Friday, October 24, 2014

Our Home and Native Land

The topic I write about the most often is, without a doubt, home. My small cottage, the family and friends that come to visit, the things I create, and the beauty that surrounds me, these are the things I like to focus on when I sit down and compose a blog post. But somehow today it just doesn't feel right to blog about what I've been knitting, or the great new recipe I just tried, or any other lighthearted topic. The fall colours that surround me right now are beyond beautiful, but putting in a beautiful picture when it has been a week of ugliness here in our country also doesn't seem appropriate. Such things will have to be saved for next time.

Today I want to talk about another home. Canada's national anthem starts with these two lines:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!

For me, Canada is my adopted home. I moved here when I was twenty-three years old. I had met Jay, a Canadian from Vancouver, while I was attending the University of Idaho. He was there to work on his master's degree in fisheries, and I was finishing up my degree in mathematics. After completing our studies we decided the best place of us to be in terms of employment was Canada, so I became a very reluctant immigrant.

By reluctant I mean I was sure I already lived in the best place in the world. If you have that mindset it's rather hard to resign oneself to settling for what you perceive to be second best. I was an American through and through. It wasn't that I didn't like Canada. I did. But it most definitely didn't feel like home.

Then slowly as the years went by I noticed a shift. I found myself cheering for the Canadians over the Americans during the Olympics, especially during hockey games. When I would cross the border back into Canada after visiting my parents' farm in Idaho I started to have a feeling of being home again. I began to think of distance in terms of kilometres, and temperature in terms of Celsius. I had a daughter with extreme medical needs and realized what a gift we have in our Canadian medical system.

It wasn't that I had stopped caring about the country of my birth. It was a case of starting to love the country I was living in. The end result of this slow transformation was me applying for and being granted Canadian citizenship while we were living in Kamloops.

It has been a rough week in this country I love. But in the midst of the darkness there have been many patches of light. We live in a world where the term hero is both overused and inappropriately used. But there are still true heroes. People who rise up to do extraordinary things, brave things, in a time of crisis. I encourage you to click on this link to hear a tribute to an incredibly brave man. Thank you Kevin Vickers for your service to your country.

This link will take you to the story of another hero. You might want to grab a tissue before you read it. From this day forward every time I hear the expression "you are so loved" I will remember this woman. Thank you Barbara Winters for your service to your country.

I started this post with the first two lines from our national anthem. I'd like to finish it with the first two lines from this article in the Globe and Mail.

"I was never prouder of my country than I was Wednesday. I learned that we are a pretty cool people in a crisis."



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Smorgasbord Tuesday

The Moment

Even if my book doesn't sell a single copy, it was worth all the work that went into it just to be able read all of your kind and encouraging comments you left on my last post. Thank you so much! If you want to be entered into the give-away for a copy of The Moment all you need to do is leave a comment on that post, or email me and ask to have your name thrown in the hat.

A few of you wondered about it being available on the UK Amazon site. I wish it was possible to have it there, but the logistics of doing so make it prohibitively expensive for the publisher. Even getting it into the US Amazon site is a bit tricky. They will only accept one copy of the book when it is first listed. Once they see orders coming in then the publisher can send them multiple copies. There is now a link to purchase the book at Amazon. If you click on that link it will say the book is temporarily out of stock, which is frustrating because what it really means is they are waiting for orders before they will keep more than one book on hand. So if you order from Amazon it might take a week or two to get your copy of The Moment, but it would really help me out if a few people order from there. And for my overseas readers, the US Amazon site will ship outside the country. Here's the Amazon link for anyone who is interested. (The Kindle edition should be ready in a week or two.)

I have managed to put a link (click on the picture of the book in the side bar) to the publisher's site for anyone interested in ordering directly from Sono Nis. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get the Amazon link into my side bar, which means I need to have a chat with my computer expert son-in-law. Hopefully he will be able to have it fixed for me in a few days. He was the one who put the link for Ting Ting in my side bar, and in order for him to be able to do so he had to sign in on my Google account. I seem to remember having trouble after that because it made it look like suspicious activity on my account since I was operating out of Cultus Lake and San Francisco at the same time. So if my blog disappears completely at least you'll know what happened to me.

Winner

I was one of the lucky winners of a give-away at Chrissie's Knit Times blog a couple weeks ago. She was very mysterious about what the prizes were going to be, so it felt a bit like Christmas when I opened the package, having no idea what would be inside. It turns out it was better than Christmas, since nobody in my family would ever think to buy me such gorgeous yarn! (I'm not saying my family wouldn't want to get me nice yarn. It's more a matter of most of them not being able to tell the difference between Red Heart and Rowan.)


Inside the package was a beautiful skein of Rowan's Fine Art sock yarn, along with a knitting themed card and a shawl pin. I have it all sitting on my dresser, and it makes me smile every time I look at it.

Kamloops

This past weekend I drove up to Kamloops. I had several things that I needed to take care of, and wanted to do them before winter weather arrives. I was able to visit with David and Alexandra, which was nice. I actually stayed at Alexandra's, and it was kind of funny because she was really nervous about having me. I have no idea why. I'm an easy guest. All I want is access to hot water so I can make a cup of tea.

The business I had to attend to was closing out our safety deposit box, and our meat order was ready to be picked up. (We buy our beef and pork from a local producer about an hour north of Kamloops, and once you have had meat from their ranch nothing else will do.) I spent Saturday afternoon at Starbucks with a couple of my Kamloops friends, knitting and talking and drinking tea. It was so nice to catch up with each other. Then Sunday I drove east of Kamloops an hour to the Shuswap to visit Cindy, one of my oldest and dearest friends. And by oldest I should clarify that means number of years I've known her, not how many years old she is.

The crazy thing is in the midst of all that visiting with family and friends I didn't take a single picture of any of them. However, I did mange to take a few pictures when I was at my friend's farm on Sunday. It was a stunning day - the fall colours were still going strong, and the sun was shining.


The weather yesterday for the drive home wasn't nearly as nice. Here is a picture of the sky just after I got off the mountain pass. Quite the difference from the day before!


Misc.

I've temporarily set aside all my other knitting and am focussing on a pair of socks. I'm making them for someone in our extended family who is unwell, and want to get them in the mail this week. You can catch a glimpse of them in the picture of this mug, which Cindy gave to me on Sunday.


This is a Three Pines mug, and I think it is awesome. Not only is it neat looking, it's huge. It holds almost as much tea as my teapot! For those of you not familiar with Louise Penny's books, Three Pines is the fictional village in her stories. It's loosely based on several of the villages in Quebec near where Louise Penny lives, and Cindy was there as part of a road trip this fall. The funny thing is that at the same time she was near Louise Penny's home buying me this mug, I was at the event in Vancouver listening to Louise Penny speak, and had a copy of her latest book signed to give to her.

That's it for today. Kellen will be out in a few minutes to get his part of the meat order, and I have laundry to catch up on. Why is it that being away for just a few days seems to result in being as behind as when one is gone for a few weeks?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Moment

The Moment is finally here! And I don't just mean "the moment" I make my big announcement. It's also the title of my new book, which, after a two year journey, is finally ready to make its way into the reading world.




I love the cover! Of course, I had nothing whatsoever to do with it other than to give suggestions. If it had been my work you would only see stick figures. My work was limited to what is written on the pages. To give you an indication of what those pages contain, here's the description from the publisher's website.


In a moment of inattention, James loses an important

hockey game, and Neil, the team captain, just

won’t let it go. Later they scuffle, and in the terrible

moment that follows, James is hit by a train. When

he comes to, he discovers he’s lost the lower part of

his leg.



As James struggles to adapt to his new reality,

he’s surprised by a great many things. His teammates

Kimberly and Joel turn out to be true friends. His

visit from the War Amps nets him a new friend,

teenaged amputee Tariq, who plays soccer and challenges

James to think beyond his disability. He also

counsels James to let go of his bitterness and anger

toward Neil. 



He can’t—and when he learns that Neil

is going to receive an award for bravery, he’s furious.

It was Neil who drove James onto the tracks that day.

So what if Neil also pulled him to safety?

It takes a return to the ice and some help from a

secret friend to get James back on the right track and

into the game.


The Moment is aimed at middle grade readers, roughly ages 8 to 12, but I think readers of all ages will enjoy this story. Last year when I announced the publication of Ting Ting I included this quote from C.S. Lewis, and I think it holds true for The Moment as well.

"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally - and often far more - worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."

The Moment can be ordered directly from the publisher, and shipping is free if you live in North America. Just follow this link. It will also be available on Amazon.com in a few days, including a Kindle edition. That will be your best option for purchase if you live outside of Canada and the US. I'll provide a link as soon as I have one.

This writing business is a tough one, and I am the kind of person who has a very difficult time promoting myself. But the reality is, in today's topsy-turvy world of being a writer, some self-promotion is required. All I can say is Jane Austen didn't know how good she had it. Never once did she have to worry about a bad review on Amazon, or a low rating on Goodreads. So here goes. If you like a good story, a story of redemption, overcoming adversity, and the power of friendship, you will want to have a copy of The Moment in your library. (And if you don't have a copy of Ting Ting, you might want to throw that in your shopping cart along with my new book.)

Now for the fun bit! The publisher has kindly agreed to give a copy of the book away to one of my blog readers. To be entered all you need to do is leave a comment here on my blog. There are a few people who, for reasons the universe is hiding, can't seem to leave comments here. If you can't leave comments here and want to be entered, just send me an email letting me know you want your name thrown in the hat.

I'll talk more about The Moment, and what inspired me to write the book, in a future post. Thank you so much for your support. It means a great deal to me. Now, before I lose the exceedingly small amount of writerly courage I have, I'm going to hold my breath and hit the publish button.

*Edited to say the book giveaway will close at midnight on October 30th!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Two Woolly Items

I have to be quick today. It is our Thanksgiving long weekend here in Canada, and I have various kids arriving at various times. Today was to be my day to clean the house, do some food prep, and get some other odd jobs done before their arrival. Then the phone rang. Suddenly other guests, quite unexpected, are arriving for a visit and will be here in two hours.

My first wool news is about some beautiful mittens. These were a gift from my aunt and uncle (Kath's parents). They have just returned from a trip to Norway and Finland, and knowing how much I love all things wool they got these for me when they were there. Aren't these amazing? They're almost enough to make me feel excited for winter's arrival.


The other wool item is a jacket I knit for Lucy. Pictures of her actually wearing it will have to wait until next time I see her. I had asked Diana what she would like me to knit for Lucy for this fall/winter and this is the pattern she chose.


It's funny because I would never have chosen this pattern myself, if for no other reason than it was knit in parts, which meant having to sew things together at the end. But I surprised myself. I quite liked knitting it, and am really happy with the end result. (I still didn't like sewing the bits together, and I won't be showing any close-ups of the seams.)


This was my first time knitting with Rowan's Pure Wool Worsted, and I have to say I think this might replace Cascade 220 as my go to superwash yarn. The jacket has been washed and blocked, and it held up nicely. 


I have one hour before our unexpected guest arrive, so I need to run. Thank you everyone for all your kind comments on my blog post about my mom's visit, and welcome to all my new followers. Stay tuned for a big announcement next week here at North of 49! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Vanishing Act

Sorry for the extended break between blog posts. Things have been rather busy. I picked my mom up at the airport in Bellingham a week ago Friday and we drove straight from there to catch the ferry to Victoria. We had a great visit on the Island, and my mom could not believe how much Lucy had grown up since she last saw her in May.



I feel like my plan to instill a love of tea and books is progressing nicely.



We took advantage of the great weather to go down to the wharf for fish and chips.


Lucy loves phones. It was fascinating to watch her grab the phone, hold it to her ear, and start babbling away. The reason it was so interesting was because her "speech" completely changed. The first time I heard it I couldn't believe it. She sounded like she was speaking in Chinese! Funnier yet was how she would hold out one hand and gesture with it while she was talking. Of course, it wasn't really speech in the sense that the words were real, but the intonation was certainly Chinese. It must be because the person she hears talk on the phone the most often is Diana, and the person Diana calls the most frequently is her mom. (Their conversations are in Chinese, with just a sprinkling of English thrown in.)


We caught the 11:00 ferry home, and soon after we got here Kellen and Anita arrived. We barbecued burgers, then Kellen built a fire and we toasted marshmallows.


I drove my mom back to Spokane on Thursday. We had errands to do, and people to visit, and before I knew it it was Sunday and time to drive back home. I have a very hard time with long drives, and get what I call road glaze. It's that terrible feeling where your eyes get heavy and you have a hard time focusing. I have started doing two things to help counter this. One is to buy a Starbucks coffee. (The down side to that part of my strategy is I can't fall asleep that night, but that's better than falling asleep at the wheel.) The other thing I do is make sure a really good book is downloaded on my iPhone, and I listen to it while I cross Washington State.

So as I drove away from my mom's yesterday I started the book I'd picked for this trip. I really enjoy Julia Spencer-Fleming's stories, and was excited that she had a new one out. I had the hardest time following the start of the story though. I couldn't figure out why my American police officer was in London. Even more confusing was the fact he had somehow acquired an English accent. I finally pulled off the road to have a look at the Audible app on my phone. I was listening to Deborah Crombie's latest book, not Julia Spencer-Fleming's! (Sadly, it turns out Julia Spencer-Fleming doesn't even have a new book out.) How did I manage to confuse the two? Their names aren't even close. To make matters worse, I had only read the first book in Deborah Crombie's series, and this new book was # 16. My trip home was like one big spoiler.





Thursday, September 25, 2014

Early Fall Hygge

If I was to hand out a prize to the most hygge* season, autumn would be the clear winner. As I write this post I'm listening to Yo-Yo Ma play the Bach Cello Suites, the chickadees are at our bird feeder, there's apple crisp made for tonight's dessert, and the weather has cooled enough that I will soon be wearing my handknit wool socks again.

I love the feeling of having my freezer stocked up with fruit picked this past summer, and soon we will also have our meat order for the year. There are jars of jam sitting on top of my kitchen cabinets, a convenient place for storing things in a small cottage. There are also jars of dried plums and blueberries and soon, after my trip to Victoria this weekend, they will be joined by dried apples. Vancouver Island is known for growing some delicious heritage varieties of apples.


One of the features I enjoy about the fall season is the return to routine. I think routine has an undeserved reputation for being a bad thing. Yes, doing the same thing over and over again, day after day after day, is most definitely mind numbing. But I find great comfort in the small routines of home. From my first cup of tea in the morning to my bath just before I go to bed, my day is filled with familiar things that give me balance in an often unbalanced world. After a busy summer, settling into all of these rituals again gives me great joy.

Food changes with the seasons as well. I love the move from the quick meals of summer to the simmering stews and soups that are once again part of our dinner menu. With cooler days I don't have to worry about overheating the house if I use the oven to bake. Blackberries are a sign that the season is shifting.


What better way to use them than for a lovely crisp. I love how this recipe calls for making it in a cast iron skillet.


It's also the time of the year for putting the garden to sleep until next spring. The carrot, leeks and kale remain, but everything else has been harvested.



As we move into fall I look forward to rainy days spent sitting in the window seat, knitting and reading. I also look forward to the glorious days where the sun is shining and the light filters through the forest, highlighting things that would otherwise remain hidden.


Fall, for me, is a season of contentment.

*Hygge is usually inadequately translated as cosiness. This is too simplistic: cosiness relates to physical surroundings - a jersey can be cosy, or a warm bed - whereas hygge has more to do with people's behaviour towards each other. It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment rolled into one.



Sunday, September 21, 2014

In Between

It seems to be a time of "in betweens" for me right now. In no particular order:

News

My friend has traveled far away to get medical help, and I'm in between reports on how she is doing. I can only wait, and hope.

Seasons

We're in that short few weeks of time known here in Canada as Indian Summer. Not quite summer, not quite autumn. When I walk Fergus in the mornings I see this lone tree, an early adaptor to fall, perched on the rocky outcrop to the west.


This in between time of year is when the goldenrod is in full bloom. It's a reminder of what's to come.


Guests

Last weekend Alexandra was here, and next weekend my mom arrives. We will be going to Victoria for a couple days so she can spend some time with Lucy, then we'll be here at the cottage for a few days, and then I will drive her back to Spokane. But this weekend we are in between guests. I almost don't know what to do with myself.

Downton Abbey





I still feel sort of burned by season 3 of Downton Abbey, but did end up watching season 4 last year.  In the UK season 5 starts tonight, while those of us on this side of the pond are stuck in between seasons until next year. Except here's the most amazing thing. I don't have to wait.

Our friends from England, John and Gill, bought something called a Slingbox and connected it to their TV. Then I put the Slingplayer app on my iPad. What this means (and please don't ask me how it works because I haven't got a clue) is that I can now watch their TV. The app even has a remote control and I can record shows, or in the case of Downton, a whole series. It just doesn't get any better than that!

Knitting

After I finished knitting my Tea with Jam and Bread sweater I had the itch to cast on a completely new project. Since I have three other fairly major projects on the needles right now I worked hard to fight of that urge. I ended up compromising by casting on a teeny, tiny project. One that would only take a couple of evenings, and also one that used nothing but stash yarn. I needed an "in between" project. Introducing...

Mr. Fox


Mrs. Owl


And my favourite, Hedgehog Jr.


To give you an idea of just how small these woodland creatures are, here's Hedgehog Jr. standing next to a blackberry.


I've been wanting to try some of the Mochimochi Land patterns for a long time. They didn't disappoint. I think these might be the cutest things I've ever knit. They were definitely the fastest!