Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Hygge

It seems fitting that my last hygge post of the year should be during the Christmas season. Celebrating with family and friends, especially at this darkest, coldest time of the year provides an abundance of hygge moments.

There's the food, special things made only once a year. Some of those foods are things that go back to our childhoods. Cookies our grandmothers made, or the special stuffing recipe our mom used. And some of those things are new treats we try, things so rich and decadent we wouldn't think of making them on a regular basis. This is the first year I've made turtles.

There are the traditions many of us share, like putting up a tree.

And some that are unique to our own families, started for reasons we've long since forgotten, but carried on faithfully from year to year nonetheless.

It is a time of the year that seems made for those of us who love to work with our hands. It might be knitting strange creatures called Korknisse.

Or making something out of paper.

It's a Westie in the tree.

And a Westie under the tree.

Topping the list of hygge things at this time of the year is spending time with my family, and I a anxiously counting down the days until they arrive. My wish for you is that this season will be filled with light and joy, friends and family, and that you will experience many hygge moments as you celebrate together. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Knitting Stories

Several things happened this Wednesday. Two were good and one was not. The good things both happened to be parcels that arrived. One was Kate's new book Yokes, and the other was a thick parcel from my publisher, Diane Morriss, containing the other three books they have published this fall.

Now for the bad thing. I also caught some bug on Wednesday. I felt so miserable I didn't even open the parcels. I decided to save that moment for when I felt well enough to appreciate it, which turned out to be today. It also reminds me that on my list of things that could go amiss at Christmas I forgot to add illness. Silly me. Now I am two days behind. My pre-Christmas trip to Costco has been postponed until next week, and not a single thing has been baked. But I digress. Sigh...

One of the books in the parcel was Sylvia Olsen's Knitting Stories, a book containing personal essays and seven Coast Salish-inspired patterns. This is a lovely book, and I can't wait to sit down with a cup of tea and read through Sylvia's essays. The patterns are wonderful! I was able to get an advance pdf file of them, which means I was able to knit one of the projects before I even got the book. I decided to make the Fingerless Mitts since I already had the yarn for them in my stash, but I also have plans to make Yetsa's Bolero in the New Year.

These mitts were a fun and easy project, perfect for someone trying out colourwork for the first time. I used some worsted weight Shelter from Brooklyn Tweed, and although the colours aren't exactly traditional, I like the way they work together in the mitts.

To make the pattern work with the worsted weight I cast on six fewer stitches, then decreased two more after the first pattern repeat. They came out a perfect fit!

Ravelry details can be found here. My apologies for the rather short post, but I really need to get off this computer and bake something, anything, that would qualify as a Christmas goodie.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

For the Record

I feel like I need to set the record straight. So many of you left kind comments on my last post, saying how organized I was for Christmas. While that might be true in some areas, especially around food and gifts, it in no way means I am ready for the Big Day.

I also wouldn't want to leave you with a false impression that I'm Martha Stewart. Or the female equivalent of Jamie Oliver. Or anyone else that might appear on TV or in a magazine, standing in front of a beautifully set table, wearing an elegant dress, and pointing to a perfectly cooked turkey sitting on a platter. My sights are set quite a bit lower than that. I'll be happy if I have enough food to keep everyone from going hungry, the washing machine keeps running so we can all wear clean clothes, and the dogs, cat and Lucy don't bring down the Christmas tree.

Any appearance of being organized I might present is rooted in fear. I love Christmas, but let's face it. There are more ways it can go wrong than I have skeins of yarn in my stash. If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you will know we are the poster family for The Twelve Broken Appliances of Christmas. I'm thrilled to have back-up appliances at the cottage we are renting, but I'm also a realist. If the power goes out it simply means we have twice as many things that don't work. And twice as many digital clocks to fix once it comes back on again.

As far as everyone being here at the same time, well, that is only happening if the weather cooperates. That and international flights. Right now Rebekah and Anton are in Japan. They are due to fly back to San Francisco on the 23rd, and then up to Bellingham, Washington on the 24th. Both Alexandra and David are driving down over the infamous Coquihalla Highway, which is often closed in the winter due to snow and/or accidents. And Karsten, Diana and Lucy have a ferry crossing, which also sometimes gets shut down due to stormy weather.

By trying to stay on top of the very few things I do have control over, I feel a little less stressed about the things I don't. I'm breathing a sigh of relief now that my Christmas knitting is finished. Kellen and Anita were out on Sunday to help us put together the new couch and love seat from IKEA. Kellen agreed to model the hat I've knit for Alexandra's boyfriend Josh.

It was knit with Rowan's Pure Wool Worsted. It's my second project using that yarn and I really like it. Ravelry details here.

The pattern is called Rib-A-Roni. It's simple, which is what most guys like, but it has the nifty crown shaping to give it some personality. I'll be knitting it again.

Jay's nephew came for our old couch and love seat on Saturday, which meant we were finally able to assemble our new IKEA furniture. They turned out to be the easiest IKEA things we've ever made. Between the four of us we had them together in under a half hour. This is the best I can do for a picture due to the fact it is a very dark and rainy day here.

I'm really happy with them! It's hard to tell from this picture, but they really brighten up the living room. The real test will be seeing if they will hold up to this sweet and innocent looking creature.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Beware the Calm

Our Christmas plans seem to be coming together nicely. Rebekah is helping me with the meal planning, and Anita and Alexandra are going to help with the baking. We have pretty much narrowed down which people are going to be here on which days, and everyone knows whose names they drew for the gift exchange. The thing I'm probably the happiest about, other than the fact that everyone will be here together, is the fact we have managed to rent the cottage just two doors down from us for the busiest time. Not only does this mean we will have more space, it also means we will have two sets of every appliance. 

On the craft front, aside from getting buttons for Lucy's little sweater, my Christmas knitting is finished. My other project was to replace all of our old, worn out Christmas cloth serviettes with new ones. I'm happy to report that project is now completed, and with only a few minor incidents. The most notable of these was when I lifted my foot off the foot pedal and the machine kept sewing. For a few fleeting seconds I thought maybe my machine was possessed, but it turns out the pedal had just become wedged under the chair in front of me. 

So Thursday morning started with a lovely feeling of peace and calm. I sat with my early morning tea, thinking about how nicely things were coming together. Then I checked Facebook.

         Oh can I bring a bunny to Christmas too!?!?

No. Only if it's a chocolate bunny.

You could pretend it was. Chocolate if I brought a brown one lol 

What rabbit are you talking about? One that actually breathes and eats and poops?

It will be fUN!  two dogs two cats and a bunny! 

No it won't. Whose bunny is it?

Haha we r thinking of getting one

Please wait until after Christmas. Fergus was bred to eat rabbits, not play with them. 

Hahaha guess Jenny was too sorta


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Grammatical Conundrum

Jay was away over the weekend. This meant I didn't need to prepare any meals, so had some extra time in my day. Sunday morning I had a rather foolish thought. I decided I would spend a bit of time updating my blog header. Winter is just around the corner and my header had a fall theme. I also know that as Christmas approaches things will get much busier, so thought it best to tackle the header project now rather than wait for the official start of winter. Please queue the ominous music...

The first problem I encountered is the fact I'm not a graphic artist. It's very frustrating to have a clear vision in my head of what I would like my header to look like, but not be able to translate that vision into reality. My lack of skills means I have to rely on what I can come up with using PicMonkey. I worked for over an hour on something, popping it into my blog, not liking it, tweaking it a bit, still not liking it, drinking tea, trying again, still not being happy with it, needing something stronger than tea, and, well, you get the picture. If any of you stopped by my blog in the midst of this process you would have witnessed the mess I had made of things. My apologies.

I ended up completely ditching the header I had by then spent almost two hours on. I started from scratch and came up with something I thought I could live with. If you stopped by my blog between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning this is what you would have seen.

Perhaps I'm just a little bit crazy, but I actually lost sleep over this blog header Sunday night. The thing that was bothering me was the saying I put at the bottom. "All you need is tea and warm socks." Truer words have never been spoken, but that didn't mean they were grammatically correct.

From the moment I put the expression in the header it didn't seem quite right. But here's the thing. I got the expression from a mug I had just gifted a friend. It says those exact words. In black. And they sell it in stores. In fact, if you Google the expression you can see it's widely used. So I emailed my grammar expert friend Hilary, who said she would run it by her even more expert daughter Rachel. The bottom line? That niggling feeling I had was for a reason. The expression should say "All you need are tea and warm socks." Bugger. (I can say that because I'm Canadian. It isn't a bad word here.) Actually double bugger, because the friend I had just given the mug to was my grammar expert friend Hilary.

In non-grammar news I can now show you two pairs of gift socks I've recently knit, as they have found their way to their recipients. Here are the socks I knit for my daughter Alexandra's birthday.

Biscotte & Cie yarn, Tang fish colourway

These are the Christmas socks I knit for my grammar expert friend Hilary. Hopefully they make up for that mug.

Opal yarn of unknown colourway

Our recent cold snap has transformed the docks down at the lake into works of art. I took these pictures on my walk yesterday. This dock has been strung with Christmas lights, and with the addition of the ice it must be very stunning to see at night. I must remember to go down in the evening and have a look.

This was my favourite ice formation. You would have to be very brave to sit on that bench right now!

If you are in need of some editing help I highly recommend Hilary's daughter Rachel. She has a unique editing business. She will proofread and edit your document up to 1000 words for just $5. I hadn't heard of the site before Rachel started her business. I wonder if they have a category for knitters.

And finally, today is Karsten's birthday. He is 33, which seems rather hard to believe. I'm quite sure it was just a year or two ago that I was that age myself.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Simpleton Sewing

Thank you everyone for your comments on my post about the trip to IKEA. I'm feeling much better about the whole experience now, partially due to having had a few days to recover, and partially due to reading that so many of you also use IKEA for some of your home furnishings. In fact, Sarah from Down By the Sea has actually just ordered the same couch and for very similar reasons. They are the owners of a new Westie puppy (be sure to click on the link and scroll down to see the adorable new addition to their family), and Sarah is hoping this couch proves to be Westie proof. I'm hoping so too, Sarah!

Okay, on to today's topic. Sewing. Given what I know about sewing the post should end here. I'm still learning how to thread my new Janome machine, and how to make it do fancy things like stitch forwards and backwards. So, given my distinct lack of skills, you might be surprised to hear that I am going to give you instructions for a sewing project. And no, it isn't a lesson on how to run over your finger with the needle.

If you live in a cold climate and need a quick last minute gift item for someone on your list, I suggest making them a rice bag. In fact, if you live in a cold climate I suggest making yourself a rice bag first, then making one for that person on your list only if you still have enough time. Rice bags and a hot water bottle are my best friends during the cold winter months here in Canada. And because I am such a wimp, they are also my friends during the cool late autumn and early spring months. Which means that basically the only time I don't use them is during the summer.

For those of you who aren't familiar with rice bags, they are exactly what the name implies. Bags filled with rice. The magic happens when you heat the bag up in the microwave for a few minutes. The cold cloth filled lump becomes a wonderfully warm tool for heating beds, sore shoulders, or shivering people.

You really can't go wrong when you make these. Just take some flannel and cut into squares about 13" X 13". Sew up the sides, leaving a space about 4 inches long open so you can fill it with rice, then hand sew it shut when you're done.

It couldn't be easier, right? Well, there's a reason the title of this post is Simpleton Sewing.

Yes, I managed to fill both bags Wrong Side Out before I noticed what I had done. This meant I got to do the rather tedious step of filling the rice bags twice.

You don't want to put too much rice into them or they will take forever to heat. Anywhere between ⅓ to ½ full should do.

There is one small word of warning I should issue if you decide to make one of these for a gift. Choose the recipient wisely. All the women in our family love rice bags. And pretty much all the men hate them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An Unplanned Couch

When I got up on Sunday morning I had that rare but extremely blissful realization that I was facing an entirely free day. There was nothing on my "to do" list, I didn't have to go anywhere, and best of all, because it was a Sunday, I didn't have to cook anything for dinner. (Sundays are our leftover/clean out the fridge days. This was a brilliant plan I came up with several years ago, and my only regret is I didn't implement it sooner.)

This wonderful feeling lasted right up to the moment I sat down with my early morning tea and checked my inbox. There was a notice from IKEA saying their living room event ended the next day, and all their fabric couches were on sale. It was a buy one, get the second one half off sale, which sounded tempting enough to check out.

The reason I have been on the lookout for a new couch and love seat is a long and sorry tale, so I will spare you the details and just sum it up in two words. Fergus and Jenny. The problem has been finding a suitable and affordable replacement for what they have managed to destroy. I needed something comfortable and indestructible. If it didn't look like the dog's breakfast I would consider that to be a bonus.

I'm sure every one in the world already knows about the EKTORP furniture that IKEA sells, but its existence was news to me. The appealing thing about this furniture is every part of the fabric cover for both the cushions and the frame is machine washable. There are even YouTube videos with EKTORP owners showing their system for washing them and getting stains out. This sounded like the perfect solution for our less than perfect pets.

I checked the store availability and was alarmed to discover they only had one love seat left in stock (they had several of the full size couches, so that wasn't a worry). I phoned to get some more information. Would they hold the last love seat for me?  No. Would they give a rain check if they ran out of stock? No.

I would normally avoid IKEA like the plague on a weekend, especially a weekend this close to Christmas. But I was pretty sure that one lone love seat would be scooped up by some other owner of loveable but destructive pets if I waited until Monday to do my shopping. In fact, because it takes over an hour to get to IKEA from where I live, I wasn't sure it would still be there even if I left right away. Which is exactly what I did, and why my blissful Sunday turned into the shopping trip from hell.

Once again, I'll spare you the details. This is already a very dull post. But I will say that I was successful, and I managed to get both the couch and the love seat. As I was driving home from Vancouver late Sunday afternoon I wasn't sure if I should feel happy that I was getting what should be a good solution for life with dogs, or depressed that I'm in my fifties and still furnishing my home from IKEA.

Now, to brighten up what is a rather boring and mundane post, here are a few Lucy pictures Karsten has sent me this week.

She discovered the stash of spare pandas...

She's also discovered crayons...

And this is my favourite. I laugh every time I see it...

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!