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.

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.