Wednesday, December 14, 2011

That time of year...

In January of this year, I made a post of a movie from YouTube called "Filmography 2010".   The creator of this amazing mash-up of movies from 2010 is Gen I, and she lives in Vancouver (I think). 

Ms. Gen I has done it again with another movie mash-up - this one, oddly enough, is called "Filmography 2011".

Enjoy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

So Funny!

Found this little video through another blog.  Oh dear - funny, and true!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Beautiful Boy...

This brought tears to my eyes...

A young man, raised by a lesbian couple, addressed the Iowa House of Representatives in February 2011. Here are his words:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Doctor Who fun

I found this video through Ravelry yesterday.  It's a fun amateur song & dance from the cast and crew of the TV show "Doctor Who", as a send-off to the 10th Doctor played by David Tennant.  Gave me a giggle or two...

NaNoWriMo (Rebel!)

That's right, I am a rebel.  A NaNoWriMo rebel. 

You see, most of the NaNoWriMo participants are writing novels.  It is "National Novel Writing Month", after all.  But I am working on my screenplay, thus the "rebel" part.  

Having decided to follow the NaNo mandate to concentrate on writing for the month of November, I decided to see if I could complete the first draft version of the entire second Act of my script (the largest part of the story).  It's about time I get this baby written!  Besides, much of December will likely be a write-off, with my boys home from school for some of it, and the usual busy-ness of that month (all the holiday feasting/baking/celebrating...).

Is anyone else writing this month - novel, screenplay or otherwise?

With a calm joy, whilst typing at my kitchen table, with a view of golden maple leaves and grey skies out my window,
Ursa

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Makin' Ice Cream

Last year, my mother bought us a used ice cream maker she had found at a thrift store.  We thanked her, but hadn't used it at all, until a couple of weeks ago.

I'm not sure what prompted it, but it suddenly occurred to me that we should give it a try.  I didn't have a manual, so googled the type of ice cream maker (fairly old), and found that some kind soul had scanned the manual and put it into a .pdf.

We then gathered together the ingredients for Vanilla ice cream...

 
...eggs, whole milk, cream, sugar, vanilla extract.

and vanilla beans - scraped out of their pods.  My own touch, as I love having real vanilla beans in vanilla ice cream.

We then mixed the ingredients together,

poured them into the main cylinder casing (which had been sitting in our freezer for 24 hours...

and stirred.

And stirred....

The actual stirring wasn't much, but the time frame in which a few stirs were administered every few minutes really stretched out.

In the end, the ice cream needed overnight to freeze completely. It turned out tasty, though not as "creamy" as I had hoped, given all the cream we used.

Our next attempt will be chocolate :-)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Still here

Sorry to be quiet on the blog - I'm working on things.  Finally finishing my first (tester) podcast episode too, and finding out about what to do to get it going/hosting, etc.

Will keep you posted :-)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A tidbit for today


My favourite line in this sweet, sad song: "Tell me now, where was my fault, for loving you with my whole heart?"

Mumford & Sons is a great UK band - I highly recommend these boys :-)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A love affair with Guernsey...

I find myself in the throngs of a love affair.  Not with a man.  Not with a person, in fact. 

No, it's the lovely island country of Guernsey that I have suddenly become enamored with.

You see, I entirely blame Martine of the iMake podcast for starting this fascination.  She is a born & raised Guernsey resident, and still lives, works and crafts there.  Since discovering her podcast, I have become more intrigued by the island, and have also been learning something of a place I knew so little about.

How is it, for instance, that I did not know about the German occupation of Guernsey during World War II?  I knew all of Europe had been involved or affected by WWII, and certainly much of the UK was left mangled (London, especially).  Yet the the Channel islands were somehow left out of the equation for me.  Strange.

I think it's been this time period - the German occupation - that has really stirred up my interest.  It doesn't help that I have, at Martine's suggestion, picked up the audiobook version of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society novel, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, and am listening to it this week.  The story is set in post-WWII, with a young female writer corresponding with Guernsey residents about the German occupation.  The entire book is written in letters.  It really is a lovely read.  It's the kind of story I wish I had thought of first.

However, all of this has stirred my creative pot, and I, vastly experienced screenwriter that I am (not), have come up with an interesting story/movie idea.  I shall put it aside for now, as my current project requires my attention, but I shan't forget about it. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Beware the Jungle Cat

Exit stage left: the loud, needy, but sweet Marucho.

Enter stage right: the silent wisp of a black panther.

 Meet our new kitty, Little Nips.

We picked her up at the same cat shelter (Cat's Cradle) here in Victoria, where we found Marucho.  Marucho has, incidentally, found a new home with some friends of mine, where he very happily is the centre of attention, and can come and go outside as he pleases.  He is a content kitty there, and I'm pleased to have found him a loving pair of "parents".

Little Nips was found as a stray near a local movie theatre, a week before we adopted her.  She is two years old and tiny - only 5.5lbs, slender, with sleek, short black hair.  Yes, she is pure black - not a trace of white, brown or gray.  I had to lighten both of these photos so that the details of her face where more visible.

And no, your eyes do not deceive you - our Little Nips has a short tail.  A "Pixie" stub.  She was born that way.  It's very cute to see her waggling the stump like a black bobble-head as she walks.  It will also thump on the window pane when she gets excited over a view of birds nearby, rather like a dog's tail.

She came to us healthy, fixed and with up-to-date shots.  There is some minor gingivitis along her gumline, but the vet has us using a special "dental" cat food for her, so that should get cleared up soon.

She is definitely a playful cat - very kitten-ish.  We four humans in the house all take turns dancing a bit of string or a squeaky mouse around her.  Our other cat, Sarah, took to her much better than she did with Marucho.  We wonder if it's because Little Nips is so small and not threatening.  Little Nips and Sarah play quite a bit - chasing and batting at each other.  They rarely hiss at each other, and we separate them if they do. 

We have had her for a month now, and overall, I am thrilled with how this has all gone down.  Our second choice of cat suits us perfectly, and the first choice has a great home of his own too.

P.S. Little Nips doesn't meow.  Or so infrequently that I almost forgets that she has a voice box.  I love a silent cat :-)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Get a handle on this!

If you follow me on Twitter or have friended me on Ravelry, you may soon notice that I have changed my "handle" on both of those sites.  I was, until tonight, "GaiasColours" for both.  Since I am shutting down the Gaia's Colours business, and now no longer needing the name for social networking, I figured it was time to find a different handle. 

So I am "The Pagan Knitter". 

This will also be, should production go ahead, the name of my upcoming podcast as well.

Hope you are having some lovely summer weather and fun with friends!

best,
Ursa

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

To podcast or not to podcast...?

That really is the question I am tossing about in my brain these days.

Some of you might recall last autumn (here, and here) that I was toying with the idea of starting a podcast.  Well, guess what?  I now have a microphone and pop screen filter (new toys!)


It's the Snowball Microphone by Blue Microphones.  This was mentioned/recommended by the gorgeous Kate of A Playful Day podcast in the UK.

So does this actually mean that I'll start a podcast?  The short answer: maybe.

My recording set-up:


It's a decent space and come the night, when my boys are in bed, I can have the quiet I would require.

I guess the main reason I have been still debating with myself about doing this is simple - can I keep it up?  The starting is the easy part.  The initial enthusiasm and ideas and desire to "try something new" will be enough to get me going, and likely keep me going for a while.

But then what?  I've heard that many podcasters run out of steam after six months, a year, maybe two.  Is is worth starting this, getting a schedule and a following of happy listeners only to fade out after 15 episodes?  Will it become like my indie dyeing business (Gaia's Colours) where the very idea of dyeing of yarn or spinning fibre is akin to having a tooth pulled at the dentist (oh, did I just admit that outloud?  I guess I'll have to do a wee blog post on that another time)? 

Should I even bother when I know that I won't be willing to keep it up for the long term? 

Thoughts?  Suggestions?

Oh, and just in case you are curious, I have an almost completed first episode - a tester, if you will - that I can and might put up here sometime soon, to get some feedback, etc.

Now, off to knit...

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Joy of a Ripe Mango...

I'm not much of a mango person, but this was so perfectly ripe and delicious!

P.s. Happy Independence Day to my American friends and followers!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Our weekly produce pilgrimage...

It's that time of year - the weekly trips to local farms and farmer's markets.

Many of you may know that I love local and organic produce, and try to support local growers and suppliers as often as possible.  Last summer I started a weekly pilgrimage up the peninsula with my two sons.  Every Thursday or Friday we would pack into the car, and head up to visit Madrona Farms (which is quite close to us), Sun Wing Farms, Oldfield Farms and Silver Rill Farms.  We didn't hit each one every time, but usually had specific farms in mind for specific produce.  Silver Rill is the place to get corn (amazing & sweet), Oldfield is the place for berries (all kinds), Sun Wing had fab green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes, and Madrona has lovely dark leafy green, plus wonderful, sweet baby carrots and new potatoes.  We come home loaded with our cloth grocery bags full of fresh-picked lovelies.

Today was our first trip of the summer, and we stopped at Babe's Honey too (which is sadly shutting it's doors).  Here is some of the loot from the afternoon:


Not pictured above are some new potatoes, asparagus, wee yellow zucchinis, red and white onions, plus the rest of the honey and a few chunks of beeswax. 

These tiny beauties below didn't last long - they were washed and steaming in a pot less than an hour after getting home.  I have kept the greens for steaming with chard later, but I couldn't resist the beets themselves.  With some butter and a little salt and pepper, the dark purple jewels are now in the bellies of myself and my husband.  It's great to think that just eight hours ago, they were still sleeping underground.  Talk about fresh!


For dessert, my sons and I had to try strawberries with the Babe's honey. Oh my....


(Yes, those are a couple of drops of honey on their downward journey to my fingers.)

What a great way to celebrate Canada Day!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Word, O Scribe?

Some of you have been following my blog from the early days (all of one year - I know, not that long), and will have read a few posts mentioning a screenplay idea I had, and that I was planning on writing a script.  I also talked about being a newbie at this and that I'd have to learn about screenwriting to get this project up and running, not to mention, completed.

Now, for those of you just joining us, or those of you ahem several family members, who have been asking "What's this I hear about a screenplay?", or "You are writing a screenplay? What's it about?", here is where I get to esssplain, sort of.  This is also a good way to update, as I last posted about this in late October of last year.

So, just what is this all about?

Yes, I am writing a screenplay (Wiki definition, plus other terms/links), currently on the first draft.  I have finished Act I (there are three in a standard script), and have started Act II.  

I have a screenwriting mentor named Brian Paisley, who is local to Victoria.  We meet usually once a month, starting back in the fall of 2010, to go over what I've been working on.  We started by putting together the full outline, including most of the main scenes and sequences.  Using this framework, I now get to work, bit by bit, writing action and dialogue until I have a completed script.

After I complete the first draft, I will take a little break, then come back to the story with "fresh eyes" to refine it and make it a second-draft script.  If more polishing is needed after that, then it will be done.  Once Brian and I feel it's ready to be shown around, I'll post it to InkTip (a great site where screenwriters and industry professionals can make contact, can search or post scripts, etc.), and also look around for any applicable producers in BC/Canada who might be interested in seeing my story.  It's all a bit of a mystery to me after that.  Up in the air, really.  Things could sit, or move - who knows..?

In the meantime, I write.

Now, as for the "What's it about?"  I'm glad you asked.  Well, here is my draft version logline (a one or two sentence description of the story/the plot):

"Haunted by her father’s untimely death, a young, reckless photojournalist longs to find the beloved Scotland of his youth, but in her search for the truth, encounters those who would rather the past stay buried."

This makes the plot sound, to my mind, rather like a thriller, which the story is not.  It's more of a romantic drama.  So I will continue to tweak the logline. 

While I'd love to spill the full cup of beans in this public venue, you'll forgive me if I continue to maintain some level of secrecy.  I am certainly willing to talk about it with friends and family in person, but must keep the rest hushed for now.  Sorry, gang.  Hopefully once the script is completed and being shopped around, or actually sells, I should be able to give the whole sordid tale.

Speaking of tales, I am off to write while I still have the mojo, and before the root beer & rum starts to kick in :-)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Recipes: Carrot Ginger Soup

Just in time for the summer heat, I'm serving up a little heat of my own.  It may seem odd to post a soup recipe now, but it was by request that I do this.

This recipe comes to us by my husband (who brought you the Apple Fritter Pancakes recipes), who doesn't normally make the soups around here.  This one, I finally wrote down as we made it, to find out actual amounts and method.

So here I give you, Carrot & Ginger Soup:

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium/large onion, diced
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 1//2 - 2/3 cup finely diced fresh ginger
  • 2-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 8-9 cups of shredded carrots
  • 1- 2 cups fresh, frozen or canned corn (optional)
  • 4-6 cubed, cooked potatoes (optional)
  • 2 to 2 1/2 litres milk - we use about 1 litre whole milk and the rest 2%. 
  • 2 tbsps dill, dried
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4-5 tbsps cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup cold milk or cold water
Directions:
  • Heat approx 3 tbsp olive oil on medium heat in a stock pot, when shimmering, add onion and stir/cook until soft (3-5 minutes). 
  • If adding potatoes, par-boil these in a separate pot of boiling, salted water.  Drain and set aside.
  • Add the celery, ginger and garlic, cook until the celery is soft (7-10 minutes). 
  • Add the remaining olive oil, shredded carrots, salt, pepper and dill to pot.  Stir in and allow to cook/soften and reduce (10-15 minutes). The extra oil is to allow the large amount of carrots to cook well and not burn.
  • Add half of your milk, or enough to just cover the carrots. Set to medium heat. Before the milk goes to boiling, you slowly add more milk (approx 1/2 cup at a time), then heat to almost boiling again.  Do this until you have added all your milk or it looks plenty full in the pot.
  • In a small bowl, add the cold milk or cold water, then the cornstarch. Whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved.  Add this mixture slowly to the soup, stirring gently.  This will thicken up the soup nicely.  Serve promptly.

Brave

Those who know me, know my love for all things Scottish and for Scotland itself.  So I was thrilled to find out that Pixar's next movie (due late June 2012) is a Scottish tale.

The necessary goose-bump-inducing trailer that had me tapping my fingertips together gleefully, rather like Mr. Burns in The Simpsons:

I'm just a little excited....

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Exercise Regime

And if I give it enough miles, it'll be Carbon Neutral!



When I asked/told my husband about us buying a push mower, not powered by gas or electricity, but by good 'ol human energy, he gave me that "Really, are you going to actually use it?" look.  Yes, he's that expressive, and we have been married for eight years and together for almost eleven.

But I gently stuck to my guns on this, as a push mower is what I used at my family home as a teenager, and I wanted something greener that would also be a good workout for me: cardio plus (hopefully) some killer arms come September.

We picked this bad boy up at Canadian Tire, the last of it's type, with $20 off for missing one bolt/screw that an employee replaced with something else just as usable.  I put this together myself and proceeded to mow the small grass patch that is our front yard.  It worked great, except for not taking down (but rather, running over) the spindly dandelions that spot the area.  I had to manually clip those after.   Think I'll try the weed wacker on those next time...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Thing of Beauty...

This was supper tonight.  It may not look elegant or fancy, but trust me, it is delicious!  We have my recently adapted "burger".  Since I am mostly staying away from flour-based products including bread, tortilla wraps and buns, lettuce has become my stand-in for enclosing the contents of burgers, sandwiches and wraps.  Sometimes it's Romaine, sometimes Red or Green Leaf, and even the odd time has been Collard greens or Swiss Chard.  As long as it's large, sturdy, neutral-tasting and green, I'm down with it.
Our favourite home-made burgers include patties (either hand-made by my husband or pre-formed frozen) from a ground meat that can be ostrich, bison/buffalo, grass-fed beef, venison, turkey, or chicken.   We then add sauteed red onion, sauteed mushrooms, sliced avocado and tomatoes (all organic), a little mayo and cheddar, wrap it all up, and consume.  It's messy and utterly wonderful!

So, what did you have for supper?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Going the way of the Dodo

Did you know that an answering machine is a rare bird to find these days?  I didn't, until recently.  Ours was around 12-15 years old, and had decided to be selective about the volume for listening to messages. Very inconvenient, no?

So, on one trip last week to our local London Drugs, I went to the electronics section, specifically the telephone section.  There were plenty of phones, cordless or corded, and combo message machine and telephone.  But a stand-alone answering machine? - apparently not.

We've had to join the rest of the modern populace and get voice messaging on our phone. 

And our old machine?

Please note the smudgy layer of dust on this relic.  I'm a great housekeeper, really.

Three Strikes!

I really hate it when a naughty child happens to a good birthday party.

Today, I took my youngest, (we'll call him "Mr. G") aged four, to the birthday party of a fellow classmate in pre-school.  The birthday boy is a bit shy, but very sweet and his parents are wonderful - fab hosts, generous, so friendly.  Things were going along swimmingly, with the children being allowed some free indoor/outdoor play time after a set of group activities.  During this free time, a young boy, who wasn't part of the pre-school class most of the kids were, was playing amongst the others.  I say "playing amongst" because he was decidedly not playing with the other children.  In the next hour, I witnessed in this child's behavior what I saw as "strikes".

First strike: beyond ear-piercing shrieks of protest because his mother was trying to have him come away from a popular toy so others could have a turn with it.  Mr. G even covered his ears - "Too loud, Mama!"

Second strike: having several full-on temper tantrums and hitting his parents.  Also, not sharing with others - full-out "hogging" of toys.

Third strike: he hit my child.  His parents weren't in the room, and Mr. G had some colourful balls that this boy wanted.  Since my son's arms were otherwise occupied with the said balls, he couldn't properly defend himself when the nasty child started hitting Mr. G's face, chest and arms in a wild two-arm flapping.  I was about five feet away, and interjected right away between my stunned, teary son and this pint-sized terror.  I had to comfort one child and firmly, but nicely chastise the other. (I ended up having to protect my son two other times as this child was ready to launch himself at Mr. G to get a toy.)

I was tempted to go stand near the boy's mother and tell her, sotto voce, what her son had done.  I didn't though, having the distinct impression that this wouldn't come as much of a surprise. 

In the end, Mr. G did the condemning himself.  When it was time to leave the party, my son and I were standing at the top of the stairs waiting for the birthday boy's mother to lead us to the goodie bags.  The family containing the unruly child were also there, just beside and in front of us.  My wee son, bless his heart, saw the boy, and pointed a decidedly accusatory arm and finger at him.  His mother, next to me, saw this, and looking shame-faced at me, said "I'm sorry for whatever he might have done.".  With a shrug and half-smile, I replied, "These things happen.".  I wasn't thinking this, but I decided it wasn't a worthy battle to get into.

I certainly don't envy these parents their job of raising such a child...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Some ABC's

Sarah, the Student Knitter, posted this on her blog, so I thought I'd steal the base and add my own info....

A. Age: 35
B. Bed size: Queen, but sometimes wish it was a King with how my husband sleeps...
C. Chore that you hate: dusting, cleaning kitty litter, cleaning the bathroom.
D. Dogs: I like other people's dogs.

E. Essential start to your day: thyroid medication and a visit to the little girl's room.
F. Favorite color: green and purple.
G. Gold or Silver: Silver, though with my colouring, it should be gold.
H. Height: slightly tall (5'7")
I. Instruments you play: basic piano, also sing.
J. Job title: mother
K. Kids: two
L. Live: happily and fully
M. Mother’s name: starts with a K.
N. Nicknames: Bex
O. Overnight hospital stays: when thyroid surgery happened (age 14), and for both births of my boys.
P. Pet peeve: Idiot drivers. Inconsiderate neighbours. Inconsiderate smokers. Inconsiderate people, period.
Q. Quote from a movie: "Why a spoon, cousin?  Why not an axe or something sharp?" - "Because it's dull, you idiot.  It'll hurt more!"
R. Right or left handed: Right
S. Siblings: One - half-sister.
T. Time you wake up: 7-7:30-ish on weekdays. 9-ish on weekends.
U. Underwear:Um, comfortable...?
V. Vegetable you hate: eggplant, spicy peppers, and raw onion (like cooked).
W. What makes you run late: my children.
X. X-Rays you’ve had: teeth, neck (thyroid area).
Y. Yummy food that you make: Most things - cooking and baking.
Z. Zoo animal: Yeah, what about it?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sausage & Kale Tart

My mother mentioned this site, Food52.com to me last weekend, and a few recipes there that she had tried.  One such recommended recipe was the Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart.  Since I keep a lot of dark greens in our fridge these days (I eat them daily now), I had some kale on hand.  I made this for supper last night, though made some modifications that I thought I'd make note of for anyone interested.  It became a crustless quiche, as I didn't want the crust (trying to minimize my starchy/refined carb intake, like flour products).

The filling is this:

"Sausage and Kale Filling:
My alterations were that I used coconut oil instead of olive oil and butter, used ground chicken instead of sausage meat, used homemade chicken stock instead of white wine, and added three more eggs.  I seasoned the ground chicken with seasoning salt (some tasty organic stuff my grandmother bought and gave us a wee baggie of), poultry seasoning, salt & pepper, mustard powder and a pinch of garlic powder.

I prepared the filling as per the instructions, and then poured it all into a deep-dish pie pan.  Baked at 375 for about 25, until the eggs had set.

It was so tasty (my husband highly approved), and the fresh basil really shines through.  This would work as a meal anytime of day, with a healthy 'slaw, or green/caesar salad.  I'll definitely make this again. 

Blog Changes

Not this blog, but others I run/own.  I want to let readers know that I have know shut down my Gaia's Colours blog, in case anyone wonders.  I really don't need it anymore now that the business is shutting down. 

The other is a new blog I've set up for the women on my mother's side of the family, for us to share with each other our healthier eating and exercising.  This blog is a private one, so only visible to the five women who are getting healthier together.

Speaking of that blog, I want to share a variation on a recipe I found.  This leads me to the next blog post....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's a secret, sort of...

I cast on a new knitting project last week, after casting off some socks for my mother.  I didn't intend to start it so soon, however, it's a gift for a friend, and somewhat time sensitive.  I'd rather give myself more time than I need, so perhaps now is the perfect time to work on it.  I've been shockingly monogamous with this project, so I suppose that's a good thing.

There have been two great things about this project so far.  First, I'm working, for the first time, with Dream In Colour's Classy Worsted yarn.  It's really nice to knit with - 100% Superwash Merino, 4 or 5-ply, 250 yards per 4oz.  I can see why many have created sweaters with this yarn.

Second, the colours are knitting up pretty and I like the simple style of the project and pattern.  However! The pattern is also what is mildly troubling me.  Well, the designer is, really.

Now, I really appreciate knitwear designers - they work hard for us knitters and we would be lost without them.  However, when a designer refuses to consider a minor change suggested by a knitter to help future knitters read the pattern, I get a little hot under the collar.

I don't want to name the pattern or designer at this time, especially as the project is still hush-hush.  Sufficed it to say, I had trouble with some increases and stitch counts, and realised that the wording on a sentence or two of the pattern could be altered a little to make things clearer.  When I politely suggested to the designer that this would help, she declined to do anything about it.  Apparently when one has 2000 of the project listed on Ravelry with only two complaints about this confusion, the voices of the minority can be shooed away.

I don't intend to go quietly into that good night, thank you very much.  I intend to make a wee fuss about it.  After all, I'm only trying to make things easier for other knitters, so that there won't be others needing to rip back eight rows to correct the number of stitches (that was fun!).

Do I sound a bit....incensed?  Aye, that I am.

But nevermind that for now.  I need to get back to the knitting.  That is, after all, what's it's really about.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A double dose of the Yarn Harlot

I've been trying to catch up on podcasts and audiobooks on my iTunes/iPod lately.  I'm up to date on some podcasts, like Cast On, Electric Sheep, Caithness Craft Collective, Complex Texture, and Backbencher, but way behind on Never Not Knitting, CraftLit, CogKNITive, Tapestry, and KnitAJourney.  

For audiobooks, I've worked through several Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights, six of the Outlander novels, and am now listening to the seventh (A Breath of Snow and Ashes), plus North and South, and a second Brother Cadfael mystery.   There are three or four more books waiting, primed and perky, for me to deem them worth of an audience.  I'm also looking at trying the first Game of Thrones novel too, as the series does look intricate and intriguing.

In the last few days, however, I've treated myself to a double dose of the Yarn Harlot, aka Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Canada's much-loved knitter & blogger.  She has several books, two of which are in audiobook format.   I loaded up on Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off: The Yarn Harlot's Guide to the Land of Knitting, and At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much.  It was a treat to listen to her slightly smokey, slightly rumbling, slightly squeaky voice talk about all sorts of knitterly tidbits that I so get.  I found myself nodding and chuckling to myself in the car today.  What a sight I must have been to other drivers.

I do have another of her works, in that rather arcane and ancient format of pressed tree flesh called the paperback book.  It's called Knitting Rules and I've put it on my "soon-to-read" pile.

The Yarn Harlot has a blog too (linked above) that is a great way to see what she's been up to.  She is a wonderful writer and blogs regularly.  And if that is not enough, she is one of the dynamic duo that created Sock Summit, an all-out sock class and market event in Portland, Oregon.   I attended in 2009 and it was great fun (not to mention the drain on the wallet, but in a good way).

Friday, April 29, 2011

Welcome (insert name here)!

As hinted in the previous post, we have a new family member.  No, no, I didn't pop out another child ('pop out' - yeah, like it's that easy).  We have adopted a second cat.  A little boy, about 3 years old.  He is a tabby of some sort, and we found him through Cats Cradle Animal Rescue, here in Victoria.


This cat is one of the sweetest, most cuddly creatures I've met.  He loves being held, rather like a wee child, and is an instant lap cat.  He does tend to demand a lot of attention, and meows more than I am okay with, but I suspect that it's part of getting used to our house and his place in it.  I'm hoping that he'll relax more once he gets the full run of the house.

Our other cat, Sarah, is not amused, as one would expect, but she's managing to keep away from him.  She stares at him a lot. She does hiss if he comes to close, and has started to take a swipe at him, which I have curtailed with a squirt from a water bottle.  He is mellow about this - doesn't hiss, and just backs off.  

This friendly boy, however, is currently nameless.  While it's true that the foster homes had him named as "Geoffrey", I quickly dismissed this.  Just not my cup of tea for a cat's name.  So we have to come up with a new one.  I do have a few ideas, and my eldest son does too.  My suggestions are:
  • Finn (short for "Fingal", or "Finn McCool" - an Irish/Scotch warrior of myth)
  • Satchmo (the nickname of famous musician Louis Armstrong)
  • Aslan (the lion (and Christ-figure) from The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe series)
My son's suggestion is... "Marucho" (not sure on the spelling, so going phonetically on this), a character from the Bakkugan toys.  Can you tell where his brain space is these days?

So yes, we have a few ideas, but haven't made the firm decision.  If you have a suggestion for a name, or want to vote for one of the above mentioned, pop a postcard in the mail.  Or, just post a comment.

Update, May 7th: we now have the kitty's name.  None of us seemed to want to give in to other choices, so we did the only thing we could do to be fair - we drew a name out of a hat.  In went "Marucho", "Finn" and "Satchmo".  My eldest son drew..."Marucho" - the name he had wanted.  He, of course, was mighty pleased.  My 4-year-old, who loved the name "Satchmo", let the floodgates open, and much comforting and tissues.  I'm not a big fan of "Marucho", but fair's fair. 


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy 1st Blogiversary to me!

Holy cow - has it been a year since I started this blog?  A little longer, actually.  It occurred to me this afternoon while reading my favourite local gardening blog, Backyard Feast, who is about to celebrate her first year of blogging, that I too had started about this time last year.  A quick look back shows that my first post was on April 18th, 2010.  I had intended (hoped?) to blog much more, but funnily enough, life and crafting gets in the way.   No offense to y'all, but I usually prefer knitting to blogging.  Speaking of knitting, I owe you & the blog a long overdue "On & Off the Needles" post.  Coming soon...

In the meantime, I am slowly pecking away at my screenplay, getting ready for Gaia's Colours final (most likely) "Dye Day" workshop this Saturday.  Oh! And I will blog soon about a recent addition to our household.  Also coming soon....

It's a sunny afternoon, and I think I'll do a row on my current cardigan WIP before I get dinner going.

Hope it's sunny and mild where you are!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

And the Winner is...

I think internet blogging awards are great.  Bloggers pass along wee badges of recognition to each other, further promoting their ramblings, photos and artwork.  Why not.

To this end, I've received my first nod in the blogging world - The Versatile Blogger award.

This honour was served up by The Housebound Writer - thanks so much, Andrew!  I'm blushing!

Now the rules of this "Versatile Blogger" award have been laid out as:


1. Thank and link back to the blogger that awarded you the badge.
2. Share 7 things about you.
3. Award 5 – 15 other bloggers.
4. Contact these bloggers to let them know about the award.

The first rule checked off, I moved to #2.  So, seven things to share about myself.

  1. I want to design and publish at least one sock pattern, one shawl pattern and one sweater pattern sometime in the next 5-10 years.
  2. My dreams are so interesting and often so real that sometimes I wished I lived in them rather than here.  Then my alarm goes off.
  3. I love knitting more than chocolate.  And that's saying a lot.
  4. I despise sewing.  My apologies to the seamstresses out there (what is the word/title for a male sewer? - a tailor?).
  5. The idea of 20 more years of menstruating is depressing, annoying, and frustrating.  I know, as a pagan, that I should be embracing and celebrating all phases of my cycle, but really, I could happily do without my period every 26 days.  (This does not mean I wish to be pregnant again though - just so we're clear here.)
  6.  I need to work on my use of punctuation and sentence structure if I'm ever to become a published author.
  7. And one from my past - I used to figure skate, do ballet, and take synchronized swimming lessons (I even won two medals at the Alberta Summer games for the synchro swimming!).
And now, to pass along this award to others who have blogs I enjoy...
  1. The Original Yarn Salad
  2. In Among the Heather
  3. Knitted Bliss
  4. The Student Knitter
  5. The Bookshelf Muse
  6. Eskimimi Knits
  7. Frosted Petunias  
Congrats to these lovely bloggers!  May they pass along the award fun!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wooly Creature #1

This past week I received some adorable dry-felting kits for making felted animals.  The company is Woolpets, and I picked mine up at a LYS, though I have seen them at The Loopy Ewe (an online US-based company) too.  I've never done dry needle-felting, so am now getting into it.

I have four to try - Turtle, Frog, Sea Otter and Penguin.  For this first try, I decided to do the Penguin.

Here he is:

 He turned out a bit taller and skinnier than I was aiming for, but not bad for my first try.  My kids, especially my youngest, were fascinated by this process of bits of wool being poked into shapes.

Since doing Mr. Pengu up there, I have also needle felted a golf-ball sized toy ball for my cat, and a tennis-sized one for my boys (indoor only).  I was surprised at how much wool and how much time it took to make a ball of a decent size.

I'm thinking of doing the Turtle next....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A great day in Sidney

Today I spend a few hours visiting a small town I used to live in - Sidney, British Colombia.  It's about 20-25 minutes north of Victoria, and on the edge of the Saanich Peninsula.  It's next to the airport and near the BC Ferry Terminal.  When I was a BC Ferry employee (for ten years), I found it handy to live five minutes away.  Sidney is quaint, and geared for tourists.  It's also quite pedestrian-friendly.   When I was living there, it took mere minutes to walk to the downtown/"Main" street area, with the grocery store, pharmacy/post office, cafes, restaurants, health food store, and best of all, the beach!  I do admit, I miss living there, though since most of our family's world is located in Victoria and Saanich, residing in Sidney now would be more of an inconvenience.

So what was the reason for running up to Sidney today?  Why to see a spinning teacher!  Yes, a woman who teaches others how to spin fleece into yarn on wheels and/or spindles.  She came recommended to me by two local spinners/customers that I know.  Since I am still very much an amateur at spinning on my wheel, I thought it would be helpful to have her guide me to better techniques.

It went very well!  Her house is right next to the ocean.  It is inviting, with it's warm wood, softly colourful fabrics and bundles of fibre, poised on shelves, just waiting to be spun.  She showed me how to work on my drafting in a "short draw", which I will have to practice for a while till my fingers and "peddle foot" have developed the muscle memory needed.  I must say, I came away inspired to spin more, and feeling slightly envious of her beautiful work & living space.

After the spinning, I hopped over to Fish On Fifth, which is a long-time hip little restaurant just off the main street.  I used to haunt that place when I was pregnant with my oldest son, because their cheeseburgers are amazing!  I highly recommend this place for it's very tasty food.  They even have deep-fried chocolate bars!

Then, with a full belly, I wandered down to Tanners Books.  It has a huge magazine section, and is great for kids and adults.   I picked up The Knitter, a UK-based magazine, Spin Off, a spinning magazine, and one called Wild Fibers.

Since bringing home my new desk, which I blogged about in this post, I have been pondering on a new lamp for the desk.   I was day-dreaming of a green-hooded "Banker's Lamp", thinking it would likely work with the look of the new desk.  I hadn't had any luck finding one locally, as of yet.  But today, with just 20 minutes or so before I had to head back into Victoria, I thought to stop at a local hardware/housewares store called "Capital Iron".  Lo and behold, they had just what I was looking for!

See?  Doesn't she suit the desk?

Yes, definitely a great day - it was even mild and sunny too.

Off to watch Glee now, but don't tell anyone!  I'm a little embarrassed to admit I like it.  Sigh.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 3: Tidy Mind, Tidy Stitches (aka "Yarn Wrangling")

Day 3 of the Knitting & Crocheting Blogging week is: "How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry."

Okay, oddly enough, while the rest of my house might be in layers of chaos, my stash is pretty well organised.  I keep track of most (90%) of it on Ravelry, in my stash pages, with individual listings and photographs.  And the main storing of it is here:


It was only a couple of weekends ago that I went through all of this above, as I was already taking inventory of Gaia's Colours' supply of undyed yarn & fibre.  These bins contain my personal stash, mostly hand-dyed (big surprise), and are now all properly labelled and organised.  I do need to sync it with my Ravelry stash pages though, as I'm a bit behind in some of the older yarns that I bought as a newer knitter.

Overall, I'm happy with how it's all organised, and I do try to go through it every few months to review what to use, what to keep, what to sell or give away, etc.

What NOT to say to potential readers....

I really should be heading to bed, but I just had to quickly post about a crazy little situation I was linked to this evening.  I believe Neil Gaiman tweeted about it and it was retweeted through a friend I follow on Twitter.

What is it, you ask?  Why, apparently the self-destruction of a new indie (self-published) writer!

There is a blog called Big Al's Books and Pals that reviews books on the Kindle e-reader.  I get the impression that Al reviews a lot of indie writers, but I could be mistaken.

Recently Al reviewed The Greek Seaman by Jacqueline Howett.  He writes that the storyline itself is decent, but that the spelling and grammatical errors are numerous and quite distracting, making the story difficult to finish.

A basic review that seems, in my opinion, fair.  But that's not what has made things explode suddenly over on Al's blog, oh no!  Ms. Howett started replying to Al, and to others commenting, and grew more and more vicious, childish, and unprofessional.  She even used the F-word!  I was so aghast that I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

But I leave it to you, dear reader, to marvel in this spectacle that is a reputation both flaming, and sinking, while I am to bed.

EDA: this morning I wanted to pass along another blog's take on this debacle.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 2: Skill + 1up

For Day 2, we get to blog about: "Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year)? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?"

Okay, well, I think my chart reading/using skills have improved.  I'm getting quite comfortable with the top-down sweater format (with various variations, like set-in sleeves - a new thing for me), and socks done toe-up (starting with the Turkish Cast-on), with the fabulous new-ish technique of "Jenny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off".  I've learned a new way of a provisional Cast-on (using the Long-tail Cast-on), and am getting more comfortable with picking up stitches along the sides of other stitches.  I'm getting faster with knitting socks, and am more likely to be monogamous (read: alternating between two projects at a time).  I've decided that I'm most likely to be a sweater/top knitter for the foreseeable future, and have several sweaters-worth of yarn.  Several.

Tomorrow, Day 3...

Day 1: A Tale of Two Yarns

This morning I discovered that Eskimimi Knits was holding the 2nd Annual Knit and Crochet Blog Week (March 28th - April 3rd).  We bloggers get to post everyday for a week on the various topics that Eskimimi has suggested. (Yes, I realise that I am posting this a day late.  To be fair, I did start it on Monday night, but posted it today)

Day 1 is "A Tale of Two Yarns": "Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them."

How do I choose only two?

Well, the first is pretty easy obvious, as I've sung the praises of this yarn before here on the blog.  QED, the 100% Blue-faced Leicester wool, 5ply worsted from The Sanguine Gryphon.  I even wrote a wee "ode" to QED last May!  It is tightly spun, sproingy, spongy, soft (not cashmere soft, but strong wool soft), with a subtle sheen that comes naturally to BFL wool.  It is an excellent sweater and outer garment yarn - durable and warm.  I have knit mittens with it, as well as three (count 'em), THREE sweaters out of it.  And I have plans for three or four more, including this pale gray QED seen below.


The other yarn I love is my own hand-dyed Heithrun MCN (80% SW Merino Wool/10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon), in either fingering or DK-weight.  I have knit with both and will do so again.  Like the QED, the DK is spun tightly, with a sproingy texture of 4 plies, but so soft!  It's fingering counterpart is also very soft and feels wonderful draped against the neck or embracing the feet.  I have knit socks with the fingering weight, and intend to knit a top with it.  And with the DK I have knit a scarf and a cowl.  It will also be worked into a sweater of some sort down the road.

Heithrun sock in "Oeno"

Heithrun DK in a "Lakshmi" variation.
 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Walking into the world of E-Readers

I am contemplating buying an E-book reader, or E-reader.  I am trying to figure out which one is really good, would suit my needs, isn't crazy expensive, and would last a long time.

The two main candidates are Barnes & Noble's Nook, and Amazon's Kindle.  It seems that both have lots of good feedback, so how to choose?

Hm, will have to do some more research and reading of personal feedback.

In the meantime, if any of you have an E-reader, perhaps you can share what you like or don't like, or if you have feedback from others (online or in person), please post here!

EDA: it looks like the Nook isn't available outside the US.  Dang.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Who am I - Goldilocks?


In approaching the knitting of my next cardigan project, Every Last Yard, I had to swatch, naturally.  I had talked with the designer, Amy Swenson (aka Indigirl) about achieving such a "Aran" gauge (16 stitches per 4 inches) with only worsted-weight yarn on 4.5mm needles.  She told me to wash and block the swatch, then measure, to see if/how it stretched.  Now, normally I don't wash and block my swatches (even though I likely should), but I thought it best to see how the yarn I was intending on using, The Sanguine Gryphon's Codex (single-ply, light worsted 52% BFL wool, 48% Silk), would knit, wash and block.   Plus if the designer says so, then I best follow her instructions, no?

The Codex yarn is a fairly slender worsted, in my opinion, and 4.5mm needles seemed small for getting the necessary 16 stitches per 4 inches.  So I started with 5.5mm needles, knit up my swatch, then soaked and pinned (blocked) it.  It was 17 stitches pre-washing/blocking, and 14 after.  Damn, too big.  Am now seeing the importance in washing/blocking one's swatch...

I then went for the 4.5mm needles and knit up a second swatch.  22 stitches pre-washing/blocking and 19.5 after.  Way too small.  (Do you see where this is going?)

Sighing, I pulled out the 5mm needles and started a third swatch.   I don't recall the pre-washing/blocking gauge, but post-washing/blocking came to 16.5.  Close enough in my book.  I won't block as aggressively in the finished piece anyway.

I haven't swatched so much for one project before, but I'm glad I did.  I wanted to get it Just Right.

A second photo, to show more of the true sage-green of the yarn (the skinny pale gold swatch was from a sample skein of Codex that I received in a package from Sanguine Gryphon) :


A Knitterly Friend's Video Podcast!

I am so proud of my friend, Dennine!  She has started her own video knitting podcast, called Complex Texture.  It's over on iTunes and there are now six episodes.  She talks about what's going on with her knitting, and throws in other tidbits about books, art, and some personal stories too.

Please visit her site and check out her videos.

Off to bed.  More posts in the works....

p.s. Dennine was kind enough to talk about my wee dyeing business, Gaia's Colours (and show off the goodies she bought from me), in episode five - thanks Dennine!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Desk!

This past weekend, when I strolled into the local London Drugs store (a western Canada pharmacy, that also sells other things, like electronics and some small furniture) for a pack of Kleenex tissue, I came out with a new desk.  I'm not sure how it happened really.  Ah, who am I kidding...?  It was on for less than half price and is just my style - how could I resist?

I give you, the Desk...

 It's a dark-stained, old fashioned type where the writing desk part folds open, like this:

 It has four drawers, compared to the one my previous desk had, so more storage - yay!

 For how noble and elegant the pen and paper look on the desk, it really looks more like this shot above.  And in case anyone wants to know, that is Franklin Habit's blog I have open on my laptop's browser.

And perhaps best of all, it folds up, the chair is put back at the dining room table, and it just looks like a classic piece of furniture.

I'm in love!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recipes: Apple Fritter Pancakes

My husband, Lee, has become known around the house as the "King of Pancakes & Waffles".  He makes one or the other every Sunday morning, and our boys gobble them up (no surprise there).  I was pleasantly surprised, however, when a couple of months back Lee came up with his own pancake recipe.  I tried the resulting steaming flapjacks and declared them excellent!

"They taste just like Apple Fritters!" I exclaimed.  "I must write down your recipe and post it on my blog."

And so I present to you, Lee's Apple Fritter Pancakes:

Ingredients

Dry:
  • 2 cups flour (Lee uses all purpose white, I'd likely use Spelt and Oat, and maybe some Whole Wheat)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch fine sea salt
Wet:
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk (or milk substitute)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2tbsp melted butter (measure after melted)
Apple mixture:
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked fresh or overly defrosted frozen apple slices, no skin (plain, unsweetened apple sauce may be substituted)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
Directions:
- combine all dry ingredients in one medium mixing bowl, set aside.
- in another mixing bowl, whisk eggs till frothy.
- add milk and vanilla to eggs mix and whisk again.
- in glass measuring cup, measure out apple slices, pack down a little.
- add cinnamon and sugar to apples, then use hand-blender or food processor to the consistency of apple sauce.  blending will reduce apple amount/measure to about 1 cup - **use only 3/4 cup of apple mix.
- mix wet with dry ingredients and gently stir until thoroughly incorporated.
- gently fold in apple mix to wet/dry mix.

Heat griddle to 325degreesF.  Pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup of batter to make each pancake.  Makes around 2 dozen pancakes.  Serve hot with butter and syrup.  Optional toppings for the pancakes: the leftover apple sauce blend; toasted, chopped nuts (like almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts); or perhaps roasted maple pecans (toast pecans on dry skillet, then toss in a little maple syrup and let set in fridge - divine!  Also tasty on a good quality vanilla ice-cream.).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Everyone loves a sale! (And a bit about Tarot)

Wow!  In the days following the start of the sale at Gaia's Colours, orders came rushing in with the force of a waterfall.   I was, understandably, blown away.  I might as well have been hit by the force of the said waterfall.  I think the combination of great discounted prices, the element of "get 'em before they're gone", and having a fair bit of stock just sitting there, made it far too tempting for my fellow crafters.

But I am thoroughly pleased, and relieved, knowing that the fibrey goodness will be going into loving hands and used to create lovely things.  It's a nice way to close, a delightful way to "let go".

"Letting go" and "moving on" were two things that recently came up in a big way in a Tarot card reading I did for myself.  I don't read my cards as often as I used to, but felt, as usually happens, that when I arrive at the proverbial crossroads, I need the cards as a guide, a reminder, a voice saying "Isn't this obvious, you silly fool?".   My main deck is The Druid Craft Tarot, by Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington.

The cards that came up for me on this were the:
  • 8 of cups (keywords: "Letting go, Seeking your higher purpose, Moving on" - see? obvious)
  • 3 of wands (kw: "Enterprise, Confidence, Realizing goals")
  • 6 of wands (kw: "Victory, Success, Leadership" - I see this as more "self-leadership")
  • 9 of pentacles (kw: Gain, Pleasure, Living your ideals" - also, pursuing paths previously unexplored, i.e. screenwriting)
  • 4 of swords (kw: "Retreat, Rest, Solace" - very important for me)
  • 6 of swords (kw: "Journeying, Solace, Healing")
  • The Star (kw: "Intuition, Hope, Optimism, Healing, Openness, Calm, Bright Prospects")
  • The Magician (kw: "Creativity, First steps, Empowerment, Will-power, Flow, Life-force, Inspiration, Direction")
  • The Lady (kw: Passion, Fertility, Abundance, Nurturing, Healing, Motherhood, Happiness, Beauty, Creativity")
  • The Fferyllt (Temperance) (kw: "Fluency between worlds, Creativity (notice a pattern?), Harmony, Peace, Magic, Alchemy)
So things seem to be going in just the right direction for me at present.  And I've made plenty of knitters happy - always a good thing.

best,
Ursa
p.s. I had no idea I was going to blog about Tarot today.  Just kinda happened.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cauliflower as Rice & Potatoes?

Hey gang,

A quick post to share something new I tried last night in the kitchen.  I found a "healthy tip" last week about using cauliflower instead of rice or potatoes with your evening meal.  For those of us following a specific style of "losing weight" diet, carbs are minimized, and only specific carbs are okay, and then no starchy carbs after 3pm.  So!  With this in mind, it was pointed on by the source of the tip that cauliflower could replace the starchy carbs one might want with the evening meal, to go with a meat dish or on a stir-fry.  Interestingly enough, we made a stir-fry last night, and so I thought I'd try using the cauliflower to make "rice".

I grated it manually (this is when I wish for a really good food processor with the grater blade), and it was tiny and crumbly.  Steaming this would be a challenge, as steamers have holes in them, and the tiny, crumbly bits would fall right through.  So what I did was heat a frying pan on medium with some olive oil and a wee bit of bacon fat, then place the grated cauliflower in it.  After stirring to coat, I added about 1/4 cup of hot chicken stock, and placed the lid on to let it steam for about five or ten  minutes.  I wanted it slightly crunchy, more so than rice would be however.  After steaming, I took the lid off and let any remaining liquid evaporate, stirring gently.  Then I took it off the heat, and added to our stir-fry.  It was tasty - definitely different, but worked just fine with the stir-fry, and I felt more noble about all the veggies I was eating :-)

Soon I might try the "mashed potato" version of the cauliflower - that should be interesting....

Posts about Banff and knitting to come soon!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Neglecting my readers?

I've been meaning to post here, and, in fact, have three or four posts already in the works.  It's just been such a crazy, busy week with the Gaia's Colours Sale (which has far exceeded my expectations), that I've had little time to do much else.  I think as things settle down in the next week or so, I should be able to finish my posts about Banff and my knitting projects.

Thinking of you lovely crafters and hoping the early tendrils of Spring are slowly reaching for you in these cool March days....

best,
Ursa

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Heading for the Hills

Mountains, actually.  The Rocky Mountains.  I'm off, later this week, for the winter wonderland tourist town of Banff, Alberta.  It's four days of relaxing and keeping warm in the very chilly surrounding of snow, conifer and icy rock.  Oh, and did I mention that we are staying here....?

The Banff Springs Hotel.  Yes, a castle in the mountains.

My husband is the current president of the local chapter of the Canadian Homebuilders Association, and they are holding the annual conference at the above hotel.  I was invited to join him, leaving our boys to hang out with grandparents.

So what's the wife of the president to do while her husband attends meetings?  Why, anything she pleases!  Frequenting the Spa, knitting by a fire, reading, making use of the hotel's gym and pool, window shopping in downtown Banff, skiing or even snowboarding*...

I promise to take lots of pictures :-)

best,
Ursa

* I've never been snowboarding, but heck, it might be worth a try!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

News about Gaia's Colours

For those of you who frequent my blog, you'll likely recall back in January when I was mysterious about "things shifting"?  Well, the time for the big reveal has come.  I, the indie dyer that is Gaia's Colours Fibre Arts, am shutting down my small dyeing business.  The full details and explanations are posted over at the GC blog.  I am sad about it and will miss the many delightful crafters who were so appreciative of my work.

I must move forward, however, especially into working seriously on my first screenplay, which is almost complete in full detailed outline, and so close to being ready for the actual writing of scenes.  My mentor here in Victoria is really pleased with my progress so far - it's a real story in the making!

On a side note, I've discovered a fabulous new word processor for Macs - OmmWriter Dana.  Simple and beautiful!

best,
Ursa

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cutting down the carbs

No, I'm going all Atkin's Diet on y'all.  But I am changing how and what I eat.  I have been pretty good about my diet - all organic veggies and fruit, local food as much as I can find/afford, making most of what we eat from scratch, etc.  However, I have been doing some reading online, and decided to cut out most of the refined/starchy carbs from my day-to-day diet.  This means most breads (except the odd bit of the sprouted grain "made without flour" Ezekiel kind), and other baking unless I do it myself, avoiding most flour products, really.  I already don't eat white rice, well, only rarely in take-out sushi, and can watch what types and how much pasta I eat too.

Now, this avoidance of flour products makes eating things like wraps and burgers at home challenging.  However, I've figured out a decent substitute for buns and such - lettuce!  Yes, the lovely, large leaves of a Red-Leaf or Romaine are tasty and easy to work with, plus it's an extra "veggie" serving.  I'm not talking Iceberg lettuce here - it has to be a darker green leaf type.  Even chard would do!  So healthy!

I just finished a very yummy, albeit messy, venison burger, from Vancouver Island deer (22grams of protein, 7grams of fat, and 157 calories), my home-made organic hummus, organic romaine lettuce,  organic local sunflower sprouts, organic avocado, local cheese, and a little mayo (the only "bad" thing in the burger).  It was easy to put together - just cook the patty, add the cheese, and layer into the lettuce leaves.

I could see this becoming a tasty habit!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Recipes: Hummus

I used to buy the locally-made store-bought hummus, but no more!  It's dead easy to make and I whip up a batch every week.  I like to dip it with carrots and other raw veggies, use it in wraps instead of salad dressing, or as a condiment for a burger, or, of course, with pita bread.  You can make it super garlicky or minimally so.  As with many of my recipes, I don't usually measure, but go by taste, and taste as I go along.  However, today when I made a fresh batch, I did measure what I used, so I have a guideline for you.

Ursa's Homemade Hummus
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans, soaked eight hours, then cooked (don't add salt until the last few minutes, or it won't cook properly), rinsed and drained.  If using canned chickpeas, buy a 28oz can, rinse and drain.
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil (start with 1/4 cup, and if more moisture is needed, drizzle a little more at a time)
  • Juice of one lemon, organic
  • 1-2 large cloves of garlic (add more if you like it strong!), minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp (approx) fine sea salt
Directions:
- Using a food processor, add chickpeas and minced garlic.  Start blending.  Slowly add the olive oil and lemon juice, adding more olive oil if needed.  Let blend for approx two minutes.
- While still blending in F.P, add spices and salt/pepper.  Blend for another minute.  Taste to see if more of anything needs to be added.  I always add while blending, a little at a time.
- When tasting good, and nicely blended, scrape out of F.P. into a container.  Keep refrigerated when not in use.  Lasts about a week.  Enjoy!

* Note: Most recipes call for tahini in hummus.  I don't often have tahini in the house, and even when I do and add a tbsp or so, I don't find that it adds anything to the hummus.  It's up to you if you wish to add a tbsp or two of tahini to this blend.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wheel meet again...

My Louet S17 spinning wheel is not happy with me.  It's been sitting in a corner of my dye studio since last summer, shooting me with both daggers and puppy-dog eyes.  Last night we had a conversation that went something like this:

The Wheel: Why don't you use me?
Me: Because I have a business to run, children to raise, food to buy and prepare, and many other things to do.
The Wheel: It's that Knitting, isn't it?  The Knitting has taken you into the fold - I know it! Admit it!  
Me: Um...
The Wheel: The business, the kids - they're just a smokescreen!  The Knitting is the One True Path for you, isn't It?  It's demanded that you put no other Crafts before It!  The Ashford Loom and I know -  it's all about exclusivity now, don't deny it!
Me: Well, I do use fibre for all three of you, but in different ways.  I love you all, just differently.
The Wheel: *sniff* And do you promise to use me soon, with that same loving touch and glow you have for the Knitting?
Me: Yes, I promise.
The Wheel: Good.  And will you talk to the Loom?  She is such a DRAMA Queen!

12 in 2011 "club"

After a knitting friend from my local knitting group, Melissa, aka MisoCrafty, posted about her joining of the "12 in 2011" project on Ravelry, I have been thinking about doing it too.  The basics are that you make your own "kit", like in a yarn/fibre club, for the entire year.  You are to take a pattern and yarn that you already have, team them up, decide on 12 of them that you'd like to complete this year, and bag up each pattern and it's needed yarn into it's own "kit".  Then you have 12, at least, projects all ready and lined up for completion.   Since I have plenty of patterns/projects and their necessary yarns already ready, it is just a matter of putting together my own 12 for this year.

I have a handful of these kits bagged up so far.  I'm rummaging through my Queue on Ravelry, pondering what other patterns/projects I am committed to knitting this year.  It's a bit of a challenge.  How will I know what I really want to knit this year specifically?  Okay, so I know some of them, but 12?  So I will persevere.  And post again with the line-up, once it's all decided.

What about you?  Do you have enough patterns & yarns to put together your own kits for a year?