Monday, December 20, 2010

Makin' Buttah

A few weeks ago, one of the women in my local knitting group (The Bitchy Bees) was telling our small group one Friday night about the fun home-made food stuffs she and her boyfriend like to whip up at home, namely vanilla extract, and butter.  I immediately decided that I needed to try making these thing myself.

Yesterday, when out shopping with my husband, we picked up two single litres of whipping cream.  I found a tutorial on making butter (which I highly recommend), just to be sure I knew what needed to be done.  I let the whipping cream sit out and warm up to around 63degrees F, and got to work whipping up each litre one after the other.  Using a mixer is really key.  Shaking this by hand would take hours and way more energy than I have.  Would be fun for kids, for a while, but really, the mixer is what makes it.  It takes the cream and turns it into whipped cream in minutes, then beyond that to the separating of milk solids and buttermilk shortly thereafter. It's so fun to watch!

 Getting all chunky.  The cream separates into the butter and the buttermilk (not thick & creamy like store-bought), and the liquid is drained.  I added the salt to mine when it was still in the whipped cream stage.  Made for saltier buttermilk, but that's okay - I used mine to brine my wee chicken that I'm roasting today.

A little block of creamy beauty!  I made two "bricks", out of each single litre of cream, weighing in at 348 grams and 374 grams.  Not quite a pound each, but still delish!


I also threw together the dead simple ingredients of making one's own home-made vanilla extract, with vodka and vanilla beans.  I used three single bean pods, though I think I'll add a fourth, just to have a decent strength.  Now I need to let it sit for two months.  Oh, the waiting.

In the same vein of culinary experiments, I now have a slow cooker, and am, as I type, doing my first "roast" chicken in the 6 quart Crock Pot.  There is a "Crockpot Lovers" group on Ravelry (I love that there is a group for almost everything on Ravelry!), and they talk about cooking whole small chickens in the slow cooker, so I figured I'd give it a go.  I've heard that a final 15 minutes or so of roasting in the oven will crisp up the skin, should the skin need to be crisp (some people don't like the skin - what? Crispy skin is the best part!).  We'll see how it turns out tonight.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Quiet here...

Sorry it's been so quiet around here - I am behind in my recipes and knitting posts, as well as the "what's in my ears".  December tends to be pretty busy, at least the first 3/4 of it are.  So I'll try to post more next week.  Some of my family is in town, which means feasts and activities.  Quiet "me" times are scarce.

Hope all is well in your world!

best,
Ursa

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Update on Destash

I'm almost finished with my stash organising and the official destash list.  I just need to sort and upload photos.  For those of you on Ravelry, it will all be listed on my "sell/trade" page, and for those of you who aren't, I'm creating a Flickr set that will be just for the destash yarns.  I had thought to put them here, but that would take a long time to upload the photos and list the details and be a really long, skinny list.  Flickr is a quicker option.

Links & such will come up when I'm done.  Anyone wishing to buy the destash yarns can contact me either through Ravelry, or leave a message here or email me at info at gaiascolours dot com.

best,
Ursa

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Just for fun...

On the eve of December, I've decided to play around with the background of my blog.  All this month (December, that is), I'll be trying out different background pictures from the lovely site "Shabbyblogs.com".  It's all about the holidays, oh yeah!

(Can you tell I like this time of year?)

I only buy the Martha Stewart "Living" magazine twice a year, for October/Hallowe'en, and for December/The Holidays.  Telling, no?  The rest of the year I look to the outside, but now, it's about being inside and warm, with love and light and lots of wonderful food!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wrangling the stash

Every once in a while, I take a look, a real look at the entirety of my yarn stash.  I'm doing so this week, and I've realised, once and for all, that I have way more yarn than I need or will likely use in the next five years.  This means a thorough inventory, and updating my Ravelry stash page (for those of you on Ravelry - aren't stash pages great?), and yes, destashing a bunch of the yarn.

It really is amazing to look through bins of yarn that I have forgotten about.  It's like buried treasure.  Or trash.  A "What was I thinking buying this?" moment bubbling up a few times.  Brenda Dayne of the "Cast On" podcast calls it the "annual airing of the stash", something I think most of us knitters/crafters can benefit from regularly.

So that's what I'm doing - "airing" my stash.  Will have destash details soon, for those interested.

Sharing a lovely blog

I want to share a wonderful artsy blog that I found a while back - Frosted Petunias.  Ms. Frosted, or Anna, is an artist.  She creates all the backgrounds and pictures for her blog - amazing seasonal themes that leave me wishing I could create such similar beauties.  I first read her blog in mid-October, when she was preparing for a Hallowe'en "Tea Party".  I fell in love with the autumnal theme - the reddish leaves, the warm background, the witches, a moon, and a crow.  And now she has frosty, gilded snowflakes, with white, silver and gold.  Ah, the colours are so right for each part of the season, from what I've seen so far.  She clearly loves creating, and blogging.

I hope you'll visit her blog, with it's delightful pictures, buttons, links and visuals.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This week on the needles, November 21st

Not terribly exciting on the knitting update this week.  I am still working on the cardigan for my son, as per last week's post, and also still working on the test knit sock, only further along.  The Damson is hibernating for the moment as I finish up the other two. I also needed the 4.5mm needle so that I could knit a swatch for a future sweater project.

That's it for this week - short & sweet :-)

Birthday Blooms

This past Thursday I turned 35.  Yes, I am now officially in my "mid-30's".  A somewhat scary prospect, but many people have made important contributions to the world at or after 35.  Still, I don't plan to wait much longer.

My husband, lovely man that he is, brought me a dozen red roses and a dozen pink carnations, and they are stunning! I'm not a fan of pink, but it's okay for flowers. I took some photos, though they don't show the true red as well as I'd like.  But here are my best efforts:

And standing:
And playing in B&W:

Oh! And I got a birthday massage as well - happy toes for me!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This week on the needles - November 14th

I have been both busy knitting and busy not knitting lately.  I've also been starting and working on pieces when other WIPs/UFOs lay ignored.  Ah, as is the nature of a non-monogamous knitter, which I fully admit to being!

Right, to the knitting...!

As I mentioned in the last "This week on the needles" in late October, I started a cardigan for my youngest son.  It's coming along nicely.  I'm about 2-3 inches from completing the body, then I get to add the sleeves.  Then some colourful buttons, and we're good to go.  WIP picture below:


I've recently started two new projects.  First is a shawl pattern by Ysolda Teague, called "Damson".  I wanted to make use of an amazingly soft alpaca/silk/cashmere fingering yarn called "Sumptuosity Fingering", hand-dyed in blue/purple/pink semi-solid loveliness by All for the Love of Yarn dyer Angela.  Angela and I recently participated in an indie dyer's swap through Ravelry.  I sent her a skein of my Kuan-Yin sock yarn in the deep ruby/blood red "Brigid".  I think we are both pretty pleased with our traded yarns.  Yarn p@rn below:


The skein is knitting up so nicely - a fine fingering, and the pattern, so far, is pretty easy.


And the second new project I started the other day is test knitting a new sock pattern called "Don't Ask Y", by Janelle.  I am using my own hand-dyed sock yarn called Heithrun Sock, a merino/cashmere/nylon sock base that is very popular and lovely to knit with.  The colourway is a test dye called "Red Kuri Squash".  I'm using the pattern instructions for the "large" size (64 stitches total), and following the written (as opposed to the charted) instructions.  Will keep you posted.
The sock so far:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Recipes: Cauliflower/Leek/Potato Soup

Winter tends to bring on the regular making of soup in many households.  I love home-made soup, and while I do make soup all year round, the cool weather begs the pot to be filled with hearty, healthy ingredients.

I don't tend to follow recipes when making soup, unless it's a particular one shared with me because it's so good.  I create my own recipes, which are rarely made the same way twice.  However, it's good to have a basic ingredient list for each soup, which may vary a little depending on food stuffs availability, or to be built upon.

So the soup recipe I want to share with you this week is one that I made just tonight.  I've made it many times before, but this batch was particularly toothsome, and I had to mention it.

Cauliflower/Leek/Potato Soup:
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 large leeks, or 5-6 small ones
  • 2-3 medium cloves of garlic
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2-3 medium/large russet potatoes
  • 4-6 cups chicken/turkey or veggie stock
  • 1/2 cup milk (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated cheese (optional)
How to:

- roughly dice onion and leeks
- add to heated olive oil in a large soup pot
- let the onions and leeks cook and soften, about 5 minutes, then add garlic (finely diced)
- after a minute of the garlic cooking, add the stock
- while the stock heats up, roughly chop the cauliflower and potatoes; add to pot
- bring contents to boil, stirring occasionally
- turn down to simmer, and let the cauliflower and potatoes cook until tender, 5-10 minutes
- once cooked through, remove from heat.
- blend the entire soup using either a hand-held mixer or a stand-alone blender; blend until smooth
- return to stove top and turn heat to minimum
- soup will likely be creamy-looking already, but I like to add a bit of milk to add to the creaminess.  This is optional though.
- add salt and pepper to taste
- I like to grate some cheese over each bowl.  You can add it to the soup pot instead and flavour the entire thing.  Some cheeses to choose - a sharp cheddar, a smokey gouda, a creamy harvarti, a garlicky specialty cheese, a "stinky" but flavourful cheese.
- crackers or taco chips can be added as a final touch.

Enjoy!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The week after candy

I meant to post this sooner, as it's been exactly a week since Hallowe'en.  It was a quiet one for me - my boys and husband went trick-or-treating, and I stayed home to hand out wee chocolates bars (and knit).

However, I did manage to take pictures of our pumpkins.  We carve four every year, for each one of our family.

Here is the pumpkin of my youngest son, carved by his Dadda:


And my oldest son's:


My husband's pumpkin, who encountered someone with a sword....


And finally, my own, one that had too much candy...

Proud "mama"

I may have mentioned this spring that we were playing hosts to some Mason Bees (a type that doesn't make honey), with a wooden box as their home.  The forty or so that I encouraged to hatch didn't all stay around (my mistake - didn't read the manual - oops!), but several did, and laid eggs.  What happens is that each egg gets it's own spot in a long, narrow tunnel in the box, and the mama bee makes a wax/mud wall in between to form a cell.  Each cell contains an egg and is surrounded by a bright yellow pollen bed to nourish the growing pupae.  This happens in late spring.  Come October-ish, the developing bees have formed cocoons around themselves and are ready to be "harvested".

This, below, is what I harvested today:


My very first batch of Mason Bees, all thirty of them. I opened up the wooden box (in layers) and carefully removed the cocoons from the tunnels, then cleaned the wooden layers and the cocoons.  Now that the cocoons are dry, I'll put them in a ventilated box with clean toilet paper and then into the fridge to keep them in the hibernation mode.  Come next March I'll bring them out and let the sun and warmth encourage them to hatch and make babies of their own.

I'm so proud!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rebooting my life

That's what it feels like, anyway.  My Mac laptop is back, with a new hard drive, and quite empty but for the small amount that I'm starting to add to it.

I find it a rather impish, or perhaps ironic, coincidence that the hard drive (and thus the disappearing of my old files, photos, emails, etc.) happened on the weekend of Samhain (30/31st), which is the Celtic New Year.  "Out with the old" indeed.  Yes, Universe, I hear you.  I just wish you would have given me a head's up so that I could have saved all the baby photos of my second son.  Would a little warning have been so hard?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trying to avoid the Angst

This past Saturday my MacBook Pro laptop decided that it's hard drive wasn't a workable resource anymore.  This is from a computer that was put together earlier this year, and has only been in use for about a month.  How the hard drive could die after only one month is beyond me.

And to add the proverbial salt to this electronic wound, all the data (five years worth of files, recently transferred over from my old Mac) is not retrievable.  Gone.

I'm trying not to think about it too much, but, knowing that I've been collecting files for that long, there are likely to be many things that I will very much regret losing.  It's been quite the blow.

P.S. I'm consoling myself with Hallowe'en chocolate and Bailey's.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Progress!

I had a meeting with a screenwriting mentor today, who I have been working a little with via email for the last month.  We met for two hours to really tack down the plotline/acts of my story and I feel great about it!  It's starting to come together, starting to feel *real*.

Just excited.  Had to share :-)

P.S. Steps to throw me over the moon about this project:
1) complete the story/script to professional industry standards
2) have the screenplay bought
3) have it made into an actual movie (!!!)
4) be able to be a part of the moviemaking process or at least be able to visit the set
5) see my name in the credits on the big screen.

Ah, a girl can dream, right?  And perhaps work towards achieving that dream?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recipes: Hot Cocoa

I've been meaning to start this for ages - a weekly recipe.  Sometimes complex, sometimes simple.  Usually my own, or an adaptation, or borrowed (with permission) from a friend.

This first week is that cold-weather classic - Hot Cocoa.  It comes from a long time friend (yarnsalad on blogger), and is one of my favourite winter treats.

Now, please keep in mind that I often don't measure, unless for baking.  I go by taste, so these are suggestions - you'll need to taste yours as you go to make sure it's okay.

Ursa's Hot Cocoa:
  •  3-4 heaping tablespoons pure cocoa powder (I find Dutch-processed the best)
  •  2-4 level teaspoons of pure maple syrup (you can use honey or raw sugar or maple sugar, if you prefer)
  •  pinch of cinnamon powder (optional)
  •  boiling water
  •  milk (cow's, or rice, or almond or soy, your preference); for an extra rich treat, use cream :-)
  •  few drop pure vanilla extract
How to:

In a mug, add the cocoa powder and cinnamon powder, then the maple syrup (add half - you can add more after, if it's not sweet enough).  With a spoon (I prefer a wee whisk), add about 3-4 tablespoons of boiling water.  Mix with cocoa and maple syrup to make a thinnish paste.  Add more boiling water, stirring while pouring, until you are about 2/3 to the top of your mug.  Then add the milk/cream (I sometime heat my milk first so that it doesn't cool the temperature of the hot cocoa too much) to fill the rest of the mug.  Add the drops of the vanilla extract.  Stir and taste.  Add more maple syrup, if needed.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This week on the needles, October 24th

My apologies!  I missed posting about my knitting three weeks in a row.  I had a good reason.  I was trying to decide if I would start the podcasting, and if so, I would be telling you about what I was working on, and it would be silly to blog about the same thing.  And I ended up doing neither! 

I'll now bring you up to speed on what the WIPs and FOs are for the past few weeks, starting with the FOs (finished objects).


The Pogona shawl, by Stephen West, in the Sanguine Gryphon yarn Bugga!, in the "Orchard Spider" colourway, with a trim of my own hand-dyed Heithrun Sock, in the "Mere-Ama" colourway.  I really enjoyed knitting this crescent-shaped scarf/shawl, though the teal/orange colorway is quite variegated and a little loud - not sure what I'll wear it with.  I'll likely knit this pattern again sometime, with a more subtle variegated yarn, or a semi-solid.  I hadn't intended to add the teal trim, but I ran out of the Bugga! yarn at 12 inches, so wanted to make it a little longer (it's supposed to be about 15 inches).  I've yet to block it.


My new yellow mittens, the SnapDragon Flip-top mittens (pattern by Ysolda Teagues), are knit out of the The Sanguine Gryphon's QED BFL worsted.  I was originally going to use the Madelinetosh Vintage worsted (more like a DK), but the gauge was off.  So I grabbed a skein of a skein of the QED, in a semi-solid bright yellow over-layed with an egg-yolk yellow gold.  I used less that the full skein (168 yards per 4oz) for the two mitts, which was great - I love being able to use such a little bit of yarn for a full project.  I liked the pattern, though the cabled detail on the lower hand and wrist were challenging for one with little cabling experience.  The row by row instructions seemed a bit different than reading the chart, so I followed the chart, though that was confusing as well.    I also changed the mittens from a flip-top (which is handy, but it looked like a pain to knit), so I went the easy path and made them as regular mittens.  I love how they've turned out and can't wait to have cold enough mornings to wear them.  I may knit a second pair, but out of my own hand-dyed Heithrun DK yarn.


Speaking of the Heithrun DK yarn, I have just finished a Saroyan scarf using two full skeins of this really squishy, soft merino/cashmere/nylon blend.  I love this yarn!  I had dyed up the two skeins together in the blue-purple (with touches of pink when it hits the light) in the same pot and they were so close in dyeing that I ended up being able to knit one skein, then the other, instead of alternating skeins, and I can't even tell where one ends and the other begins.  So nice.  Hand-dyed yarn can be tricky to do this with, as skeins often don't match, even the solid colours.  When I dye for my own knitting use, I try to get the skeins as close as possible so that I don't have to alternate, or only minimally.  The scarf itself is narrow at both ends and grows to a subtle crescent shape, with leaves running along the curved side.  Very pretty and simple.

In case you noticed, yes, I have been starting new projects when I still have WIPs.  Bad knitter!  But I so wanted/needed the new pieces!  Well, it was the mittens I needed the most.

And the WIPs?  The lace scarf from organic merino that I've mentioned before (and shown a photo) with the zig-zag pattern.  Aye, that project is still on the needles.  I know.  It's the damn scarf that never seems to end.  Sigh.  I am determined to finish it though.

A new WIP that I started just this past friday is a wee cardigan for my youngest son.  It's called "Yokester" and is a top-down, seamless sweater.  I'm knitting it out of a DK-weight superwash hand-dyed wool called "Traveller", by The Sanguine Gryphon.  The yarn reminds me a lot of my own hand-dyed superwash DK wool called "Pales Fluffy DK", though I find my own softer than the Traveller, which seems a bit squeaky and not terribly soft.  Odd, as I didn't notice this when I used the Traveller yarn for a pair of socks for my husband.  Those socks are really good, and wear really well, even with going into the washer and dryer.  I plan to make socks for myself with this yarn eventually.  The cardigan is going really well, even with the yarn feeling funny.  My son got to choose what colours he wanted - some blues/greens with touches of purple.

These two (scarf and sweater) should keep me busy for a few more weeks.  And oh, those WIP socks - eventually I'll get back to them, and will let you know what they are and when I'm working on them again.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Debating with myself

I know I've mentioned in a few previous posts the idea of starting a podcast.  And yes, I do really like the idea, however, as I think on it longer, I am not sure if I'll be able to start soon.  For those of you who have been reading (or read back) since the start of this podcast this past May, I stated in there somewhere that I tend to over commit myself.  I bring on many projects at the same time, and spread myself too thin, and then grow exhausted and grumpy.  This time I would like to keep my schedule fairly simple, with only a few things on the go.  I need to re-stock my online store (Gaia's Colours), but will be doing this somewhat slowly, and I need to get moving on my screenplay story (it's time has come, I think).  Starting and maintaining a podcasting will be taking a backseat, for the time being.  It's still there though, and I will continue to play around with ideas, good sound quality, etc.

So this is to keep you updated, just in case you wondered about the podcast, and what was happening with me.  I'm busy, as always, and trying my best to be creative and still enjoy the process.

I've got other posts to write soon, but for now, I'm off to an appointment, then dinner and my weekly knit night.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Testing, testing....

I am, in fact, now testing the waters, and may create a podcast in the next week.  Still figuring out details - what segments to include, how often to record a podcast, what sorts of themes, file hosting/storage, etc.  It's all so new!

Watch this space in the next little while - things are moving!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's in my ears, September 19th

Okay, I can't help myself - three blog posts in one day.  But it's in part due to being behind on my regular weekly updates, and also to just loving having my new laptop to type on.  I must admit, after having five computers in my life (counting this new one), three being desktops and the other two laptops, I infinitely prefer typing on a laptop.  The keys are flatter, have a softer "click" when pressed, and have less distance to be pressed.  I find regular keyboards often loud in their "clacking" sounds.  The sounds made when typing on a laptop are the gentle strikes of one's fingertips, and sometimes fingernails on the keys, mild, soothing, unobtrusive.  Perfect, in my amateur writer's mind.

Now I've seriously veered away from the title of this blog entry, my apologies.

Right, what have I been listening to?  Well, I have finished the second Outlander novel, Dragonfly in Amber, last week, and plunged directly into the third book, Voyager.  I intend to write a blog post shortly about these two books, so I won't go into it here.  Sufficient to say, I am really enjoying the twists and turns of the series and intend to read to the end.

In terms of podcasts, I fallen a bit behind this past week, with only a couple episodes of the Caithness Craft Collective (where Louise very kindly passed along some information I sent her about Gaia's Colours), and to the latest of Electric Sheep.  I'm seriously behind in both CogKnitive and CraftLit, but will be putting them on more when I'm working in the GC studio this week.

On a side note, I'm reading an actual, physical book called Screenplay: The Fountains of Screenwriting, by Syd Field.  From what I understand, Mr. Field and his books are very important and useful in the world of screenwriting.  It's been decent reading so far, in a simple, conversational style - quite pleasant, really.  Not that I have much time for actual reading, but I need to make the time, in order to help myself learns the "why's" and "wherefore's" (and even more important, in my eyes, the "how's") of writing a screenplay.  Pretty essential if I'm to put my story out into sell-able work, no?

Away from Montana and into School

I meant to write and post this last week, but I have been oddly busy (I can't imagine why....).  We returned from Montana and Alberta on Monday, the 6th, and were launched directly into the first day of school on the 7th

Yes, it's been a hectic past few weeks, what with our family trip to Montana for my sister's wedding, and then the first week of school for both of my boys.  Our youngest is now in his first year of pre-school, and our oldest in Grade 1.  It's been a week of adjustments for all.

But first, I did promise some photos from our Montana time.  I did take lots of pictures!

 This is farmland in Southern Alberta, about a hour north of the Montana border.
Ah, that lovely Alberta sky....
Getting closer to the Montana border, with mountains and rain clouds looming large...
Arriving at Flathead lake, to a stormy, windy evening view across the water to dark mountains.
The first house, the lake-side house, that we stayed at.  I blogged here, overlooking the lake.  Yeah, rough, I know....
I was able to see all sorts of weather on this lake, like the stormy.....
And the blissfully sunny and warm.
Doesn't it invite you to dive in...?
My father in his kayak, and my husband and son in the yellow paddle boat, enjoying the same summer sun.
Gratuitous moon shot, as best a zoom as I can manage with my camera.
I managed, after several shots, to capture this little lovely hummingbird.
The Lodge Hotel, in Whitefish, Montana, where my sister was married.
The pavilion where the actual ceremony took place, right next to Whitefish Lake.  Sadly, the weather on the Sunday wasn't as lovely as it was here, on the Saturday.
My father, (half)sister (in Vera Wang bridal), and step-mother (Japanese Canadian).
On the road heading home - through Montana to Alberta, and then flying home to B.C.

I have heaps more photos, but that a highlight for y'all.  Sorry I've been so delayed in posting all this. 

Our boys seem to have grown accustom to our new routine of school, especially my oldest, who, now in Grade 1, has three years already of the Montessori school environment.  My youngest is dealing really well with the full days of pre-school and afternoon care, though since he is not fully potty-trained, we have to pack extra pants and underwear for the damp accidents.  Ah dear....

And just to give us a little extra fun, we have our first collective cold from the school - happens every September!

This week on the needles, September 19th

I know, I've missed two weeks of the "This week" feature, but I did warn that I might be late.  Not this late perhaps, but still...

First off, I have now completed my green Diamond Gansey socks, and will have pictures up shortly.  They feel and fit wonderfully!

Then the lace scarf that never ends is still plodding along - lovely, but ugh.

I'm also working on a new shawl.  Yes, I didn't plan on starting anything new until I finished all my WIPs but I couldn't help myself with this.  I really wanted to knit this Pogona shawl by Stephen West, with some colourful, variegated Bugga! yarn by The Sanguine Gryphon.  Have I mentioned Bugga! yarn before?  If not, it's a wonderful 70/20/10 SW Merino/Cashmere/Nylon heavy fingering yarn.  They also dye a "Skinny Bugga!" too, that is a more slender fingering, with 10% Cashmere instead of the 20% in regular or "Fat" Bugga!  I intend to knit some socks with the Skinny Bugga! sometime in the new few months, after I finish my other sock projects.

But I digress.  The Pogona shawl is a new release from Stephen West, in a cresent shape, with section of triangles in stockinette and reverse stockinette, worked from the centre of the neck out.  I started it just before I left for Montana, and I'm getting close to being finished.  It looks great, and I'll get a decent photo of it once completed and blocked.

Lastly, I'm bringing out an UFO (unfinished object) from a year or so ago - a drop-stitch stockinette scarf/shawl, knit in Sundara's hand-dyed Aran Silky Merino.  It's a gift for someone (shh).

Now, off to bed, as I've landed a cold, thanks to my children getting sick from school - happens every fall...

Goodnight!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Me, podcast?

I bought a new laptop yesterday, a MacBook Pro, 13 inch.  Oh my, I am in love.  It was quite an investment, admittedly, as any Mac computer is (they ain't cheap!), but worth it.  The last time I invested in a Mac computer was five years ago, and it's getting a bit slow and out of date, sadly.  I've loved and used it muchly, but as it was beyond upgrading, it had to find a new home (which I'm still trying to do).

This new laptop has the much talked-of "Garage Band", and after playing around with it in my bits of spare time today, I've figured out how some podcasters come up with really decent, simply-made podcasts.  Garage Band does make it pretty simple.

This begs the question then, could I start my own podcast?  And if so, what to I call it, or theme it?  Will it be about knitting, or crafting or dyeing, or bits of my own life, or....?  Or all of the above?  Kind of like this blog - many things that I am exploring daily.  Could be.  Would anyone listen to it though - that's the other question...?

Thoughts?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Over-saturation

This is what can happen to a dyer sometimes - the yarn or fibre takes on more colour that you want it to, and ends up too dark.  Not good.  Perhaps still sellable, but generally not good.

The same can be said of over-saturation in other areas of life.  I think I'm in the middle of that right now.  That feeling of over-saturation with a situation.

I should premise this with stating that I really like my alone time.  I crave and need it the same way some crave and need to be with others.  If I don't get a certain amount of me-time/space, I can get really, ahem, crabby.

So this past week, as I have mentioned, being here in Montana with a large gaggle of family, including my own small family of a husband and two small sons, has been great, but also trying.  They are a really wonderful family - don't get me wrong - and the family that I was raised with.  Regardless, if I get put into a situation where there is almost constant family time and activities, with many of us sharing houses, and I don't get that needed solo time, it becomes difficult for me to be nice around them.  I get snappish.

And this is where I find myself, as of yesterday (Saturday), having reached that point of over-saturation.  I'm friendly to the various family and friends of family, but inside I'm tired and want to be left alone.  And the only people who I can (and end up with) venting at, is my poor husband and sons.

Do you have that happen - where you hear yourself being grumpy and/or mean to those close to you, and you know you are doing it, and you don't like that you are doing it, but you just can't be any other way sometimes?  Yes, I dislike being grumpy and/or mean, but at this point it's very difficult to be any other way.

However, on the up side, I suggested the my husband and sons go on a hike without me, pleading the excuse (although true) that I need to tend to the tidying and ironing of their dress shirts, and to get ready for the wedding myself.  So here I have some brief me-time.  And then my sister gets married this afternoon, and the evening of food and family and merriment stretch ahead.

Yes, my sister is getting married today.  And I couldn't be more pleased for her!  I do want to blog about her later on, and include a wedding pic or two.

For now, I'm going to knit and iron and listen to podcasts.  Oh, I'm so glad to be going home tomorrow!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Regretsy

Through the Electric Sheep podcast, I've discovered the wonky world of Regretsy.com.  This amusing website (and book!) comb through the wonderful and weird world of Etsy.com to bring you the odd and sometimes disturbing hand-made products that people make and sell.  Regretsy's tagline is "Where DIY meets WTF", and it appears to be very much the case.  Just looking at the current front page has me shaking my head and laughing.  Case in point - the first picture under the heading of "Baby Jones Locker", of a fish-bowl "Welcome Baby" jelly candle with a baby doll suspended in the "watery" depths.  The caption below says "Nothing says 'Sorry your baby drowned in a boating accident' like a forever candle.  Eep!

Check it out - you'll see what I mean!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On recycling, wheat, and pride in Montana

I've been in Montana about 48 hours now.  From what I can see so far, there isn't a heavy stressing on recycling around here.  In fact, I have had this confirmed by one of my Aunts, who sympathised with me upon my complaining on the lack of recycling.
  "There is some, but you have to know where to look.  We often take ours home."  She told me.  Apparently there is a drop-off near a local pub, so we'll bag up our stuff to take there tonight.  I has made me cringe at having to throw out anything that is remotely recyclable (and don't even get me started on things compostable).  I know I am a bit spoiled back in Victoria for the abundance of great recycling opportunities, and that we have an efficient, useful system set up in our house and know what companies will pick-up what.  We recycle almost everything.  One or two garbage bags are put out on our garbage pick-up take, which, for a family of four, isn't bad.  It's mostly non-compostable food stuffs, non-compostable "pull-up" diapers for my three-year-old, and the odd other bit.  Everything is recycled or composted.

But back to recycling in Montana.  It does make me wonder if the rest of the state, and indeed, the rest of the United States, is like this?  Or does it vary from state to state and urban to rural communities?  Is one state more progressive in it's organised recycling, like, say, Oregon, or Washington, than another, say Texas or Kentucky?  Do the political leanings of a state tend to dictate the emphasise on proper recycling facilities?  And could the same be asked of the Canadian provinces?  Is B.C more recycling-friendly than Alberta?  Or can one generalise the province as a whole?  Does it need to be more specific, more local, to cities and towns and the rural areas?  I get the sense that there would be a lot of variation, and that generalisations would likely be rash, and/or, incorrect.

Something else I've noticed while here, is a rather strong stressing, or presence, of Montana-sourced foods (wheat, huckleberries, cherries, etc.), businesses (named after local towns, mountains, rivers, lakes, etc.), and a general strong sense of pride in all-things-Montana.  I'm guessing many areas like to do this, but as a tourist, looking at an area with new eyes, I think these things are more glaring, more noticed.  I'm trying to recall if I noticed such a strong sense of local pride of city/area/state, when I was in Oregon or Washington state.  There may be, and likely is, but nothing jumps out at me in the same way as this.  It could be, perhaps, seeing the smaller town (like Kalispell) and other more rural areas, that really make these stand out or be more likely.

I was surprised to find out that large amounts of wheat is grown around here, even with such a large presence of mountainous land.  There is a local chain store called "Wheat Montana", where you can buy breakfast, lunch and bakery goods, plus sacks of local flour.  You can even grind your own bag of flour, very like grinding your beans at the grocery store.  If we weren't flying to get back home, I would have totally purchased a bag of flour to use for baking bread this fall.  They have more than the common two wheat types called "Hard Red Winter wheat" and "Soft White Spring Wheat".  They also have "Bronze Chief wheat" and "Prairie Gold Wheat".  Even better, I've just discovered that their wheat and flour products can be ordered online!!  Guess what I'll be ordering mail-order to Victoria later this month?

It's been quite fun playing tourist, in an area I haven't been in for a very long time - since my mid-teen years.  And being on Flathead Lake, in a smaller town setting, has been great.  My boys got to go out on a kayak and paddle boat this morning, as the weather has turned sunny and clear.  Last night, too, we were at my other Aunt's large house, where their front lawn meet their dock and the lake, roasting marshmallows on an open fire.  Oh, and I got to be the fire-starter.  It's been a while since I had to build a fire from scratch, but I was successful, and we got sticky fingers and over-dosed on corn syrup sweetness.

Off to the pub for a family dinner in an hour.  May have time to post again tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Writing by the lakeside

Didn't think I'd have internet access, but we brought the laptop just in case, and voila!  Wireless internet!  So here I am!

I'm at Lakeside, Montana, quiet literally on the side of Flathead lake.  It is a vast expanse of water, near Kalispell, in north-west Montana.  I have photos already, but alas, forgot to bring my cable to plug in my camera to the computer.  Will update this post once I get home to insert the photos.

I tell ya, this hanging by the lapping shores of a lake is rough!  I wish you could all see what I see.  We are on the west side of Flathead lake, with an eastern view of a long row of mountains (will have to look up the name), mostly fir-covered, some smooth and brown.  No snow on them, that I can see.  Perhaps they aren't tall enough?  We certainly saw many snow-peaked mountains on the long drive from Calgary, Alberta (where we flew into) down across the US border and to Lakeside.  Just north of the border, there were many rolling hills - grazing land for cattle, horses and bison.  The weather was a mix of sun and cloud, and I could see the light and dark swatches sweeping across the grassy fields, which rippled with wind.  Past these hills loomed a large stretch of mountains.  The most prominent of these was a towering square-topped mountain, called "Chief", if I recall rightly.  It is a Native reserve around that area, though I'm not sure on the particular tribe.

After the border, there was a very long stretch of open country, away from the mountains, that my father called "cowboy country".  Lots of ranching there, and a road that stretched straight for many miles.  I had to put on my podcasts at this point, as my family were all sleeping, and I needed company for the drive.  We were following my father, as he was our guide, in his Jetta.  Both vehicles had to go a bit slower, as he had two kayaks strapped to his car.  My husband was mildly worried that one of the boats would break free and launch itself at our front windshield.  Nothing untoward occurred, however.

Once through the ranching lands, we entered mountain and forest again, full-on.  It was like being back in our coastal B.C., with fir trees and snow-capped peaks.  I took rather a lot of photos during this time, as I was back to being a passenger.  It reminded me of the drive near Port Alberni, with lots of looming mountains.  There was a long stretch of train tracks as well, that followed the road for a good while, sometimes running along the steep sides of mountains.

The drive was long, but had some amazing scenery - such a variety of landscapes.  And we get to take it again, next Monday.  Hopefully it won't lose too much of it's charm on the return, as my impatience to get home to Victoria will likely be taking me over.....

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This week on the needles & in the ears, August 29th

Another combo post, as I'm a little short on time.  The post for "This week on the needles/ears" that would come next Sunday, September 5th, will be delayed by a few days, as I'm off to Alberta and Montana for a wedding (my baby sister!) and won't be back on time.

It's a bit quiet on the knitting front this week.  I didn't get as far in my sock as I thought, and won't likely finish it before September 1st, but that's okay.  I have another six diamonds and the 2 inch cuff left.  I didn't knit much in the past week, as we had a friend "move in" to stay for a month, and it was settling-in time, catching-up time, etc.

The lace scarf is getting some work done, but quite honestly, this feels like the scarf that will never end.  I weighed the remaining ball last week, and I had exactly 2oz of the formerly 4oz of the skein.  What?  So even though I have completed about 36 or 37 of the 49 repeats, I still have lots of yarn left.  And I don't want any yarn left.  I want to use the whole skein.  Hence the never-ending scarf.  It looks fabulous, and I will likely love wearing once done, but really, I am bored with it currently.

Oh, and the blue sweater hasn't had any action.  No time, no time.

As for listening, I am working through some of the CogKnitive podcast (very cool!), and am coming back into the fold of the Dragonfly in Amber.  I also listened to the first two episodes of the Caithness Craft Collective.

Right, off to pack!  I'll try to take some pictures while I'm away, to post upon my return.  Lakeside Montana...mmmm....

Friday, August 27, 2010

REALLY back in Scotland

(Spoiler info ahead...)
Yes, it's finally happened - the storyline of Dragonfly in Amber has taken our main characters, Jaimie and Claire, back to Scotland.  I'm so glad they are home, back at Jaimie's land, the Fraser lands, on his family farm.  They are settling back into farm-life, including harvesting their very first crop of potatoes (new to Highland Scotland in 1745, as I understand).

No sooner have they become happy and comfortable again the months of home-life and work, then Jaimie receives a letter from his friend, Bonny Prince Charlie, to say that the reclaiming of the throne is back on (this plot is the main reason Claire and Jamie went to France - to stop it, to save the many Scots and the ruin of Scotland).

And?

And that is as far as I've gotten in the audiobook.  I've put it down temporarily, because I have a feeling it's only going to go south again.  Sigh.  So I am listening something else Scottish - the podcast from Caithness (north-east Scotland), called Caithness Craft Collective.  I love listening to our lady of the Collective!  Jaimie and Claire will have to wait until I'm ready for them again.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This week on the needles, August 22nd

I have three projects to finish over the next couple of weeks.  First is the green socks that I have mentioned in previous posts.  I finished the first sock on the 16th, and cast on for the second on the 18th, and last night knit the heel (it's toe-up).  So I am progressing nicely and will hopefully have it done by next week.  Will take a photo or two once they are finished.

Second and third are two coming out of hibernation.  A scarf, knit with a DK-weight, muted rainbow variegated organic merino from The Sanguine Gryphon, in the criss-cross lace pattern called "La Novia", by Anne Hanson.  I think I've mentioned this one before.  And now I have a photo to show for it!  I'm about 50% or so done.  I'm going to continue the 6-row repeat until I use up the 285 yards or so of yarn.  This picture below show the zig-zag pattern fairly well:



The other hibernation project that is going to be finished is a sweater, knit out of my own hand-dyed Pales Twisty DK merino wool, in the powder-blue colourway "Azer-Ava".  The pattern is called "Big Cables and Baby Cables too".  It's a garter stitch-yoke, with some cables, knit in the round, then it moves to Stockinette.  I am on the stockinette body, then it'll be time for the sleeves, that do have a lot of cable details to pay attention too.  I hope this will be done by mid-to-late September. This photo is from a while back, before I had divided for the sleeves and body.


And that's what I'm currently knitting.  Until next week....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Push

The push to write is back, with a vengeance.  I am surprised at how strong the yearning is, really, as it's been quite a while since I've wanted to write seriously, and often.  This all started very slowly, perhaps two years ago, with the first spark of inspiration about my current story project (the "Scottish project", as I'll call it), coming on in that gradual glimmer of "not yet, but soon".  Coming on as tiny morsels of ideas, snapshots, specks of dust blown in by the Muses, until they form a fine layer of film, as on a neglected piano forte, waiting to be noticed and collected.  Until they can't be ignored anymore.

So I'm getting more active in this, still fairly slowly, as I'm unsure how to proceed.  But it's coming, and the beads on the string are being added, one by one, as they present themselves in as the next logical step.

Yes, a story* coming together.


*Sorry to be so secretive, but it's all still new and fragile, and I'm not even sure if this will be completed or what will come of it all.  Can't be more open until that hopeful "when it is done" comes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This week on the needles & in the ears, August 15th

I'm combining this week, the blog posts about what I'm knitting and listening to, as they are usually happening at the same time.

On the needles, I have completed the first sock (my "August Socks") of my green Diamond Gansey socks, knitted with my own hand-dyed Kuan-Yin sock yarn in the "Eriu" colourway.  I had divided the skein into two, one for each sock.  They are toe-up socks.  I was casting off/binding off the first sock when I ran out of yarn in the last 10 stitches.  So I stole a yard or two from the second part of the skein.  Hopefully I can still get the same size sock in the second go.

The other project I've been working on is my QED Hoodie, which is now complete.  Mostly.  I finished knitting the kangaroo pocket, and now just need to sew it on.  Then a little weaving in of ends and I'm ready to make use of it this fall.  Pictures to follow after sewing is complete.

As for what I'm listening to, I've mentioned previously about starting the second of the Outlander novels, called Dragonfly in Amber.  I intend to use this for the knitting of the second green sock, in the remaining two weeks of August.

I've also subscribed to two new crafting podcasts - Knit a Journey, and Caithness Craft Collective.  Don't know much about them yet, but will report back once I've listened to a few episodes of each.

Off to bed now, with a belly full of Rooibus tea...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Eeet's Mine, ALL Mine!

Chesterman's Beach.  My favourite beach, that I've had the privilege and pleasure to walk upon.  It's located a few miles (kilometres?) before the lovely and popular Tofino, BC, just up island from us here in Victoria.  We went for a four-day jaunt this past weekend, to Port Alberni (3hrs North-West of us), and to Chesterman's Beach, Tofino, and very briefly, Ucluelet (1/2hr from Tofino).  We normally stay four days or so at a cabin, minutes away from Chesterman's, but couldn't afford it this year, so I had to settle for a day-trip to the beach and to Tofino.  We stayed at my aunt's spacious house, and, despite the heat, kept fairly cool, thanks to her fab pool!

Necessary beach shots, taken by me in June 2006.  I didn't take any this time 'round because I was a forgetful ninny and neglected to bring my wonderful new camera.  Oh well, the shots from '06 are still pretty good.
This first one is looking south, slightly west. It was about 9 or 10am. This photos were all taken within about 1/2hr of each other.


These two above are looking east-ish.  The surfers are out already.

This shot is of the same area as the first photo, but further back.

Looking west.  I love to use this one as a desktop wallpaper.

Can you see why I want to live near here?  Sigh.

As it turns out...

I'm not back in Scotland, as the previous post mentioned.  Not in the second of the Outlander novels, anyway.  Spoiler! (for anyone who hasn't read the second book, Dragonfly in Amber, but plans to) I am actually in France.  Our two main characters, Jaimie and Claire are in France, planning/hoping to stop Bonny Prince Charlie from his upcoming attempt at taking back his throne, thus preventing the major battles at Culloden, Scotland and the further destruction of many Scottish peoples and lands by the English.  Claire, having come from the future, knows about this whole plot/battle/aftermath, and wishes to stop it.

Will she and Jaimie succeed...?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back in Scotland

It's going to happen, tonight.  I'm going back to Scotland, mid-18th century.  Back into the world of the Outlander series.  I've downloaded the second novel, Dragonfly in Amber, and will be starting it shortly, as soon as my iPod has finished charging.

I must admit, I'm nervous.  Alright, mildly terrified.  I've peeked a little at the second book, because I have a paper copy, and if this one is anywhere as nerve-wracking as the first, I'm in going to be back on that emotional roller-coaster.  I'm not sure if I can handle it, yet I must know what happens next!

Gasp!  In I go.  Will let you know how things progress...

Too busy holidaying to blog?

Funny this, but before I started my vacation time in late June, I thought I'd be blogging in reams, in a proliferation of profound monologues.

Nope.

My blog count has barely increased, and the content could hardly be called profound.

How can the time where I have so much more of it still be full?  I blame the knitting.  I've been on such a mad bent to finish as many WIPs as possible this summer, that it took a lot of the steam out of my free time.  I find the knitting often competes with other things I want/have to do - knitting or blogging?  knitting or writing?  knitting or weaving?  knitting or spinning?  knitting or doing dishes?  knitting or working out?  knitting or sleep?  Yeah, I suspect most of you knitters understand.

Do you ever find that when you have free time, you have so many things you'd love to do that you just can't decide and end up wasting it puttering around not doing anything of substance?  I do.

And while I'm enjoying my vacation time (haven't had this much time off in over two years), I must admit to be excited about our new schedule come mid-September when both of my young sons will be in school full-time (six hours or so).  Then I get to work at home for Gaia's Colours, and also do other house-hold chores and errands and have lots of day-time "ME-time".  Oh yeah!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

This week on the needles, August 8th

Are the same two items as last week.  Wasn't that easy?

No, but really, I'm on the second sleeve of my hoodie, but still the first sock of the green diamond gansey socks.  I can't watch telly/movies when knitting the socks, so I use it for knitting while listening to audiobooks and podcasts.  And that's it for this week.  Like I said, easy.

Random "FO"

Finished Object, that is.  A knitting project that wasn't part of my mentioned list of "to-do's", but needed to be finished regardless.  A cotton sweater for my youngest, who is three.  I started it when he was not quite two, and then, one sleeve left, put it aside for other more exciting "me" projects.

So this week I buckled down and finished that last sleeve.  I think one reason I continually delayed the knitting of the last sleeve was that I didn't like the needles I was using.  They were cheap, stiff 6mm circulars that were difficult and unpleasant to use.

However, I did finish the sweater, and it fits a little large on my son, so he'll be able to wear it this winter.  It's knitted out of naturally-coloured, organic cotton from Blue Sky Alpacas.  The pattern is a basic top-down raglan, with stockinette body and ribbed neck, cuffs and bottom, and with one blue stripe in the middle of the body.

In case you are wondering where my son's head is - I cropped it - he won't mind, but I don't like posting the faces of my children on the internet.  It's a privacy, safety issue for me - the internet is too vast, with too many people searching for such sweet faces.  You understand.

Anyway, I'm glad it's done, and he can have a soft sweater for the next year.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

This week on the needles, August 1st

Now that I've finished my main two recent projects (the purple Estelle cardigan and the orange socks), I get to move into August with two-three WIPs that need to be completed.  I can't recall if I mentioned this earlier in a post, but I'm not letting myself start any new knitting until I complete ALL my WIPs (works-in-progress).  So I have much work to do.

So for this week, and likely to fill some of August, I have two projects to work on.

The first is my QED Hoodie sweater that I started earlier this year (March), and have now completed the body and need to finish the arms.  Hopefully I'll have that done this week.  It'll be a great casual winter pullover sweater.  Pictures to follow upon completion.

And second is another pair of socks that need to be finished.  These will also be my "August" socks for the 12 socks project (a pair a month).  I am knitting them out of my own hand-dyed Kuan-Yin sock yarn (merino/cashmere/silk), in another Wendy D. Johnson pattern from one of her toe-up sock pattern books.  It's a diamond gansey pattern.  Pretty basic, but I can't really watch TV/Movies while doing it with all the knit/purl changes.  It's good for podcasts and audiobooks though.

That's it for this week :-)

Friday, July 30, 2010

On Writing Exercises

It happens once or twice a year, inevitably, that I am drawn to them: writing exercises.  I've had an almost continuous itch for them since I was in my late teens, since I realised how much pleasure I derived from writing, from creating.  True, most of the time the itch lays dormant, as I roll about in other pleasures, like cooking, knitting, dyeing fibre, being outside, giggling with my boys, soaking in moonlight by the sea, and such similar small adventures of daily life.

Then, quite suddenly, an energy will sweep over me - the "time to create" energy of the Muses, like I've become their living quill, and am now hooked up, a conduit open to the Universe.  I love these moments - the energy fills me and drives me like no other force.  I feel a fire in my belly, in my solar-plexus.  I have the urge to run, to sing, to dance, to drum, to paint, to write, to swirl and sway and somehow burn this fueling source.  This often strikes me at inopportune moments, like when I am just about to go to bed, or take my son to school, or make spaghetti with meat sauce.  I suppose the Muses don't care about timing or circumstance.  "Create!" they say, "Write!  Take this voice we are giving you and let it be heard!"  I've heard artists or their biographers mention how creation and art would happen at all hours, even driving them from sleep and their morning beds, in order to obey the command.  Were I a proficient musician, I would go to my instrument, and play until my fingers ached.  But since this drive most often points me to pen & paper (or in my case, a computer screen & keyboard), I step into the Writer's shoes, and let the words flow.

Which brings me back to writing exercises.  I have several books which contain wonderful ideas, suggestions and encouragement to help novice writers work through their demons, insights, Muse-ings, and stagnant moments.  They can free that block which paralyzes us all frequently.  When the energy of the Muses strikes not, these books can open a writer to becoming that conduit, or if the energy flows, they can help to direct and focus into workable writing.

Here is a list of the ones I love and use.  Mine are all from many years ago, so there are likely several more recently published.  Please feel free to share any you'd recommend.
  • Writing the Wave, by Elizabeth Ayres
  • Escaping into the open, Elizabeth Berg
  • For Writers Only, Sophy Burnham
  • The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron
  • Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
  • Wild Mind, Living The Writer's Life, Natalie Goldberg
Hm, I might need to take a wee break from my knitting (gasp!) and immerse myself into these books and their exercises again.  After all, my story-in-utero is still percolating, but getting rather insistent that I start to actively work on it.

For now, to bed, to sleep, perchance to dream (have I mentioned that my dreams often give me wonderful and very detailed story ideas?)...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What's in my ears this week, July 25th

Another weekly post series I want to do is what I am listening to each week - music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.

So this week, in taking a break from the Outlander series, I have been listening to podcasts and audiobooks.

The first has been Monk's Hood, a Brother Cadfael novel, in a Ravelry RAL (read-a-long), which I finished in about three or four days while working on the sleeves of my Estelle cardigan.  It's a easy book, very well told and interesting.  I suspect I'll check out the other Brother Cadfael books sometime soon.

The second is what I'm currently listening to - the CraftLit podcast, which is working through a Librivox recording of Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities.  It's a little more difficult to follow than Monk's Hood, and the language and references definitely of the time.  Fortunately Heather Ordover, the CraftLit guru, walks us through the tricky and/or esoteric sections & terms.  I'm going to keep working through this as I finish the last four inches of my orange sock - deadlines, you know :-)

And lastly, episodes #52 and #52 of the podcast Electric Sheep - one of my favourites!

That's all for this week!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Doing the happy dance!

I'm finished my Estelle Cardigan!  Buttons and all!

Necessary photo....

She fits me and I'm in love!  Too bad I'm done in time for it to be too hot to wear.  Wait until September comes though....

Monday, July 26, 2010

This week on the needles, July 25th

It's all about finishing my Estelle cardigan.  I am done the first sleeve and am now half-way done the second.  Then weaving in ends, buying some buttons and wait until the weather cools enough to wear it.

Oh, and I'll try to finish my orange socks this week.

That's all for now - it's almost too hot to knit (perish the thought!).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This week on the needles, July 18th

This week is late, and short, as I'm still working on my main two projects - the purple Estelle cardigan, and my orange socks.

The Estelle cardigan is almost finished in the body, then I'll need to do the arms.  This is the project that I signed up to do as an "OWL" for the Ravelry Harry Potter cup group.  It needs to be done for the end of July, which may not happen.

The orange "brick road" socks are moving along great - I started and completed the second sock in a week, which is fast for me.  This would have finished the pair, except that I purposely made the second sock a lot taller than the first.  I then ripped out the cast on and the two inches of ribbing in order to start knitting the top to meet up the longer sock.  It's much harder to rip out the reverse knitted fabric - it's the first time I've done it.  And now the stitches are messy and I'm not sure if I'll be able to recover the right look of the mock cables.  Ah well.  If worse comes to worse, I'll rip it all out and start again, from the toe-up this time, to match the second sock.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Beyond the Sentimental Journey

An agonizingly wonderful and heart-wrenching one, more like.

I've emerged, not yet a half-hour ago, from finishing "reading", listening to the Outlander novel that I mentioned two blog posts ago.  I really buckled down with both the listening of the story and the knitting of the orange sock (see previous post).  Well, I couldn't help it, really, as I was smitten with both.  These orange socks, especially the second, will be eternally linked in my memory with the novel.

(Possible SPOILER moments ahead - you are warned!)
This book has so many "on-the-edge-of-your-seat" moments, so many "Will he/she make it, or die?" scenarios, that I've come away sad, happy, exhausted, exhilarated, wanting more, and needing a break!  I became so attached to our two main characters, Claire and Jamie, that the thought of either of them dying, or being apart was torture!  Diana Gabaldon, the author, is a very good storyteller.  She knows how to create conflict, by God, but really, sometimes it was too much!  I was so stressed out about the situation near the end last night when I went to bed, that I stayed awake until 3am, listening, in a cold sweat, needing to go on, but terrified of what the outcome would be.  I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep leaving that part of the story unresolved, so I persevered.

There are several books in the series, and I plan to read all of them.  I am tempted to dive right into the next one, Dragonfly in Amber, but I think I'll take a wee break.  On the Ravelry group, there is a RAL (read-a-long) starting soon with one book option likely being a Brother Cadfael book called Monk's Hood.  I've seen the BBC movie versions of these books, so am now ready to read the books.  It'll likely be in audiobook format too, as I can knit while "reading".  I also get one credit with Audible.com every month, so can choose Monk's Hood for this month, and perhaps in August, download the next Outlander novel.  That'll give me a chance to return to, ahem, a more normal way of functioning, day-to-day.

Why do I say this?  Well, this afternoon, as my sons were occupied with play, and I was washing the dishes, I realised that I had been so wrapped up in the Outlander story, it felt like I was going through the motions of my normal daily activities.  I was living so much in the world of the characters and their story that I was barely living in the present.  I thought about this, as I watched my sons, and it came to me, about how my boys live.  Children, especially very young children, live in the present moment all the time.  I believe it's a Buddhist concept (could be for others too) about trying to live and focus on the present moment as much as possible.  We adults are very guilty of living in/for the past and/or the future, or living in our heads, and often forget about just "being" in the present moment.  We ponder, meander, wonder, wander.  A three-year-old now?  No, he is entirely in the "here and now".  Unlike his mother who has been floating through mid-18th century Scotland for the last week ;-)

p.s.
Everything I think now, with my "in-my-head" voice, has a Scottish accent.  Damn.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

This week on the needles, July 11th

I'm starting a new sort of blog post.  A way to keep track of my knitting, for me, and possibly for you, should you care.  I'm going to try to make this a weekly reoccurring post, hence the title "This week..."

I'm absolutely commited to finishing all my WIPs (either by knitting them or, if needs be frogging (ripping out) and reknitting, or frogging altogether and using the yarn for some other purpose).  This also means no starting of new projects until I've completed everything.  So I'll be at this for several months, I suspect, as I had way too much "startitis" in the last year and have many WIPs/UFOs (Work-In-Progress/Un-Finished-Objects).  I've got five pairs of socks to complete, three sweaters, two sweaters that are almost completed but are huge on me so need to be frogged and started again, two shawls, one lace-knitting scarf, one regular ribbed scarf, one small sweater for my son, a cowl, a shawl for someone else, a Clapotis, and a felted bag.  Yes, all that.  Can you tell I'll have enough knitting on my hands for the next six months or so?

So what I've currently got on the needles that I'm actively working on is my Estelle cardigan (the one that was too large in the yoke so needed to be reknit), and it has a deadline of the end of July.
I'm actually moving forward very nicely on this.  This time, the cardi is obviously more "stripey", as I decided the only way to balance the blend of the lighter and darker skein was to alternate more overall with a ball of lighter and a ball of darker at a time.  This way the light and dark will be more distributed and yes, give some stripes, but at least the whole thing will look like this.

The second item on the needles is a pair of socks.  They are called "Red Brick Road" by Wendy Johnson, with a mostly stockinette body and faux cables along each side.  Very easy.  I started them in April of 2009, when I was obsessed with orange.  I completed the first sock by June of that year, cuff-down, though the pattern calls for toe-up.  At that point I didn't know about the easy toe-up starts, so made it cuff-down.  The second sock needed to be knit, and now that I've joined the 12 Socks Project, where WIPs socks are allowed, I decided to start with the sock project that was closest to completion.
These are being knit with the indie dyer numma numma, in her sock yarn called "The Usual", in the "Chinese Takeout" colourway.  Yes, they are really orange!  But I love the colour and the multi-plied yarn is great, albeit a little splitty when doing certain stitches.  The second sock is moving along really quickly so I don't anticipate this taking to long.  Will definitely have these done as my "July Socks".
 
The final project that I've been working along casually, with no particular pattern or deadline, is a basic triangle shawl, mostly in garter stitch, with some sort of nice lacy edging later on.  I'm working on it with two skeins of my own hand-dyed single-ply fingering, in the Broceliande colouway, alternating the skeins at one end to even out the differences between the skeins and show off the variegation nicely.
I'm using 4.5mm Addi Turbos needles (love!) and the slender singles yarn moves so smoothly along their shiny surface.

That's all for this week :-)

All Outlander, all the time!

Alright, I admit it, I am completely entranced with the novel Outlander!  I bought it from Audible.com a few weeks ago, and can't seem to stop listening to it in my spare time.  In fact, I've been creating spare time just to listen.  Ooh, and it's great knitting audio!

So just what is this Outlander of which I speak?  Well, without giving away too much, it is a story of a young English woman named Clare Randell, a 1940s nurse visiting Scotland, who accidentally goes back in time to a Scotland of the mid-18th century.   Now, if you don't wish the storyline to be ruined for you, don't read the "Plot Summery" in the Wiki page link I send you to if you click on the "Outlander" above.  I accidentally read a wee bit more than I ought and spoiled a little of the action that will happen following the part I'm at (chapter 15 or so?).

One reason I really like this story, besides it's being historical fiction and having some romance, is that I'm never quite sure where the plot is going to go next - there are so many possibilities!  It keeps me on my toes :-)

I'm surprised that it's taken me so long to get to this book.  I think I must have forgotten about it.  One of my friends was reading it, if my memory serves, around the time she was living with us briefly.  I recall her telling me how she liked it, what the basic plot was, and that there were some really juicy, but tastefully done "intimate" scenes.  And yet this novel slipped my mind?  What was I thinking?

I'm off to knit for a short time before bed.  Tomorrow I'll try to post an update on my current knitting.

Goodnight!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Knee-deep in Mint, Marjoram & Melissa

This past weekend, I did some gardening.  I've been so busy with Gaia's Colours work lately that I have almost completely ignored my yard and gardens.  We were all in the backyard, my husband, boys and myself, and I decided to do some weeding and trimming.  One bed that really needed my attention was the main one that is immediately visible out our back kitchen window.  It contains raspberry bushes, a butterfly bush, St. John's Wort (the original, non-commercial variety, that is medicinally used), mint, rosemary, marjoram, fennel, thyme, oregano, lemon balm (Melissa), and weeds.  Two years ago I gave this bed a radical make-over, removing two very old, large, but sickly, rose bushes, and all of the weeds.  I then planted the raspberries and the herbs, plus some flowers of various types.  I can't now really find some of what was planted, as so much has gone wild and the weeds and grass have almost completely taken over.

So work was needed.  I pulled and dug and stripped all that was not supposed to be there.  And after two days of work, it's still not complete.  It's a work-in-progress.

However, with my new camera, I have been taking photos of the garden, and other areas of the backyard.  Here are a sampling....

Blueberries ripening in the blueberry & strawberry patch.
Iris
Non-commercial, medicinal St. John's Wort.
Commercial, non-medicinal St. John's Wort (much easier to find).
Comfrey (medicinal, and also great for "compost tea")
Melissa/Lemon Balm (I hate this stuff, and yank it whenever I find it) - easily confused for mint by it's looks. In the Mint family.
Raspberries, including a "golden" variety.  My boys eat these almost faster than they can ripen.
Mint - I have lots because I love it and let it spread rampantly, as it tends to do :-)
Marjoram, with a solitary mint sprig.
A huckleberry bush, waiting to be planted (it has now since been planted amongst the mint and raspberries).
A wee hazelnut tree.  Apparently we'll have to wait a couple of years before we'll get nuts.  I'm excited anyway!
A fairly reliable sunset shot.  Lovely!
Finally, a gratuitous kitty shot - this is Sarah.