Thursday, June 1, 2017

Hey June!

Apparently May slipped by without me noticing, at least as far as my blog is concerned. Which means there is lots of catching up I need to do. Knitting seems like a good place to start...

:: There's always sock knitting on the go around here. On the left are the Apple Blossom socks by Curious Handmade. And on the right are some of my plain vanilla socks, made special by the fact they were knit with some lovely self-striping yarn from the Knitting Goddess out of the UK.

:: In the better late than never category, this is Oliver's birthday sweater. I did manage to cast on the day of his birthday, but didn't actually manage to get the sweater to him until last week. I really enjoyed knitting this pattern, which is the Alaskan Pullover. What I didn't enjoy was making the twisted cord. I went through a third of a skein of yarn before I got something that was passable. It was a rather low moment in my crafting life.

:: If you had told me a couple years ago that I would become a shawl knitter I would have laughed at you. I'm hopeless at doing lace, and am lace chart challenged. But then along came Helen Stewart from Curious Handmade, and her brilliant row by row percentage method of writing up patterns. This is the Fairyhill Shawl, the first shawl in her Shawl Society, Season Two. It was a joy to knit.

:: This past month was Me Made May, and it was my first time participating. I was surprised to find I have enough handmade items now that I could post on Instagram on a regular basis. What I hadn't taken into account was how awkward it was going to feel to keep putting up pictures of myself. Above is just a sampling from the month. This is the Cleo Dungaree dress by Tilly and the Buttons. I was especially pleased with the back pockets, not that I'll ever see them when I'm wearing the jumper.

:: My latest crafting endeavour has been to make Peg People. My plan is that these will be here for Lucy, Ella, and Oliver (once he's old enough to not eat them) to play with when they come to visit. This is the Gnome Family, and there are a couple moss covered tree stumps behind our cottage than should provide the perfect home for them.

:: The twisted cord for Oliver's sweater wasn't my only recent fail. I tried my hand at fermenting, and the first attempt yielded a jar of moldy carrots. Not quite what I was hoping for to say the least. This is my second attempt. It's early days, so I have no idea if these are going to turn out. I'm trying to remain optimistic. If you have any fermenting wisdom to share I would be very grateful.

:: On the ferry ride home from Victoria last week I was knitting away on the striped socks in the picture above. I decided to get up and walk around a bit to get some steps on my Fitbit. I couldn't believe it when I glanced in the mirror in the bathroom and saw my spare sock needle sticking out of my hair. I wonder what people thought as I kept walking in a circular route through the seating area with a needle sticking out of my head.

:: Similar things happen here at home too. When I was painting the peg people out on my back deck a few days ago Fergus needed to be walked. It wasn't until I got him on his leash and was heading down our street that I realized I was still wearing the apron I had put on to keep from getting paint on my clothes.

:: This next bit I am very excited about. This is the very beginnings of a trail that will eventually go along all of Cultus Lake. The first section has been put in, and is just down the road from our cottage.

:: I'll sign off with my favourite view. I see this multiple times a week when I walk to the lake, and it never grows old. Mt. Cheam is in the distance, with its snow-capped peak a glorious white against the backdrop of the blue sky. And in the foreground is Frosst Creek flowing into Cultus Lake. In the fall the salmon make their way up this stream. I hope your June is off to a great start!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Two Shawls and Two Questions

:: If it's true that April showers bring May flowers, we will be inundated with blooms next month. We have managed to squeeze in a day or two with some blue sky this month though, and I've taken full advantage of them. It's a treat to not have to wear rain gear.

:: I love it when the skunk cabbage comes out. It's the first thing we see bloom in the spring, so it's a very welcome sight. In order to get this picture I had to walk through someone's yard. I had asked the man out working in his front yard for permission, but when I turned back around after taking the picture and saw his wife staring daggers at me out of their window I realized she had no way of knowing I had asked to be on their property. Oops.

:: The second thing we see bloom in the spring is the trillium. Teapot Hill has lots of them coming out, especially at the top of the hill where the forest opens up and there is more light. You can see from the picture on the right we had a day that was absolutely gorgeous this week. One brilliant day with sunshine and blue sky, sandwiched in between rain events. The teapot on the left was set up like this when I came across it.

:: This is my shawl from the Curious Handmade Snowmelt Mystery Knitalong. I even finished it within a week or two of the final clue being released. And I used yarn from my stash, which makes this a winner all the way around.

:: I think I'm going through a shawl phase. After I finished the Snowmelt Shawl I immediately cast on for another Curious Handmade pattern, this time the Spindrift. This was a really fun shawl to knit, and I love that it only takes one skein of fingering weight yarn. This could easily become my "go to" shawl pattern!

:: Which brings me to my first question. I wear shawls around the house when it's a bit cool. They seem the perfect answer for how to stay warm in the early morning, as it takes our cottage quite awhile to warm up. I also wear them in the evening (I'm thrifty, and turn our inefficient baseboard heaters off around 5:00 to save on the electric bill). But I never wear them outside the house. I think part of the reason is I'm not quite sure how to wear them so they look like a fashion piece rather than something practical. Do you wear shawls when you go out? And if so, how do you usually wear them - draped over your shoulders, wrapped around, or some other way that I haven't thought of?

:: My second question is for all you Mary Berry fans. If I was going to purchase just one of her cookbooks, which one would you recommend? She has quite a few, and they are a bit pricey, so I want to make sure I make the best choice.

:: I was pleased to be featured on the How to Hygge the British Way blog this past weekend. Here is the link in case you would like to pop over and read the interview.

:: I'm off to my mom's for the Easter weekend. I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Catch-up

:: Happy Spring! I don't know about you, but I'm glad to finally be able to slam the door shut on this past winter. The snow was beautiful, but enough was enough. It got to the point that I was actually sick of wearing all my handknits. A sacrilege, I know, but true.

:: These are some of the few survivors from my fall bulb planting several years ago. I'm not sure how the squirrels missed these on their previous rampages, but I'm sure that they'll find them before next spring. I think my next attempt to foil them will be to plant snowdrop bulbs directly into the lawn. There's so much moss mixed in with the grass I'm hoping it will disguise the presence of the bulbs.  

:: I finished Sylvia Olsen's Skirt in the Round just as the last of the snow melted. This is so comfortable, but also so very, very warm. I don't think it will be seeing any action until next winter.

:: I've also finished the vest from the knitting retreat put on by Diane Morriss from Saltbox Yarn Studio and knitwear designer Sylvia Olsen.

:: The timing is much better with the vest than the skirt. It's meant to be worn as a jacket, so I will be wearing it often this spring. I have wanted a Coast Salish/Cowichan style garment for ages. After looking in vain for several years in thrift stores hoping to find one, I finally decided the only way I was ever going to own one was if I knit it myself. I have to say I'm quite chuffed with the result!

:: In what was a culinary first for me, here I am basting a cake with a single malt Scotch whisky. And there was more whisky added later to the icing. Oh, and then there was the Guinness that went into the cake itself. Click on the link at your own risk.

:: Last month I had a big birthday. One with a zero on the end. And proceeded by a numeral that I'm sure can't be correct. When Lucy asked me how old I was I told her I was twenty times as old as she is. It made me feel almost prehistoric. In spite of the denial over turning 60, I did have a wonderful time celebrating with family. First was a quiet day here at the cottage, with several yarn gifts from the animals and Jay (they might have had a bit of help with the ordering), and a raspberry huckleberry pie. A few weeks later I was in Victoria celebrating with Lucy and Oliver, and then last weekend I was in Vancouver with Ella. Alexandra had also driven down from Kamloops for the weekend, which was a treat.

:: This is my definition of bliss. A good book, a fun sock pattern, and a new Emma Bridgewater sheep mug filled with Yorkshire Gold tea.

:: The biggest challenge for me this winter was not being able to hike up Teapot Hill. Now that the snow has melted I have been making up for lost time. I enjoy the challenge of the hike, as there is quite a bit of elevation gain. I also enjoy being in the mossy green forest, and the fun of spotting teapots as I'm walking along the trail. It's a joy to be back.

:: Sunshine has been a rare commodity over the past several months. Which makes me appreciate it all the more when it finally does make an appearance. I loved the way sunlight was streaming in on my quilt (made by a dear friend, not me!), almost like it was purposely highlighting some of the quilt blocks. Of course, there's a downside to these rare glimpses of the sun. They also highlight a winter's worth of dust.

:: I hope this new season is treating you well. I'll be back in a week or so with another finished handknit to share with you.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Misc. Monday

I have to say February has certainly been an eventful month so far. A couple weeks ago it started snowing. And it didn't stop. For four days we were inundated with the white stuff. Given that we live in a place that panics if two inches of snow falls, you can't imagine what it was like when over two feet of snow came down! Of course, I was in my element. It was stunningly beautiful, and brought back so many memories of childhood winters on our family's farm in Idaho, and also memories of the years we spent in the Kootenays when my children were young.

There are a few downsides to being buried in snow though, especially if you are a wiener dog. Poor Jenny. The snow was many times higher than she is. In fact, it was even higher than Fergus, but unlike Jenny he loves the snow. I just had to be sure I got up early enough each morning to shovel a path for them to walk on. By the end of Snowmageddon 2017 we had run out of places to put the snow as we shovelled it. You can see from the picture our wall of snow was almost higher than my husband's car.

The snow event was followed by an ice storm. Ice storms are a regular occurrence in parts of Ontario and Quebec. They are almost unheard of in British Columbia. It was a thing of both beauty and destruction. The morning after the storm we woke up to a world coated in ice. Literally everything outdoors looked like the top two pictures. Quite predictably we lost our power. My morning started by lantern light and finished the same way. The strangest part of the ice storm wasn't the actual ice though. It was the sound of branches "exploding" as the weight of all that ice became too much to bear. You can see an example of the destruction in the bottom picture.

Given that I've been snowbound and icebound for much of the past couple weeks there's been lots of knitting happening. Okay, there's always lots of knitting happening, so I guess I should say more than the usual amount of knitting has occurred. The thing is, I hardly have any pictures to share. My Coast Salish vest from the knitting retreat I attended last fall is done. Except for the zipper. So no picture there. My skirt from Sylvia Olsen's book Knitting Stories is finally finished. It's been washed and blocked, and is now drying. So the only picture I have of that is the one above where I am sewing the waistband. I've also finished the Easy Folded Poncho by Churchmouse Yarns and Teas. Again, no picture. The socks are the ones I Kitchenered by lantern light during the storm, knit with Regia's Pairfect yarn. And the shawl is part of the Curious Handmade mystery knitalong. It's upside down in the photo, but that's the kind of thing that happens when you resort to having your dog model your knitted items.

It has been a treat to be able to get out for long walks again now that the weather has improved. A few days ago I was walking beside Frosst Creek (yes, it has two s's, it's not a typo), and there was an eerie mist seeping through the trees.

When I turned around to come home I was treated to this sight. So much drama in one walk!

My hikes up Teapot Hill have been curtailed due to snow and ice. I'm hoping the trail will be walkable in a week or two. But the roads are now clear of snow and ice, so I've resumed my walks to the lake. The cloud formations yesterday were incredible.

So that's February so far. I'm hoping the remainder of the month has a little less weather drama, and that by the end I will have some pictures of all the knitting I've been doing to share with you. In the meantime, how's February been treating you in your corner of the world?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Sunday Post

This blog has been very quiet for the month of January. I keep thinking I need to write another post, but then feel like I don't have anything to say. I suspect there are many of us who feel like this at the moment. Gobsmacked by what is happening around us. My blog is not about politics, or religion, or current events. It's meant to be a place that celebrates family, nature, crafting, gardening, and everyday life. So I hope you'll forgive me for this one small detour from the regularly scheduled content.

I am an immigrant. I came to this country over three decades ago. It was a relatively easy transition for me. I spoke the language, I had previously visited Canada many times on holidays, and I came from a country with a similar culture. Three of my children are immigrants. For two of them the transition was also easy since they were infants. Language was not a problem as crying pretty much sounds the same no matter where you are from.

But one of them didn't join our family until he was five, and that added a whole layer of complication. Imagine being whisked away on a plane with complete strangers. You've never flown before, you've never been outside of your country before, you don't speak a word of English, and the people you are with are complete strangers since you've only just met them the previous week. Not only do you not know them, they don't look anything like you. This was not an easy transition, but it was helped along by the fact that everyone involved cared, and did everything in their power to make it work. To make that new immigrant feel welcome. And safe. And loved.

My son-in-law is an immigrant. My daughter-in-law is an immigrant. It wasn't easy. They were older, they didn't speak the language, they came from cultures quite different than ours in Canada. It was a struggle for them and their families when they arrived. But they're okay. Actually, they are more than okay. They are wonderful people, and have fully assimilated into Canadian life.

So here's the thing. I wonder how the story would have turned out for me, my three adopted children, or my daughter-in-law and son-in-law if, instead of love and acceptance, we had experienced suspicion, fear, or hate upon our arrival in this country. All I can say is I'm so incredibly thankful that I'll never know the answer to that question.

Moving on...

I've jumped on the Stopover bandwagon. What a fast and fun knit! I did it in twelve days, and had I not stopped in the middle of it to finish up a pair of socks I might have completed it in under a week.

I'm still catching up on blogging about my Christmas knits. This is Ella's Bear In a Bunny Suit. I think it ended up looking more like a chipmunk in a bunny suit, but Ella's only a year and a half old, so I don't think she noticed.

This is Baa, knit for a friend of mine.

There were Flower Fairies and Leaf Sprites for Lucy and Nevaeh. And now I think I'm finally caught up with all my gift knitting!

Here's a glimpse of what's currently on the needles. I usually knit in the evenings, and Fergus is my knitting buddy. After some tummy rubs and ear scratches he settles in beside me and sleeps. The project on the right is going to be a skirt. Some day. Hopefully soon. The project on the left is going to be a Coast Salish inspired vest. Again, some day, hopefully soon.

We are in the midst of some lovely weather.

It's been so nice that the garlic I planted last fall are starting to grow. It's always an exciting discovery when I spot them. They are the first signs of life in my garden, and make me want to get out and start digging in the dirt again.

I hope your weekend has been a good one. And I hope you will forgive me for my digression from my usual content. It wasn't at all what I originally intended to write when I sat down at my computer.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Deep Winter

I realize I am in the minority when I say this, but I love winter. I now live in a place that experiences very little winter, and I have to confess to missing snow covered trees, the crunching sound snow makes as you walk on it on a cold day, and the quiet stillness that happens after a big snowfall. So for me this winter, where we have actually experienced all of those things for the past month, has been a treat.

We have an indoor/outdoor weather gauge that not only tells you the temperature and weather forecast, it actually shows you what to expect. You can see my weather guy is bundled up in a scarf, toque and mittens, the cloud is dark black meaning we can expect a lot of precipitation, and there are snowflakes coming out of the cloud. Yippee! Snow instead of rain!

I always find January to be a bit of an odd month. I enjoy that tucked in feeling it gives me. It's the month, more than any other, I have the most success in slowing down, taking time to read the books and magazines that have been piling up, and spending time just being. Holiday preparations are in the past, and gardening and other active pursuits are in the future. I need to find a way to continue these moments of stillness throughout the year.

The weather might be cold (this week we've had overnight temperatures of -10 C), and the roads and paths are very icy, but I still make a point of spending time outdoors each day. I use Yak Trax to stay safe when I walk, and, possibly no surprise here, I have lots of woolly handknits to bundle up in to keep me warm.

Our holiday guests have all left, but that doesn't mean we haven't had daily visitors. The family of raccoons Jay rescued from the recycling bins last fall come by every day to say thanks. Fergus goes absolutely crazy when they show up, but that doesn't seem to deter them.

Flax by Tincanknits

Here are a few of my Christmas knits. I made Lucy and Ella matching Flax sweaters. This is such a great pattern! It's free, and there are two versions, one for worsted weight yarn, which is what I did, and the other for fingering weight.

Gramps by Tincanknits

Oliver's sweater is another Tincanknits pattern called Gramps. This might just be my favourite knit so far for my grandchildren. Those elbow patches, the pockets, the shawl collar... I'm pretty sure I'll be knitting Oliver another one in a bigger size at some point. The pipe and Prince Albert tobacco tin are not Oliver's. They belonged to my Grandpa. :-)

Our winter is forecast to come to an end Monday. Warm weather and rain will be returning. I will be putting my Yak tax and down jacket away, but I have this one last weekend of snow and ice and cold and all things Deep Winter to enjoy, and I intend to make the most of it. I'm hoping you are having a good weekend too, no matter what the weather!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Traditional Time

Here we are on the other side of the holidays, and I'm here to report that our family had a very traditional Christmas. Traditional, that is, in the sense that it was filled with the usual chaos, plus a bit of calamity thrown in for good measure.

The moment captured in this picture is what I now think of as the last civilized moment of the holiday. It was the evening of the 23rd, and everyone had just arrived. We had a "pie night," including chicken pot pie, quiche (two kinds, one vegetarian and the other with meat), and tourtiere. Rebekah and I had carefully planned each meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner, to feed sixteen people for five days, and the first night went exactly according to plan. Well, you know that Woody Allen quote? The one that says "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." Exactly. Disaster struck.

Our usual Christmas tradition is to have an appliance break down. This year the appliances held together, but the plumbing didn't. On Christmas Eve afternoon our kitchen sink became plugged. No amount of hot water, drain cleaner, or removal and inspection of pipes was able to remedy the problem. I'll spare you the details. I'm sure with some imagination you can picture a small cottage, sixteen people, and no ability to use the kitchen sink.

The good news was my brother had rented the cottage next door for him, my mom, and my two nieces. So we did have a sink and a place to prep food and wash dishes. It just meant making dozens and dozens of trips back and forth, through the snow and ice, to clean up from the last meal and prepare for the next one. It was exhausting.

But here's the really neat part of this story. Everyone pulled together and pitched in. My brother took charge of all dirty dishes, and loaded and reloaded the blue bin we were using to transport them next door to be cleaned, then he had to bring them all back in time to be used again at the next meal. Rebekah, my nieces Corinne and Danielle, and Alexandra were busy going back and forth too, helping me prep food for the next meal. And the people left at the cottage were in charge of watching over four young children, which was no small feat! Not only that, but after our celebrations were over and most people had left, the plumber came out. When it was time to write him a check for his services we were told that Karsten had asked for the invoice to be mailed to him. So many helping hands, and so much kindness. Who could ask for more?

I purposely put non-breakable ornaments on the bottom half of the tree. Lucy and Nevaeh had fun taking them off and giving them to my mom.

We managed to get outdoors for several walks.

Diana had purchased two sets of matching pyjamas for the kids. Trying to get a picture of all four of them was a bit like herding cats.

Nevaeh is modelling the mittens I knit for her. I'll have to save the rest of my Christmas knitting for another post or this will be way too long.

It was such a treat to have my nieces here with us. Ella and Lucy thought so too!

I'll leave you with one of my favourite pictures. If you look closely you'll see that Oliver has grabbed a handful of my mom's hair!

I hope your holiday season was memorable (in a good way), and here's wishing all of us a kind and calm 2017.