Sunday, November 29, 2015

Not a Mountain Goat

What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are.-- George Eastman
After a week off at home, I must say: I'm going to do this staycation thing again. I love being at home with no obligations apart from such arduous things as doctor's check ups, afternoon naps, yoga, and massage appointments. By Wednesday, I'd mostly run out of things to do: I'd made all my lunches for next week and cleaned both bathrooms. I took to things like re-discovering games on the iPad I'd forgotten about. I started a game of Mahjong at 9:45pm. AND I finished it. I didn't sleep until 10:15pm. Party on, dudes.

On Thursday, we departed for a couple of days in Victoria. I love visiting Victoria. It's my kind of city: not too large, not too busy,  not too crowded, lots of good shopping and architecture and scenery to enjoy.


And while Victoria is not technically "home" for me, it has all the things I enjoy. The hubby often jokes that we do all the same things on holiday as we do at home, but it's the change of scenery that does it for me. Sandwiches and tea and cakes should be enjoyed wherever one travels, in my opinion:


Of course, discovering new things is also important, and so finding Russell Books was a welcome distraction. How delightful to stride into a shop and be met with a sight such as this:


Aisles upon aisles of books, new and used, all there to browse through:


The overstock and oversize books are all on the uppermost shelves. I smiled when I was in the recipe book section to see labels like "Cheese Overstock," "Fruits and Vegetables Overstock," and "Grilling Overstock":


And, in the psychology section, the "Can't Remember What I Forgot Oversize" label had me giggling:


It being nearly three weeks to Christmas, the city was decked out in lights. The Provincial Legislative Buildings were particularly festive:


On Friday, we walked up to the top of Mount Douglas, which was sort of my idea, but I regretted it as soon as I realized it was a slow, steady incline the whole way, which was a bit much for my tight hip flexors. But the view and the warm sunshine at the top was worth it. It's days like these that I envy mountain goats. The views they get are spectacular:






And, what about the knitting? Well...

My Svalbard was coming along swimmingly until I separated for the sleeves and tried it on. It was at least 5 inches too big around the bust. And, while I know it's supposed to be a roomy cardigan, I felt more like a linebacker than the trendy hipster I hoped to resemble. So, I had to rip back. And it was not easy because I had already woven in some ends and had to find them again so I could make sure I didn't make a mess of it... but that sort of turned into a mess as well.

Ripping out a few hours of knitting is a practice in acceptance: acceptance that, try as I may, mistakes are inevitable, and that it's always better to take the time to do things right than to try to cover up errors later. It's like the mantra that we learned at the yoga retreat I attended a couple of weeks ago: May I accept the mysterious unfolding of my life.

So, after a week off, my sweater is exactly at the same place as it was this time last week. I'm still worried about it not being the right size. And yes, I must accept it. This is why I do all that yoga. Om.

What I also must accept is that Monday means I am back to work. Such things are inevitable: after all, I am not a lady of leisure, nor am I a mountain goat, and therefore, hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to my desk I go.

But first: I have a 10k to do this morning. This one is in support of the local food bank, and has cinnamon buns at the end of it. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 23, 2015

When Cookies Keep You On Track

The alternative to a vacation is to stay home and tip every third person you see. ~Author Unknown
Sometimes, all I yearn for is a day to myself at home: nowhere to be, no one to bother me, just me and my hobbies and a warm place to sit. For me, that is the best kind of day off.

I also secretly yearn to watch daytime television, but I don't know if I'm just getting older or TV is just getting worse, but the squak box just disappointed me today. It's just a reminder that there are better things to do with one's time, I suppose. It would've been better if Oprah was still on... but I digress...

It's a cool, rainy, and possibly slushy day out there. I got up this morning and went to the gym like a good girl, and after I came home and took a shower, I made myself a cup of coffee and started a batch of Guinness and beef stew in the slow cooker. It's a perfect meal for a day like this. I loved watching the ingredients going in as I washed and chopped:


It's also a good excuse for using some of the fresh rosemary that our landlord planted in our front garden. I went out and cut it and stripped it straight into the pot, freshly washed by the rain. Our landlord spoils us, you know: they planted the garden, and they come over and weed it for us. They sweep the parking lot, salt the steps if it's icy, clean the gutters, give me free plants for the back garden. I don't know if I can live anywhere else now.


While the stew bubbled away in the slow cooker, I kept myself occupied with my current sweater project. I keep falling in and out of love with it. I'm loving the colour of it, which reminds me of the lillies in the bouquet of flowers my family sent me for my birthday last week:


I'm modifying Bristol Ivy's Svalbard to have a more traditional raglan front. It was a good choice to switch to this yarn. The tone and shade of the rose colour is really showing off the definition of the cartridge rib. I'm a bit worried about it, though. It's so brilliantly designed that it seems a sacrilege to mess with it, and I'm unsure if my modifications will give me the result I want. Thus, I knit a few rows, loving the look of it, then I knit the next few rows, worried that it will look really awful in the end. This is a true test of trusting my instincts:


My stitch markers are keeping a smile on my face, though. The sweater is knit in one piece from the neck downwards, and has a lot of things going on at the same time. I chose the markers carefully to help me keep track of where I am. From the edges to the Oreo markers are the fronts:


Between each Oreo and the macaroon are the sleeve stitches:


Between the two macaroons are the back stitches. And then, between those two markers are two jade snail shells, which are marking a chevron stitch pattern:


If your cookies and macaroons can't keep you right, well, there's clearly something wrong in the world.

I have the whole week off this week. So far, the first day is making me feel like a child with a bag of sweets... eagerly savouring each one, but looking carefully, almost anxiously, at how many I have left. I'm so grateful to have these days that I don't want to squander a single moment. On Thursday, we are going to Victoria for a couple of nights for a change of scenery, which I am also looking forward to.

I'm still hanging on tightly to every moment at home. Tomorrow, I have a couple of appointments, but I'm looking forward to coming back to the couch to knit and drink tea and nap. It's not glamorous, but it's perfect right now.

The stew is almost ready. Must be off. Have a lovely week!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Neon Races, Frosty Shawls

Whoa, another two weeks flew past. What the what? Are we nearly in the middle of November again? Huh?

I'm beginning to think that this time of year has a weird hex on it for me. Perhaps it is the time change: suddenly, I've been plunged into darkness, and therefore, I feel sleepy as soon as I get home after work, and therefore, I feel like I'm walking in a dreamland. Time seems to fly past.

But dreamland or not, I have still been busy. Last weekend, I ran a 10k in Vancouver for the inaugural Great Climate Race, support of solar projects in British Columbia. It was a good run: I could have fuelled better, and I could have paced better, and a guy running in a hot dog costume was faster than me, but it was a beautiful run on a dry day with a very good crowd for a good cause. I can't complain. I felt privileged to be there:


My friend took this shot of me at the finish line. The neon makes me faster:


And the week before that, one of my friends (the same one that took the photo above) asked me if I might be able to repair a hole in a sweater for her. She wasn't worried about matching the pattern: she just didn't want a cold elbow anymore. I'd never done it before, and it was a bit daunting:


But with a bit of thought, I think I came up with pretty good solution. Not bad, eh?


And the other night, I finally finished my Moonlight Sonata shawl. I am actually in awe of it. I was not prepared for how beautiful this thing would be. I think it looks like the delicate frost that you see on your windows on a cold, bright, winter's day:



In a rare moment of forethought (or paranoia), I actually decided to bind off early for this shawl. If I'd actually thought about it a bit longer, I could have tracked how much yarn I was using for each repeat, observing the ratio of growth per repeat, and then extrapolated how many more repeats I could have worked before I ran out of yarn...


But what actually happened was that I freaked out and bailed early.

Turns out, I probably could have done at least one more repeat before I running out. When I finished the final stitch, I sighed and thought it would be too small to wear. Before blocking, as is the case with all lace projects, it looked like a crumpled heap of used handkerchief. I still wasn't sure about it after it was all stretched out and pinned and drying on the blocking boards. But then, after I took it off the boards, I stood there, staring at it in silence. Oh yes...





It was difficult to photograph the colours in the yarn. There are subtle tones of lavender and grey throughout. I was a little afraid they would create weird stripes, but they just seem to add depth to its ethereal nature:




And, as a bonus, I most likely have enough to make a pair of cafe mitts. I lost one of mine recently, and it's made me a bit tetchy for another pair... but we won't talk about that just now...

My next project is one that I've been working on in my brain for a while: Bristol Ivy's Svalbard. I'm not keen on the way the front is designed - the swingy front cardigan is just not flattering on me. It seemed like an easy calculation at the time, but there are a lot of clever things going on in this pattern, so I eventually had to sit down and plot it out on paper. I was feeling quite clever about it...


... except that I woke up at 4:00am this morning with the realization that this yellow yarn is just not right for this pattern. So, this afternoon, I wound a ball of Cascade 220 in colourway 2412 Rose, which is a dusky pinky plum colour, and I'm about to knit a swatch to test the gauge. I think will work much better. I didn't think my colour instinct would wake me up in the middle of the night, but there you go.

So, that's two weeks in a nutshell for you. I hope the next week doesn't fly by like that again. I'd sort of like to enjoy it, because it's my birthday on Tuesday, and it's true what they say: the older you get, the faster time flies. It'd be nice to slow down enough to at least enjoy a mouthful of birthday cake.

I've just looked out the window, and it's gone dark again. Sigh. Wake me up in spring, would you?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Staring at the Roast and Other Activities

I'm not sure where the past two weeks went. Last weekend, I reached Sunday night and realized that... well, it was Sunday night, and that I hadn't written a blogpost, and that I needed to get to bed to get ready for a busy week. And I suppose that's just how things go sometimes.

It's not to say I wasn't still doing my usual thing. I just missed the blogpost. But I was doing my thing: knitting, running, daydreaming, cooking.

Yeah... cooking for sure. This time of year sends me straight into the kitchen, especially on the weekends. Some people party, some people sleep in. Me? The kitchen is my rave house, obviously.

This weekend, outside round beef roasts were on sale in the supermarket, and I'm trying out a new recipe called Mock Prime Rib with it. It's in the oven right now, and I can't wait for it to be done. When meat goes on special, one should take advantage, even if it means cooking nearly seven pounds of meat for two people. At least we won't starve:


Last weekend, pork tenderloin roasts were on special in the supermarket. I cooked in the slow cooker with this recipe and finished it in the oven. Mmm... meat...


It hasn't been only meat I've been cooking. I made an apple and blueberry cake from a muffin recipe that I altered to use up some yogurt and milk:


And this weekend, I made some tomato soup and a fresh batch of peasant bread. This time, I put raw sunflower seeds and flax seeds into the bread to make it a bit more hearty:



But it hasn't all been food. On Thursday night, I took a class with some workmates where we made splatter paintings under UV light. Here's what mine looked like in the UV light:


And here's what it looks like in regular light. Cool, huh?


And, speaking of painting, I painted my face and put on some kitty gear to go play volleyball with the local club on Friday night, the night before Halloween. I'm not one for face paints, but it's amazing what you can learn if you but Google the question:



And, of course, I've been knitting. I've been wrestling with a ball of Whisper Lace from Fibra Natura. It's beautiful: 70% merino and 30% silk... soft and cool to the touch, so luxurious that I want to bury my face in it. But MAN, is it fussy...

I've tried about four different patterns with it, and I eventually settled on Moonlight Sonata by Shui Kuen Kozinski. It's lovely, it truly is, but I am mastering the art of fudging stitches when the stitch count goes out because (and you'll pardon me for saying this) this yarn is a b*tch to rip out. Seriously. You tug it with just a tiny bit of force, and snap, it breaks. Pah. Annoying


But it's turning out lovely, truly lovely. I'm loving the little "moons" that appear after each repeat. I really can't wait to see how it blocks out.


So apparently, I miss one blogpost, and I am simply bursting with things to share with you. I suppose it is true what they say: life goes on, even when you miss a blogpost. Well... I'm not sure anyone actually does say that, but well, I've said it now. You can use that quote for free, if you want.

I'm off to go stare at the roast in the oven. Have a lovely week.