Thursday, December 22, 2016

Almost Ready

'Twas the night before Christmas guests arrived, and all through the fridge,
Not a square inch was left to put anything, not even a smidge;

The ornaments were placed high with great care,
In hopes that Ella and Oliver couldn't reach there;

Fergus and Jenny were nestled all snug in their crates:
While visions danced in their heads of food falling off plates...

Sorry, but that's as far as I can go with that! Things are a little crazy here as I get ready for everyone to arrive tomorrow. There will be sixteen of us in total for about five days (some are staying less time, some longer). Several other cottages have been rented, and I've purchased so much food that I've not only filled our fridge, I've also filled the fridge of one of those rental cottages.

I did manage to finish all my Christmas knitting. There was one particularly bleak moment two nights ago when I was knitting the wings on fairies and thought I might go a bit mad. I was knitting while watching The Sound of Music, which is one of my pre-Christmas traditions (watching the movie, not knitting wings). I was also texting with a knitting friend, whining about the wings. I took a picture of one of the fairies, minus its hat since those hadn't yet been knit, to send to her. It turned out to be the perfect screen shot, as I imagine the look on my face at that point pretty much matched this look on Maria's.

We've slipped past the solstice, and now Hanukkah, Christmas and a New Year are rapidly approaching. I hope that you have a wonderful season of celebration.  I will be back in the New Year with a report on all the gift knitting that has been happening here. Until then...

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Frozen Friday

Brrr...! We are in the midst of an Arctic outflow, which has meant high winds and very cold temperatures. Today it is a bit milder and we have snow, which makes me very happy. Well, mostly happy. I was supposed to go to Victoria today to visit Lucy and Oliver, but had to cancel because of the forecast snow. I grew up in Northern Idaho, lived way up north in Fort St. John for six years, spent many years in the Kootenays, and most recently resided in Kamloops. All of these places experience Winter. I know how to drive on snowy roads and in extreme winter conditions. I don't like to do it, but will if I have to.

Which brings me to the Lower Mainland of BC. There's a reason it's the laughingstock of Canada when it comes to snow. All it takes to paralyze Vancouver is half an inch of the white stuff. Last week a bit of snow fell and a university completely shut down, two bridges had chunks of ice falling off the overhead structures, damaging dozens of cars, and the Sky Train had to shut down because the snow on the tracks kept setting off alarms. This is how I would expect a place like Hawaii or Costa Rica to function if they got hit by snow. Not somewhere in the Great White North. My writing skills aren't well honed enough to adequately describe what being on the road with the drivers here is like. But the fact that in spite of over four decades of accumulated experience driving in winter conditions I felt it necessary to cancel my trip to Victoria should give you an idea of just how bad it is.

It's been several weeks since I last wrote a post. That's not been for lack of things to blog about. I have been knitting at every available moment, and have many finished items, and a few soon to be finished ones, to show you. However, they are all Christmas gifts, so this post is going to be sans knitting. Instead you are going to get a bit of randomness, along with some pictures of winter settling in in my neck of the woods.

:: I was driving home at dusk this past week and when I saw this view of the sun going down just had to pull over and take a picture.

:: We had a power outage for a few hours yesterday. These happen with annoying frequency where we live. I cope better now that I have my Coleman stove, since I know I can still have a cup of tea even if there isn't any electricity.

:: When I was in Spokane in October I found a great deal on a pair of flannel-lined jeans at the Eddie Bauer outlet store. I've wanted a pair of flannel-lined jeans for ages, and had I known how warm and comfortable they are I would have bought some decades ago. I must admit that due to the extra thickness they do make my legs look a bit like tree trunks, but at least they are warm tree trunks.

:: Rebekah and I got together last week to plan the food for Christmas. Ella's favourite "toy" is a cardboard box that has a string attached. She knows Nana is a soft touch, and will pull her around endlessly. Or until I get dizzy and need to sit down for a bit.

:: If you are in the market for some good books for children I highly recommend the Orange Marmalade blog. She does wonderful reviews of children's books, and I've discovered many a great book through her blog.

:: I have no idea what these three were looking at. I was sitting on the window seat behind them, knitting away on Christmas gifts, and happened to look down and see them all staring intently ahead.

:: I know I show a lot of pictures of our mountains, but it seems like they are constantly changing.

:: I know I also show probably way too many pictures of the lake, but it also changes dramatically with each season. Leading up to Christmas the residents at Lindell beach put a tree up on one of the docks, all strung with lights. I'll have to see if I can get a picture of it in the evening when it's all lit up.

:: The Arctic outflow has painted the beach with ice. I walked down a couple days ago to get some pictures of the ice formations for my blog, but it was so cold my phone shut down. So yesterday I drove down, and placed my phone inside one of the thrummed mittens I made a few years ago. It kept it toasty warm, and I would quickly pull it out, take a picture, then stuff it back into the mitten until I was ready to use it again.

:: I'm sure by now most of you will have seen this Christmas video out of Poland, but just in case you might have missed it here's a link. Warning. You might want to grab a tissue before viewing.

:: I'm not even close to being ready for the holidays, and felt a bit panicked this morning when I realized that two weeks from today there will be fourteen people arriving. I haven't done any baking, there's all that unfinished knitting, and I need to start stockpiling food. Yikes! How about you? Are your preparations going well? And am I the only one madly trying to finish making gifts?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Weekend Away

I've just returned from a mini-holiday. I journeyed to Port Townsend, Washington to spend a few days with Kath and Melissa, who you will have met in previous blog posts about my walks in Wales and Ireland. In one of those crazy knitter moments, just three days before I left I decided to knit something for Kath's granddaughter. That meant that all my free moments leading up to my get-away were spent madly knitting away, trying to finish the project. Late Wednesday night I cast off the last of the items, and managed to take these pictures early Thursday morning before I headed south.

Introducing Leaf Fairy and Wood Sprite, knit from a pattern by Susan B. Anderson. It was a great way to use up bits of leftover yarn from the stash. The pattern was easy to follow and fun to knit. I'm fairly certain more of these will be knit before Christmas!

I had never been to Port Townsend before, and I have to say I was impressed by this quaint little community. We had a great time looking through the shops that line the main street, and the setting right by the water is spectacular. I think for the three of us though, getting out of town and into nature is what we like the most.

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge was amazing. These pictures were taken on the Dungeness Spit, which extends for five miles. We didn't have time to walk the whole distance, but managed to make it quite a ways down the narrow band of sand. When you are on the spit you are only allowed to walk on one side. The other side is for the resident bird population.

We journeyed on to the Olympic National Park, and did a short hike in to Marymere Falls.

The falls was near Crescent Lake. It was a spectacular setting, and we were there as the sun was going down, which added to the cozy feel of the lodge. I think I could have curled up in front of that fireplace and spent the whole winter there, a book on one side of me and my knitting on the other.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Sunday Before Tuesday

:: The leaves are dropping from the trees at an alarming rate. These trees seem like some of the last sentinels guarding the autumn colours.

:: Time to start raking. A neighbour told me we are supposed to have a colder than normal winter, and that piling leaves around the base of our trees will help protect them from the cold. I'm not sure if it's true, but thought it couldn't hurt.

Lotte Ravelry details

:: Here is Lotte, the latest project off my needles. It was knit with the souvenir yarn I bought in Edinburgh back in the fall of 2011. My cousin Kath and I had just finished an epic walk over the Cateran Trail in Perthshire, Scotland. After the walk we headed to Edinburgh, and while we were there we had a meet-up with Jean Miles. It was the beginning of a very special friendship, one that saw us travel together to Shetland two years later.

:: The leaves may be disappearing, but the fungi that pop up everywhere in the autumn months are still abundant.

:: Most of October it rained. Record setting rain, as in 28 out of 31 days. That rain has mostly continued into November, but we have had a few nice days. These mostly start out with fog, but once it burns off it's brilliant.

:: These birds seemed to be enjoying the break in the weather as much as me. They just kept swimming in circles, totally ignoring my presence.

:: The beaver is hard at work again.

:: Friday was Jay's birthday and I made him an oatmeal cake. I've posted about this Hammond tradition before. I would be embarrassed if you could see how little of that cake is left. Caution: view the recipe at your own risk. I won't accept any responsibility for what happens if you make it.

:: Did anyone else start watching The Crown this weekend? It's an American-British series Netflix has produced, and I am loving it!

:: Yesterday I came across this quote by T'ien Yiheng, and it seems very appropriate: "Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world." I have to admit to being somewhat stressed about the election in the US on Tuesday. A few months ago it all seemed mildly entertaining. Now it all seems rather horrifying. I know I am not alone in those feelings.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Fire Tree

The tree in our front yard is putting on quite a show. It is such a brilliant red colour that when I catch a glimpse of it through the small window in the top of our front door it looks like something is on fire.

I fear the leaves aren't going to be around for much longer though. When I look up at the sides of the mountains they aren't quite as colourful as they were a week ago. And when I hiked Teapot Hill this morning so many leaves have fallen on the trail that, mixed with yesterday's rain, it is actually very slippery.

I've invested in some new Bog boots to help keep my feet dry this fall and winter. They won't work for hiking up and down Teapot, but are perfect for walking the dogs.

After making three Archer shirts I decided I needed to do something a bit simpler. Sort of a sewing palate cleanser. Last year when I was just starting to sew I made Dress No. 2 from 100 Acts of Sewing. So the pattern was sitting in my craft closet, already assembled (this is a huge bonus when you are talking about a pattern that is a pdf), and I had some extra flannel that was never going to become an Archer. This is the result of an easy afternoon spent with my sewing machine.

I think it can take a lot of courage to wear clothes that you've made yourself. Especially if, like me, you are a rookie sewist. (Just in case I miss fixing one, I want you to know my computer auto-corrects sewist to sexist every time I type it.) When you first start sewing the things you make are, due to your limited set of skills, fairly basic. It is only just recently that I've embraced wearing my slow fashion, handmade wardrobe.

Here's the thing. The first time I wore this someone told me they didn't like it. I hadn't asked for their opinion. They just blurted it out. I really don't care what is currently in fashion. It's one of the reasons I've started sewing things for myself. I want to wear what I want to wear, not what the fashion industry wants me to wear. It's only an accident that tunics, flannel and plaids happen to be the in thing at the moment, and that is what I'm wearing. I'm a recent convert to tunics, but I've been wearing flannel and plaids for decades. And I will continue to do so long after they fade from their current fashionable status.  So yes, I get that in one sense this tunic looks like a shapeless bag. But it is the softest, warmest, shapeless bag I've ever worn. I walk the dog, not the runways of fashion shows.

I like to think that I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin, but honesty forces me to admit I was more than a little hurt by the comment. The good news is, it isn't anything some good chocolate and possibly a small yarn purchase can't heal. Next time I hope to be able to show you the cardigan I just finished knitting last night. I just need to be able to find the right buttons. Have a great week!

*Edited to say I realized after I had written this post that the Dress No. 2 pattern wasn't actually a pdf. It came as a paper pattern in an envelope. For anyone who has experienced putting together a pdf pattern, you will know what a treat it is to have an actual printed pattern to deal with.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Midweek Meanderings

:: Yesterday as I Googled the question "Can I use Nikwax on Blundstone boots?" I realized that I might be a little strange. Of course, I already was quite aware that I'm a bit odd, but every once in awhile something like this happens and makes me think I might be even stranger than I previously thought I was.

:: My husband rescued three raccoon kits last week. They had gone dumpster diving, but unfortunately for them the dumpster was almost empty, so once they went in they had no way to climb back out. I know they can be a terrible menace, and we've suffered the loss of an expensive bird feeder thanks to their incredible dexterity and determination, but I'm afraid my opinion of them has forever been shaped by reading the book Rascal to my children when they were young. There's a part of me (that would be the odd part referenced above) that would love to have one as a pet.

:: Our washing machine has died. Again. A few weeks ago it had an electronic malfunction where it wouldn't run because it sensed the door was open, even though it was clearly shut. We had to wait almost three weeks for the repair people, and thought everything had been dealt with. Foolish us. It had another electronic seizure last week. They are now going to replace the machine with a new one. This will be the fourth washing machine that has been in this cottage since we moved here just over three years ago. Unbelievable really.

:: I've been on an Archer sewing binge. I've made one blouse and two of the Popover variations. (The pictures are all rubbish. I've had to rehire the photographer I fired.) The middle Popover was my attempt at a collarless version, inspired by a similar shirt I saw in the LL Bean catalog.

:: It's a very dangerous thing to be watching the Great British Bake Off. I always end up wanting to make some decadent dessert, and I'm trying to cut way back on how much sugar I consume. My latest downfall has been this posset recipe from the BBC. I was sorry to hear the BBC is no longer going to be airing this program. It makes no sense to me that they decided to get rid of such a popular show.

:: While I'm still on the topic of TV shows, last night I was watching episode one of The Missing on BBC. I couldn't believe it when there was a scene with the French inspector out chopping wood and he was wearing a Coast Salish style sweater. It wasn't some new, acrylic, mass produced sweater either. It showed signs of obvious wear, and was clearly knit with the thick yarn used to make the sweaters. If anyone knows the back story to this please share.

:: This recipe popped into my inbox this week. If, like me, you have extra pumpkin puree in your fridge that you don't know what to do with, this is a good way to use it up. In keeping with my reduced sugar life I was pleased to see these called for very little sweetener. And I subbed dried cranberries (I dry my own, so they aren't coated in sugar like the kind you buy at the store) for the chocolate chips. Not that I'm opposed to chocolate in any form, it just seemed that cranberries were a better match for the pumpkin.

:: On a recent walk to the lake I decided to cut over to the path by Frosst Creek. I was surprised to see there had been a busy beaver at work. There was a tree across the path and extending into the creek, which wouldn't be a huge deal except for the creek is salmon habitat, and this is the time of the year they are making there way up it to spawn. Or trying to, if trees aren't blocking their way.

:: I'm making progress on my skirt. It would be going faster if I didn't keep forgetting to use the new colourwork technique from the workshop. I've had to tink back several rows due to the fact I pick up the knitting and go into auto-pilot. Someone needs to come up with a knitting app that reaches out and pinches you every time you start to do something stupid.

:: Last weekend's storm ended up being a non-event, which was a relief. But it has remained dark and dreary here, with just an occasional glimpse of the sun.

:: I'll continue to post pictures of our family in individual posts, but after the identity theft I decided I no longer felt comfortable with their pictures being in the sidebar of my blog.

:: I found these candles and the holder at IKEA. A bit of hygge added to our cottage, all for under $10.

:: I hope your week is going well. I'm off to visit my mom tomorrow, so will touch in again next week after I return.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Coast Salish Weekend

Two weeks ago I had an amazing opportunity. My publisher, Diane Morriss, who has Saltbox Yarn Studio, and Sylvia Olsen from Salish Fusion Knitwear, decided to team up and run some knitting workshops. Sadly, the August fire that burned the Sono Nis warehouse also burned much of what had been ordered to start the company. However, they decided to carry on with the weekend workshop, and invited me to fill one of the spots.

The workshop was being held in a penthouse suite at the Chateau Victoria, and started off on the Friday night with a meet and greet. Normally I would rather attend my own funeral than a meet and greet, but decided that since it was a group of "my people" (knitters), it might be okay. As it turned out it was more than okay. A wonderful group of women were there, all anxious to learn about Coast Salish knitting, and we had no shortage of things to talk about. (This is my usual hang-up in group settings. Being a double introvert I find making small talk excruciatingly painful.)

Saturday and Sunday were very full days. We started with an amazing breakfast, then got right down to the heart of the workshop, which was learning to knit with two colours the way the Coast Salish knitters do. This isn't a technique exclusive to the Coast Salish, and in fact is one that is used by knitters around the world, but is perhaps not as well known as other methods.

Sylvia has a gift for teaching and weaving stories into her lessons at the same time.

This is a very old Coast Salish sweater, I believe from the 1930s. You'll notice a few rows of orange at the bottom part of the sweater. We learned that the women would sometimes put these random bits of colour into their work, but as the sweaters started to become popular a more uniform look was desired by the consumer, so these pops of colour were abandoned.

We now know how to spot an authentic Coast Salish sweater. The sweater in this photo belongs to my daughter-in-law, and is not authentic. (Although it has an interesting history of its own, and maybe at some point I'll blog about it).

The vest pattern is Joni's Vest, and is a fusion of Coast Salish knitting along with other techniques. Whoever invented afterthought pockets was a genius.

This is my knitting bugaboo. Zippers terrify me. I have put them in a couple of vests, and they weren't all that successful. (That's a nice way of saying they were hideous.) Sylvia made it sound doable, although I still have my doubts about putting one in.

Everyone is concentrating on their knitting. It's hard to see in this picture, but there are two bowls of chocolates on the table. Brain fuel.

We did eat things other than chocolate over the course of the weekend. The bottom pictures are from breakfast and lunch, and the top two pictures are from the delicious Coast Salish dinner we were served on Saturday night. There was a candied salmon dip that was to die for!

The sample table was popular. It was stacked with everything from old Coast Salish sweaters to designs currently out for test knitting like this sweet little children's whale sweater. I plan to make one of these for Lucy as soon as the pattern is released.

There was even a dress, which was every bit as much a work of art as it was a garment.

Of all the items on the table, this proved to be the most popular. It is one of the test knits for the skirt pattern in Sylvia's book Knitting Stories. It was the most comfortable thing I've ever put on. The temptation was great to just casually put the tunic I was wearing down over it and walk out the door with it. You can see another version of the skirt in the picture of Sylvia at the top of this post.

So there you have it. A wonderful weekend in Victoria with new knitting techniques and new friends, plus I even managed to squeeze in a bit of time with Lucy and Oliver. More workshops are going to be scheduled soon, so when I get the dates I'll edit this post with more information in case anyone is interested in attending. The link at the top of the post for Saltbox Yarn Studio should also have the information posted as soon as it becomes available.

Now I'm hunkering down for The Storm. The remnants of Super Typhoon Songda are due to hit the west coast of BC and Washington State later today. The warnings are for very high winds and extreme rainfall, which means we will no doubt lose our power between now and tomorrow morning as the storm moves through. I'm as prepared as I can be. I've got multiple flashlights out, along with my super powerful lantern. I have a cooler with ice and food on the back deck. Our fireplace will keep me warm, and the water runs here even when the power has been cut. And perhaps most important of all, we now have a Coleman camp stove so I can make a cup of tea.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Thanksgiving Weekend

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers! This little whirlwind has been keeping her nana too busy to do a proper blog post. I'll be back in a few days with an update on last weekend's knitting adventure.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Cautionary Tale

Before I get to today's topic I wanted to say thank you to everyone for your lovely comments on my last post. A special thank you to Julie Dyson, who mentioned a poem called October's Bright Blue Weather. I looked the poem up and it was lovely. And Marie asked about our dogs. She was confused because she thought we only had one. We actually have two dogs, and they are sort of "his and her" pets. I'm the person who belongs to Fergus the Westie, and my husband is the person owned by Jenny the wiener dog. Fergus gets very jealous if I mention Jenny on my blog, so that could be why you hadn't heard about her before.

Now for the serious stuff. If you aren't interested in the details surrounding what happened with the breach of my online banking please feel free to scroll down, and there will be a few pictures that have nothing whatsoever to do with crime.

My online banking was broken into early in August. The bank caught the fraud while it was happening, immediately stopped online access to my accounts, and phoned me. This was all good. They also immediately deposited back the amount that had been stolen. That was also good. But this is where the good stopped and the bad started, at least in terms of the bank and their response.

In that initial phone call alerting me to the fraud I was told my account was accessed on the very first try of the password, and that meant I had to have malware on my computer. They told me I needed to take it in to a professional to have the computer completely wiped. Several phone calls with the fraud department later they reluctantly agreed that it would probably be okay if my son-in-law wiped it rather than someone at a big box store, but they weren't very happy about it. They wanted a receipt proving it had been done. And here's the scary part. I was told that if I didn't wipe my computer and the fraud happened again I would be on the hook for any funds stolen. Gulp.

I took my computer into Anton, and he had a very good look at it. His verdict was there was almost no chance it had malware. Also, he said the malware that would be required to do what the bank claimed had happened would have to be very sophisticated. Probably not the kind of thing you pick up downloading knitting and sewing patterns.

While he had my computer, and about two weeks after the original bank fraud, we got a phone call late one night from an RCMP officer in a nearby community. He had recovered a stolen car that day, and in it was a cell phone. And on the cell phone were pictures of my driver's licence, bank debit card, and my two charge cards. He said the person who stole the car was definitely the person who broke into my car that day back in July when I was at Teapot Hill. It was a drug addict, well known to the police, and it was the second car he had stolen in the past week.

When an addict breaks into your vehicle they are after one thing. Cash. They have two ways of getting that cash. One is taking whatever money you happened to have in your purse. The other is by selling the stuff they find when they break in. And one of the things they sell is your ID. They get a couple hundred dollars, and someone who knows how to use your ID hits the jackpot.

Yes, I had immediately cancelled my bank cards and my driver's licence. But unbeknownst to me, when the bank reissued my client card they gave me a card with the same number. It never occurred to me to check. It never occurred to me they would be stupid enough to do something like that, especially since I told them I needed it replaced because it had been stolen. And here's the thing. That client card number is the user name for signing into online banking at my bank. I might have noticed when I next logged into my account, but I wasn't logging in from my computer since I didn't have it. I had downloaded the banking app onto my phone and since it was new had to enter the number. I didn't have anything to compare it to.

So the thief had my user name for my account. They also had all kinds of information about me. They had my address, birth date, my husband's full name, all from what they stole that day at Teapot. And here's where it gets really icky. Anton told me that what they then do is Google you. And, of course, the first thing that would come up would be my blog. Which meant they also now had my email address. The bank theft was connected to the theft that day at Teapot!

In an attempt to keep this post from becoming book length, I'll shorten the next part and just say this. After multiple calls with the fraud department, and several visits in person to the bank, this is where things stand. It turns out that after reviewing the sequence of events (the bank keeps a record of every call, every time you log in, where you log in from, etc.), what I was told in that very first phone call was not even true. They had not got in on the first attempt. They actually tried to log in eight times, no doubt trying passwords they thought were obvious using information they got off my blog (I'm sure Fergus was one of the tries!). They did not succeed.

Then they phoned the bank. And this is where I get a little mad. Well, actually quite mad. They managed to impersonate me and get the email address to my account changed. Within a minute they then changed the password, and they were into my banking. Seriously. The bank apparently let them change my email address over the phone. Yet they had placed the blame squarely on me and my computer, saying it had to be malware. And told me if I couldn't prove I had dealt with it and my account got hacked again I would be held responsible. Just typing this out makes my blood boil.

I have asked for a written statement from the bank saying it was not my fault. What I would really like is a statement from them saying it was all their fault. They reissued a card with the same client card number. They let someone change my email over the phone, knowing that all one needs is an email address to change a password. They never sent a notification to my old email saying the email address had been changed. And this is from one of Canada's largest banks. Which is why there's no point in asking them to admit wrongdoing. It's a David and Goliath story, only this time I'm afraid there's no way of slaying the giant. I'll be happy just to have something in writing absolving me of any responsibility, so if my account gets broken into again I won't be out the money.

If sharing this story saves even one other person from going through what I have it will have been worth typing it all out. If you have ID or banking cards stolen, don't let your guard down just because you've cancelled them all. And don't expect that a bank will do even the basic steps necessary to protect you, in spite of the fact that they have billions of dollars and a whole team of security experts. I'll let you know if and when I get the letter from them stating that what happened with my account was not my fault. Now, on to more pleasant topics.

Here's Lucy heading off to her first day of preschool. She suddenly looks very grown up.

Here's sweet little Oliver, modelling the Gingersnap sweater I knit for him. Ravelry details can be found here.

And Ella with her Granny's Favourite sweater, which was a late birthday present. I can see why there are over 1200 of these little sweaters posted on Ravelry. It was fast and easy to knit, and looks very cute when worn. Ravelry details here.

I'm headed to Victoria this weekend for a knitting adventure. Details will be in my next post. I'll sign off for now with this picture of the light on a spider's web, taken today on Teapot Hill. Light, nature, crafting, friends and family. These are the things I want to focus on.