Monday, February 23, 2015

Bluebells vs. Dumbbells

It's such a great feeling to finish a major knitting project. The minute I saw Kate's blog post about Bluebells, one of the sweaters featured in her new book Yokes, I knew I would be knitting it. I loved everything about it. The colours were perfect for me, which basically means there wasn't a hint of yellow in it. Plus I loved Kate's representation of the wild bluebells found in her native Scotland in the springtime.

I enthusiastically cast on January 1st, and in no time at all finished the ribbing and was ready to start the bottom band of colourwork. I was a little surprised when I looked at the chart and saw it was calling for a shade of blue other than the main colour. I didn't recall seeing another shade of blue in my bag of yarn from Jamieson & Smith. I went upstairs to my craft closet, hoping I hadn't made a mistake when I ordered.

As soon as I saw the bag I realized what had happened. I had indeed ordered the correct yarn. What I hadn't done was look at what I was grabbing when I pulled a ball of blue yarn out of the package and cast on. I had just knit 8 rounds of twisted rib in the contrast colour meant to be the bluebells. Fergus sits next to me when I knit. I'm afraid he heard a few bad words.

The rest of the knitting went well until I got to the end of the colourwork in the yoke. Then, unbelievably, I made the same mistake. Instead of switching to the main colour of blue I kept knitting in the contrast colour. As you can see in this picture, the two shades of blue are fairly similar, and I knit in low light in the evening. Which hopefully means I'm not a complete moron.

Fergus heard a few more bad words and I decided that the sweater should be renamed Dumbbells.

Ravelry details here

In spite of all the self-induced trauma, I have to say I love this sweater.

I changed the shaping and length a bit, and it ended up being the perfect fit.

There's a small part of me that is actually hoping for a return of winter so I can wear it. Which no doubt really does make me a dumbbell.

*Edited to say that I did rip back my knitting and fix my mistakes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mitts and Mountains

First off, I want to share some pictures from our drive home on Sunday. It was a spectacular day. The sky was blue, the roads were bare, and best of all, Kellen and Anita did all the driving which meant I could sit in the backseat and enjoy the view.

The one feature that dominates the drive across the southern portion of our province is mountains. I took this picture just outside Osoyoos.

Osoyoos has the highest average daily maximum temperature in all of Canada, which is why the mountains look so different than in our damp corner of BC. You see the same type of terrain in the next picture, taken near Keremeos. I always worry about these rocks deciding to slide on down the hill whenever I drive by them.

A herd of mountain sheep crossed the road in front of us, then stood next to it long enough for us to take some pictures.

You might have noticed the lack of snow in these photos. The southern part of British Columbia has had an unusually mild winter. It looks and feels more like the beginning of spring, which makes the timing on my latest completed knitting project a little bit off.

Lucy doesn't like wearing mittens. In fact, she refuses to wear them. So I decided to knit her a pair of fingerless mitts, thinking that maybe if she has her fingers free she might keep them on. To help things out a bit more I got her Jan Brett's beautiful book The Mitten to give to her along with the mittens.

Tartan & Tweed Mitts, Ravelry details here

To give you a better idea of just how tiny these mitts are I put a pair of my fingerless mitts next to Lucy's.

I am hopeful they will still fit next winter, but if not at least she can wear them now when she listens to the story being read. How is winter progressing where you live? Are you buried in snow, or do you have crocus blooming in your gardens? I'll show you what's blooming here in my next post.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Birthday Walk

Thank you to everyone for the kind words you left on my last blog post. It meant a lot, and made me realize once again how important this blogging community is to me. I feel like I have friends all around the world, and I appreciate each one of you.

Yesterday was my birthday, and when I got up in the morning I was determined to make it a good day. I thought about what I would really like to do, and decided the answer was to go explore someplace new with Jay, Fergus and Jenny. I did some Googling and discovered there's a Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve less than a half hour's drive from where we live.

It is a few weeks before the herons nest, but we still managed to spot several as we walked along. You can just make out the heron in the centre of this picture.

Several herons flew overhead, but were incredibly hard to capture with the camera. It's not a great picture, but at least it gives you an idea of how huge their wingspan is.

In the distance you can see the nests high up in the trees. I plan to go back in a few weeks when they are nesting, so will hopefully have some better pictures to show you then.

It's always nice to have Jay along on a nature hike. He knows so many more wild plants than I do. He identified this as wild clematis, gone to seed. I thought it looked like ghosts, dancing in the wind. Can you tell which one of us has the degree in biology?

The dogs had a great time, but Fergus was no longer a white dog at the end of the walk. He went straight into the tub without passing Go the minute we got home. This picture was taken before the damage was done.

There's a little known side benefit to owning dogs, and that is the fact you get extra presents on your birthday. Fergus and Jenny did some online shopping and surprised me with some yarn I had been wanting.

Jenny got me some Lett-Lopi to knit a vest that's been in my Ravelry queue for quite awhile.

Fergus, wanting to outshine Jenny, got me some Rowan Kid Classic to make one of the sweaters out of the Yokes book.

And for no other reason than it was my birthday, and this made me smile, here's a picture of Lucy that Karsten texted me.

I'll be away for a few days, so will catch up on all of your blogs early next week. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

404 Houston

There's a very special home that sits on the side of a hill in Nelson, BC. From the outside the house is nondescript. There is nothing about the white siding or the brown porch that hints at what is contained inside the walls of this house. But the minute you walk through the front door you know you have arrived at a very special place.

Winter is my favourite time to be at 404 Houston. The house is heated with a wood stove that sits in pride of place in the kitchen. The most coveted seat is the rocking chair next to the fireplace, and I have spent my fair share of time sitting in it, enjoying the faint smell of wood smoke, the warmth of the fire, a cup of tea, and a nice long chat with my friend.

For 25 years I have been sharing my life's journey with my dear friend Barb. We have laughed together over what we would refer to as "comic relief," and we have cried together over the inevitable pain and disappointments that life throws one's way. We've shared hopes and dreams, fears and trauma. We were what L.M. Montgomery refers to in her Anne of Green Gables book as "kindred spirits."

The front door at 404 Houston has been opened to so many people over the years. It is a place others go for help, a listening ear, fellowship, celebration, or maybe, on a cold winter's day, just to warm up in front of the fire. It is a house filled with love and acceptance, and a faith that is steadfast. And now it is a house filled with sadness. My friend passed away last Friday. There will be no more visits while sitting in her warm, welcoming kitchen, no more phone calls sharing tidbits of our lives, no more laughing together over something funny, no more shared tears.

Barb leaves behind four children, a husband, four sisters, a mom, and the hundreds of people whose lives have been touched by her kindness and compassion over the years. It seems fitting that the most recent picture I have of Barb prior to her getting sick is this one taken a few years ago at our home in Kamloops.

Left to right: Espoir, Barb, Clementine

She had made the journey with a friend whose daughter was entered in a speech arts competition. About a decade earlier Barb had been instrumental in helping this family, refugees from Togo, immigrate to Canada. It was an immense job, and took a great deal of time, patience and paperwork. Barb stuck with it, and in the end this family found a new home and a new life in Canada. What's most remarkable about this is the fact that, in Barb's life, this wasn't all that remarkable. Her life was spent in the service of others.  Loving, giving, caring...

It's been a rough week.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Foot Note

It's been so nice having a kindred spirit in the neighbourhood. Lynda and I have gotten together several times now to knit and visit, and we've had a great time. She must be feeling like she's getting to know me better, because she recently asked me a very personal question. It wasn't about politics or religion. No, the question she asked me was this. "How many pairs of socks do you own?" Of course, she didn't mean store bought gym socks, or crazy socks from Korea. She was referring to my handknit socks.

I don't know what was more surprising - her courage in asking the question, or my cowardice in dodging it. I mumbled something about not being sure. She asked again. I dodged the question again. Then she asked me to just estimate how many I had. Feeling cornered, I visualized my sock baskets (yes, there are two), and started doing a rough count in my head. All I can say is that degree in mathematics might have finally come in handy.

When I got home curiosity got the better of me and I decided to do something I had never done before. I counted my socks. It turns out the "B" basket, which contains bed socks and older, worn out regular socks, had 14 pairs. The "A" basket? Well, I have to say even I was surprised. It had 25 pairs in it. Add to that the pair I was wearing, and the pair waiting to be mended, and that makes for a grand total of 41 pairs of socks.

In my own defence I would like to point out that I have been knitting socks for over a dozen years, and in all those years I've rarely thrown out a pair. I just demote them to the "B" basket. So you can see how they can add up over time. Also, one of the 41 pairs, in fact the nicest pair I own, I didn't actually knit. They were gifted to me by Lynne, the Sock Lady. So that takes me down to just 40 pairs that I've actually knit for myself.

I think one of the reasons my socks last so long is I only hand wash them, even though some of them are knit with yarn that is supposed to be safe to put in the washing machine. Then I hang them to dry on the clothes rack in the spare bedroom upstairs. I love the look of them, especially when the sun shines in the window. It's the knitter's equivalent of stained glass.

Once they are dry I roll them up and place them in my basket. I don't think they worry about being worn again anytime soon. The competition is pretty stiff.

So I would like to hear your opinions. Is 41 pairs of socks a bit extreme? And, if it's not too personal, I would love to hear how many pairs of socks you own. There has to be at least one other knitter out there who has me beat. Or the friend of a knitter.

I wanted to say thank you so much for all the helpful comments and suggestions you left for me on the post I wrote about my feet/shoe woes. I've already made one change. I have ditched my Crocs inside the house and am trying my Birkenstocks. Time will tell as to whether or not this makes a difference. I am also researching different brands of hikers, especially ones that come in wider sizes. I might be on the hunt for new shoes, but I don't think I'll be needing any new socks for awhile.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Five on Friday

It wasn't hard to decide on a theme for this month's Five on Friday post. All I had to do was take a look around my kitchen! There's a lot on the go at the moment.

First up, and by far the strangest thing, is a batch of sauerkraut. This is my first attempt at making it, and I have no idea if it's going to turn out. The process was easy, but a bit of a mess. Shredded cabbage decorated most of my kitchen counter.

I'm using a special jar called a Perfect Pickler. The jar has been sitting on my counter for almost a week now, where I hope the fermentation process is underway.

A few days ago I was digging around in my pantry and found a huge container of Medjool dates. Darn. I bought them at Costco right before Christmas, and they were meant to be eaten over the holidays when everyone was here. I couldn't stand thought of them going to waste, but knew Jay and I could never finish them before they got dodgy, so went on a search for a healthy date bar recipe. This one was a winner.

Jamie Oliver's Beef and Ale Stew is one of my favourite comfort foods. We had this last night, and as an added bonus there's enough left over to have it again tonight.

First thing this morning I loaded up my yogurt maker, so tomorrow morning's breakfast will include some yummy homemade yogurt. It's been quite a while since I made my last batch, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Of course, I need something to stir into my yogurt. When I was at the market yesterday they had some Meyer lemons. So this morning I've made some lemon curd, using this recipe from Ina Garten. I plan to eat lots of it, and not just stirred into yogurt.

Happy weekend!

I am joining in Five on Friday, taking five minutes from our day to enjoy five things. Please go and visit the other people who are also blogging about Five on Friday this week.

Amy from Love Made My Home
Patricia from A Place For Everthing
Katharine from Art-e-facts
Selma from Eclectic Home & Life
Marion from My Two Girls
Teresa from Knit Bake Cultivate

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Let's Take A Walk

Lately I've been thinking a lot about walking. Usually I don't think about walking, I just do it. But for some reason over the past couple of months my feet have been bothering me. At first I blamed my shoes. The problem started when I took an ancient pair of Keen hikers out of retirement. The soles are worn to nothing and the backs are broken down, making them perfect for gardening, but not much else.

You are probably wondering why I didn't just get new shoes. Well, I actually did have a new pair of Keens in my closet. But I was hoarding them. My reasoning was if I could avoid wearing them this winter when they would be exposed to constant rain and mud, and waited until the spring to break them in, they would be just right for the walk Kath, Melissa and I hope to take in September. I figured I could get through the winter by wearing my summer hikers on the dry days and my old beaters on the wet ones. I overlooked one very obvious flaw in that plan. We don't really get very many dry days.

By the time the holidays rolled around I had to admit there was a problem, and decided it was better to sacrifice my new hikers than my feet and knees. So a couple weeks ago I took them out and started wearing them. I wish I could report that the problem was solved, and my feet are happy once again. But they're not. The new shoes haven't made any difference. None whatsoever.

At first I was sure the company must have changed something about the way they make their shoes. After all, I've owned several previous pairs of Keens that fit like a glove. Then I read a post last Thursday on the Dovegreyreader blog (you might have to scroll down until you get to the post from January 15) and it suddenly dawned on me it isn't the shoes that have changed, it's my feet. I haven't entirely given up on my new Keens, but I have a feeling we might be parting ways. Has anyone else had a problem with their feet? And if so, what have you done about it? And if you have a suggestion for a good brand of hikers please share your discovery in the comment section.

I know it's a very boring topic for a blog post, but walking is a huge part of my life. It's more than simply a way to exercise and stay in shape. For me it's almost a form of meditation, and one of the main ways I connect with the nature that surrounds me. Now, to make up for such a boring post, I thought I would invite you along with me on today's walk. I have frequently blogged about hiking Teapot Hill, but the walk I most often take is down to the small community of Lindell Beach, nestled at the south end of Cultus Lake.

Fergus thought he was going with me, but I can't take pictures and hold his leash at the same time. Poor puppy.

Once I leave our cottage community I turn left and head down this road. I walk as far as the eye can see in this picture, then turn left again and head down to Lindell Beach.

It isn't as boring as it would appear thanks to these mountains on the right.

I pass this mossy stone hanging on the end of a pole.

And this picturesque wood fence.

At the end of the road that runs through Lindell Beach there's a path that follows Frost Creek. If I turned left it would eventually take me back to the cottages. But I turn right, towards the lake.

As I head down the path a junco lands in the bushes beside me.

When I get to the lake and turn towards Lindell Beach the morning fog hasn't quite burned off yet.

But the view up the lake is stunning. I especially love how the mountains and trees are reflected in the water.

Home again! You won't have burned any calories on this walk, but hopefully you enjoyed the scenery.