelievable experience, and I'm so glad I had the chance to visit there for almost three weeks. But there's something to be said for coming home again. Soaking in my own bathtub, crawling into my own bed, and being able to put on clean clothes every day seems like such a treat! I guess that's one of the gifts of travel - you appreciate the creature comforts of home much more when you return than you did before you left.

There's usually a bit of a bumpy landing when I return. I'm happy to say that this return was a happy exception. Yes, Fergus desperately needed a bath, and so did my house, but other than that all was well. Jet lag has been my worst enemy, possibly made worse by the fact I caught a cold while I was away. Also, there was the bike accident I was in last weekend. My face is finally healing, but for awhile it looked like I had some ancient Celtic symbol imprinted on the side of it. I don't recommend landing with one's head into a rock wall.

It's been especially nice to return to a completely different season. Fall is my very favourite time of the year, and it appears to be in full swing here in my little corner of BC. I was so happy to see the squash and pumpkins for sale at the local market.

They are good for more than just eating. I needed weights while I traced out a pattern and realized they were perfect for the job.

The lake is quiet after a busy summer of campers and tourists.

The trail up Teapot Hill is covered in leaves.

And the autumn winds are blowing the needles off the cedar trees by our cottage, covering the streets in gold.

Thank you all for the wonderful comments you left on my blog while I was on my Irish adventure. I wasn't able to keep up with my blog reading while I was away, so please be sure to leave a link in the comment section here if you have a post or two from September that you would like for me to read. It's nice to be back!

Sunday, September 27, 2015


It's our last day in Ireland, and if there is one word I would pick to describe our time here it would be unexpected. Every time we turn around it seems like Ireland surprises us. The changing terrain, the amazing food, the variety of activities on offer, the weather - we're never quite sure what's going to greet us as we go around each bend in the road.
Right after our walk we went to Dingle. It was love at first sight! Dingle is a quaint town located on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. 
We drove around the Peninsula, and it was spectacular. 
Our next destination was Inishmore, the northern most of the three Aran Islands. There are rock walls everywhere, and the soil inside them was formed by composting seaweed and sand. It might make these some of the most labour intensive plots of land ever.
You go to Inishmore as a foot passenger, so our tour of the island was done the old-fashioned way.
I have never seen so many sweaters in my life as I did on this small Aran Island. The wool fumes were incredible!
Our next destination was Galway. We visited the famous Cliffs of Moher. After our harrowing time on the Pembrokeshire Coastal path in Wales two years ago we were all very relieved to see that there was a safety barrier at these cliffs.
We encountered midges. I don't recommend this as a positive travel experience.
This is Kylemore Abbey, located near Connemara National Park.

Connemara is so different than the area where we did our walk. It reminded us of Montana. Never would I have guessed there would be a place in Ireland that would look like the big skies of that state!
There are a few other pictures I want to share from my journey through Ireland, but they will have to wait until I get home. It's time for us to eat breakfast and head to Dublin, the last stop in our Irish adventure.