Monday, 8 September 2014

Socks and Knitting tales

The travelling socks are finally finished  And it was a squeeker let me tell you.  I blithely cast on my usual 56 stitches, did my 3 inch rib cuff and moved on down the leg for 8 inches which I like, never thinking that this Lang Jawoll Cotton Stretch colour only had 330m on it.  One sock down, the second one down almost to the toe and I started to panic.
This little tangle is all the scrap I had left.  I didn't use the spool of coloured nylon so kindly provided by Lang in every one of their balls of sock yarn.  I don't think it would have made a difference in any case.  There was just enough yarn - and they are fraternal twins, these socks, not identical twins, but that's Ok too.
I like the Lang sock yarns - they have a nice twist and are easy to work with and I'm really in love with my new steel tipped, carbonized sock needles by Knitter's Pride.  But I was surprised that the Cotton Stretch has about 100 meters less on the ball than the regular Jawoll Colour.  No idea why that is.
Here is the latest shot of my problem child shawl.  I've now ripped this lovely yarn back twice - but this time, I think things will work.  Both rips were because I wasn't paying enough attention to the quantities of yarn required for the shawl pattern I had chosen.  Let that be a lesson to me - I'm beginning to see a pattern here.   At any rate..  I do like this pattern - crochet  - called the BFF Shawl and in Interweave Crochet Accessories Special issue 2014.  It's a four row pattern repeat guaranteed to keep my interest as I plow through it.   I was pleased to see the designer not only gave me the number of chains on, but told me it was a multiple of 12 stitches plus 2.  Once I discovered that the shawl would be way too wide I was able to do the math, cut to 72 stitches and one ball of this delightful manos Del Uruguay Alegria yarn named Botanico will do the trick..  Good thing - it's all I've got.
Today is a good day for knitting.
This is why.  Welcome to my snowy world.  Libby is, of course, ecstatic.  We took the Rav to the garage for it's tune up this morning, and walked back home via the park.  She was doing stop, drop and rolls in the falling snow about every three feet.  There is enough on the ground at the moment to make really good, big snowballs to throw for her this afternoon.  But my, its early for this stuff.  I hope it will melt and the warm temperatures will come back.  I'm just not sure if the plants will survive this wet snow.  That's all for now.  Time for a cup of tea.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Company of Plants...

The Company of plants is always soothing - a quote by Claire Fraser in Diana Gabaldon's latest book "Written In My Own Heart's Blood"
Raindrops look like pieces of glass on the green leaves

Tiny mushrooms sprouting in the grass are food for somebody  - the rampaging squirrel perhaps?
 The garlic scapes are decorated with water drops and looking quite ethereal.
Chive flowers look like tiny stars through the close up lens of the camera

Friday, 22 August 2014

Weekend Girl Style

I've been cleaning out my closet.  It seemed like a good day to do it - raining, cool, a nip of premature fall in the air.   Getting rid of old clothes that don't work anymore is a bit like cleaning out a former life.  No, I lie - it is exactly like cleaning out a former life.

There is a pile of clothes ready for sorting and giving away to "Good Will".  These clothes just don't work for me now, in this life I have and I'm tired of them.  They used to work.  There are memories in the clothes of that former life - but it's time to let go.

Why all this?  Well, I happened upon an episode of  the Marilyn Denis show - Marilyn is slightly obsessed with making over women, and I suppose, making them remember who they have sort of forgotten who they are.  She had on her show Fashionista, Gretta Monahan, who has written a book - a primer really -  defining four types of dress - the girlie girl, sophisticated girl, Sexy girl and Weekend girl.

So, what spoke to me at this time of my life? 

Behold the weekend girl

" This girl prefers comfort and, to her, everyday is a weekend "-( well that might be going a tad far.) . "She is most often found in casual pieces that don't look like she's trying too hard. This girl's style icons are Jennifer Anniston, Katie Holmes and Cameron Diaz" (.Actually I think I'm a bit old to worry about Jennifer or Katie or Cameron but she nailed it about the casual comfort thing)

This is what I'm aiming for when clothes shopping is on the agenda, and now that I've purged the closet, I feel justified.  I guess it's true that in order for a new thing to come into your life, you must get rid of something.  Empty hangers await.   The next clean out is the sweater chest!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Knowing when to fold 'em

I have been fighting with this latest shawl for long enough - today it is coming out - right out - the entire thing - out.  I did it to myself - I picked the wrong pattern, didn't look at how much meterage was needed, grabbed this lovely ball of Allegria from the Manos Del Uruguay company and a 5.5mm hook and got started.

The shawl pattern is called Morning Webs Shawl, designed by Kathryn White, published by Interweave Press,  and there is no doubt it is a gorgeous pattern - just not for one ball of Allegria Botanico (sigh ). 

It was going well, too,  until I came to the border and realized I was facing two entire rounds of double crochet clusters and chains, guaranteed to gobble up yarn.  That was when I put down the hook, went back to the beginning and actually read the yarn requirements - and realized I was some 400 meters short to make the project.  I have 425 meters - the pattern calls for 796.    That's what I get for being in a hurry I guess.

I consulted my books for border ideas thinking I just might be able to pull the project out of the fire.
But you know, no matter how I look at this - and I have been looking at it believe me, I don't like it, can't get into finishing it.  So it has been sitting, waiting patiently, and today while Libby and I were walking and playing at the river, I realized it is time to start over with a new pattern that will actually fit the amount of yarn I have to play with. 

Sometimes you just have to know when to fold 'em.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Summer Doldrums

This time of  year, all I want to do is sit in a comfortable chair and read.  Do you feel that way?  There is something about August that says sit back, relax.  The garden is more or less under control, well, barring weeding, watering and mowing, but for the most part the plants are quietly doing their thing quite nicely, the veggies are growing and we are harvesting as we want to eat.

So...what am I reading?  Diana Gabaldon's latest book, "Written in my Own Heart's Blood" a cracking good story - all 814 pages of it has hooked me in!  This is the latest in her "Outlander" series of historical, time traveling novels and is another page turner.  I can't put it down!

I first came onto Gabaldon's story 20 years ago, browsing the book shop,  looking for a good read.  I remember walking on a west coast hiking trail with a friend telling her about this book I was reading  -the  heroine's step back 200 years in time through some magical standing stones in Scotland and all the adventures that ensued.  She was so intrigued she got the book, then passed it onto her daughters, and so on and so on.  My own copy became so tattered it was held together with packing tape.  I finally replaced it when the second book came out - and by then I was totally hooked on the story - I think like a lot of people - of Jamie and Claire - he a 1700's highland warrier and she, a world war II combat nurse. 

Seven novels later I'm still hooked enough that I don't want the story to end.  Apparently neither does she.  She writes on her website that there will be an eighth novel in the series.

 I'm also reading Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac and thoroughly enjoying her prose along with her immense knowledge about knitting.  "Bear with me", she writes, "and put up with my opinionated, nay, sometimes cantankerous attitude" The book was originally published in 1974 and while some of the projects are a mite old fashioned, the knowledge and advice she hands out around them is priceless.

I'm also reading Ann Lamott's book "Bird by Bird" - the sub title is Some Instructions on Writing and Life.  I picked it up in defence against writer's block which I seem to be suffering  since my accident.  Odd that - a trauma of the body does such a number on the mind - but it does.

So look for me in the lawn chair.   

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Garden Bounty

Here come the Raspberries!

 What a thrill to have the raspberry patch producing - finally!  And are they ever delicious.  There really is nothing so wonderful as fresh raspberries and cream for breakfast with toasted homemade bread..

Have you ever made no-knead dutch oven bread?  It is dead easy and great fun.
Here is what you need for ingredients:  1/4 tsp active dry yeast, 1-1/2 cups warm water, 3 cups  flour plus a bit more for dusting - I used 2 cups wholewheat and 1 cup all purpose flour., 1-1/2 tsp salt.

This recipe originally came from Mother Earth News - I haven't done much adapting.

First of all, in a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until blended - get in there with your hands and mix it well.  It will be shaggy and sticky.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let it rest - a long time - I usually do this the night before and let it rest all night on the back of the stove - the recipe says from 8-18 hours - overnight seems to suffice.

The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Turn it out on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with a bit of flour and turn it over on itself a couple of times - cover loosely with the plastic wrap and let it rest about 15 minutes.

Then...using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to either the work surface or you - shape it into a ball, cover it again and let it rise about an hour or so - it should have doubled in size and not readily spring back when you poke it.  I have a flexable cutting board I use for this which works well but if  you don't, put the dough on a floured tea towel.

Here is the good part - about 20 minutes to 1/2 hour before the dough is deemed ready, heat your oven to 475 degrees F, and put in your cast iron covered kettle so it will heat as the oven heats.
You can use pyrex or ceramic too - but I have a cast iron dutch oven I use.

When everything is ready, including the dough - carefully remove the kettle from the oven - it will be smoking hot - lift off the lid, slide your hand right under the cutting board or towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. Don't try to pick up the dough.   Don't worry if the dough loses it's shape a bit during this part of the operation - give the pot a couple of shakes once the dough is in there - it will straighten out as it bakes.

Put the lid on and put the whole thing back in the oven for 30 minutes - Then, take off the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes until it browns.

Life the the finished bread round out of the kettle and onto a cooling surface - it makes a very interesting ticking sound as it cools - it will be ready to slice into in about an hour so get the butter and honey ready!

Or, keep it for a cool summer supper with a great salad

I planted Romaine lettuce this spring which I have to tell you is just delicious - and carrots too of course because our Rabbit - name of Picasso - absolutely loves carrot tops - and baby carrots - he is a gourmand!

Now is the time we are reaping the rewards of all the hard spring planting work. Hard to believe it is the end of July already.  I'm off to pick more Raspberries. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Circles and Lines

I have been on the road for the past three weeks- on a driving trip that took me from Calgary, through the mountains and out to British Columbia, stopping frequently along the way to visit family and friends. 

I'm fond of circles.  It is possible to do this trip without backtracking too much.  I determined to drive out through the southern Crows Nest Pass - nostalgia really - when I was a child travelling with my parents, the "Crow" was the only way to get from Alberta to BC and even then we had to dip down over the US border or brave the gravel road they called "the hump" which struck terror into my mother's heart.  The road has improved vastly over the years - and other than the rain, which followed me all the way to the Okanagan, it was a lovely drive.
My buddy libby - who as it happens is a wonderful travelling companion.  She rides shotgun - until I get out of the car at which time she moves over behind the wheel....and waits patiently.
The idea was to dip ourselves into the Pacific ocean, but we did a lot of river and lake dipping along the way - and of course a lot of rock diving.  And we did a lot of hiking.
Green is the colour of the forest on the West coast, ferns, evergreens, broadleaf maples make for a shaded walk, even if it does turn out to be 10 kilometres!  Island shores are rocky which suits libby very well, being a rock girl.

There are distinct advantages to being part of a big generous family with cozy beds for the taking, and big gardens for the eating.

I was quite impressed with Kathie's raised beds covered in cloth chuck wagon tents and full of carrots, tomatoes, herbs, beets, and all manor of wonderful veggies we were able to bring to the table for family dinners when I got to Quadra Island
And then, it was time to turn for home.  Keeping in mind circles, I backtracked a bit, down to Victoria, across Georgia Strait on BC Ferries and up through the northern route on  the Coquihalla highway and home.
I was quite pleased with myself. I managed this trip after a very difficult winter and a serious back injury- it was fun.  I think I'm going to be OK now.  Sometimes you just need to get away, have a change, see new things - to prove to yourself life is good - oh, and have a sock to knit