Sunday, 31 January 2010

Knitting Lesson On A Bus

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours at our local Mall. No, not shopping! Shopping malls and shopping are seriously two of my least favourite pastimes. I was there volunteering my time on behalf of a local Rotary Club to fundraise for this project ... a very worthwhile cause. I understand Rotarians were able to deliver the first batch of these boxes on the third day following the big disaster in Haiti. We had an actual box, tent and contents set up for everyone to see ... and for the public to imagine sharing with 9 other people ... and local residents were very generous. I'm aware of at least one individual who "purchased" one complete ShelterBox for Haiti on her own!

While waiting for the bus on my way home from the Mall, I did some knitting. I very seldom go anywhere without some kind of easy knitting project in my bag. Twenty minutes to half hour on the bus going and another half hour or so of returning approximately equals an hour of knitting, and it's quite amazing how quickly small projects can be completed. The current "in the bag" project is a baby garment. No, no shocking news to share ... this is for a local friend's first grandchild.

Anyway, while I waited and knitted, a young man came to stand beside me and stared quite intently at what I was doing.

"What do you call that what you're doing?" he asked.

"Knitting," I explained. I'm quite used to people asking about my public knitting.

Then the bus came and we both got on. The young man sat in the seat behind me and continued to watch very closely.

"Why did you change metal sticks just now?" he asked.I explained the "metal sticks" are called knitting needles, and I had just changed from a 3.75 mm (left in picture above) to a slightly larger 4.0 mm (right in picture above). I was knitting the bottom of a little garment leg, and I wanted the leg cuff to be slightly snugger than the rest of the leg ... sort of like the knitted cuff on the sleeve of his hoodie ... and the smaller the needle, the smaller or tighter the resulting stitches.

"That makes sense!" he grinned, and then I REALLY had his attention. He leaned in even closer to watch more intently. After a few moments, he asked "how come you keep holding THAT needle the same, but you point the OTHER needle in a different direction each time you switch ?"

I explained that the two different directions of "pointing the other needle" are what makes two different stitches possible. When I aim my right-hand needle DOWN like so ...
... I am making a KNIT STITCH, and when I aim my right hand needle UP like so ...
... I am making a PURL STITCH. Then I showed him how alternating rows of knit and purl result in a right side with "vees" (first picture), and a wrong side with "bumps" (second picture). He really got excited when I explained that ALL knitting is basically these two simple stitches manipulated and arranged in different sequences and wanted to know where he could buy the materials to try it himself! We even talked briefly about MALE knitters and designers (of which there are lots). I think I might have made a convert. It's moments like these that keep me happily knitting on the bus!

Aside from the knitting lesson, this past week has been very trying for a couple of reasons. First, someone very close to me lost a 16-year old daughter this past week. I understand only too well that grief manifests itself in many forms ... "why me", "why her", "why God", "if only" ... but I'm having a tough time figuring out how to respond well. I want to explain what I personally believe, that everything is for a greater reason even if that reason is clearly not apparent at the moment, but that's not what needs to be heard just now. I also want to rage that 16 year olds should grow up to be 17 year olds and then 37 year olds and eventually 87 year olds! It's just not right/natural/fair for any parent to outlive their children! Hmm. My son Robert had been on my mind frequently in the past while. Almost makes me wonder if he wasn't trying to tell me to have a look at my OWN grief ... almost like he knew what was coming. Double hmm.

Second, I learned this past week that a hometown acquaintance is now living with dementia, and has been in a care facility for the past couple of years. This person is only a decade or so older than I am. In my mind, forgetting how to feed oneself happens to REALLY OLD people, not people only a decade or so older than I am! For some reason, I just can't wrap my head around this one ... and I keep hearing Dylan Thomas's words in my mind ... "do not go gentle into that good night ... rage, rage against the dying of the light".

In closing today, here are some weather photos. I looked outside early one morning this past week and was astonished at this incredible sunrise.

I thought about the old saying "Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky in the morning, sailor's warning" but the rest of the day was quite boring weather-wise. Perhaps because we're mid-province here and not up to any sailing? Coming home late another evening this past week, I was captivated by this almost full moon viewed through barren tree branches.

Today, it's back to seasonally-appropriate snow.
There was a Mama moose nibbling along this fenceline again this past week, but she managed to disappear while I went to fetch my camera. I've been trying to catch her for a picture for two months now and still no success!

Have a great week y'all!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Coffee, wool and veggies

I finally got around to sampling one of my Christmas prezzies this week ......Starbucks 100% Natural Roasted Instant & Microground Coffee. Did you know about this stuff? The box comes with 12 of these handy-dandy little pouches ...... which you snip open and pour into a cup and add hot water (and, in my case, cream), and VOILA! Starbucks at home! This may NOT be a good thing ... I am apparently genetically programmed to be overwhelmingly addicted to coffee. For me, coffee 2 or 3 days in a row, and I HAVE TO HAVE MORE COFFEE!!! Once I start drinking the stuff, I suffer incredible headaches until I pour some into me ... intravenous would be good! ... and unbearable cravings all day long. Consequently, I DON'T drink coffee regularly. I've even learned to travel to and from work AWAY FROM temptations like Tim Hortons and Starbucks. Out of sight. out of mind, right?

Did I mention a brand new Starbucks is opening on the corner by my office on Monday?

Pray for me, people! I'm going to need willpower!

I discovered this new Starbucks one day last week on a mid-day brain break. I wasn't hungry (having ate a large breakfast plus a donut and two cookies at work), but needed to get out of the office for a bit. So I strolled down to Robyn's Woolgathering for a bit of fondling. Yarn, people! Fondling wool! Sheesh! I wasn't planning on purchasing, but fell in love with the blues and greens and yellows in this ...
It is a lovely soft blend from this local handcrafter ...
... of merino wool and alpaca with enough nylon thrown own to make it quite sturdy. I bought 3 skeins, but have no vision of what I'm going to do with it just yet. At the moment, I'm still into quilting. I've just finished joining the 3 pieced hearts for my wallhanging ... sorry, the photo didn't turn out. My camera's battery chose that moment to demand recharging!

Have I mentioned becoming the regular recipient of an organic veggie box? I signed up for this service last fall from this local organic farm and have been getting a bin ...
... filled with luscious fresh organically-grown veggies, herbs and fruits ...
every second Thursday for the incredibly reasonable price of $30. Here's an example of the contents from one delivery:
No, oranges don't grow here. The farmers supplement the bin with additional organically-grown goodies when necessary. Let me tell you, those fresh pears were DIVINE!
However, the one item that always gets me excited on Thursdays is FRESH LETTUCE!
I despise iceberg lettuce ... no taste, no food value ... and really despise the fact that the iceberg (and other) lettuce in our local grocery store is both imported and not organic. So I am always thrilled to pieces on the Thursdays that my veggie box is delivered ... oh, did I forget that bit? DELIVERED RIGHT TO MY DOOR! Can you imagine??? ... 'cuz dinner is going to include the FRESHEST YUMMIEST salad ever!
(My first veggie box, the lettuce didn't even make it onto a plate ... I just stood at the counter and ate the entire head like a rabbit!) Sometimes these wonderful people include cool recipes ... such as Eggplant Tacos, above. I haven't tried that one yet. I was too hungry for Eggplant Parmiagana! I could receive this box every week, but sometimes I have a crazy work schedule that interferes with regular dinner hours, so have had concerns about wasting.

Well, that's all that's new and exciting for me. The weather here is still unseasonably warm and we're definately a foot or so short of snow, but it is a lovely bright and sunny Sunday.
Have a great week y'all!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Random Thoughts

Wow! I'm sure glad I had that fabulous Christmas break to nourish my soul with some down time, cuz it's been hit the deck running full tilt since I went back to work on January 4th! Lots of new projects happening for my office (translated: lots of MEETINGS and many REPORTS) and very little time to breathe. I made a pact with myself to take a half hour in the middle of the day this year to get out of the office. I don't make New Year's resolutions, and I seldom start new things in January, but I really need a brain break in the middle of my work day. I haven't succeeded in accomplishing that EVERY day, but am pleased to say I have gone out for a walk or a bowl of soup (or a brief fondle-new-yarns session at our downtown yarn store) MOST work days so far this year.

In addition to a crazy work schedule, we've been experiencing a crazy warming trend in our weather. Hello, weather gods! This is January ... in The North! We're supposed to be well below zero and buried in snow in January!

Hello? Weather gods?

Anyone listening? (tap tap) Is this mike working???

Apparently not. Thanks to recent rain and warming, there is green grass appearing ...
... yet it's still close enough to zero degrees that SIDEWALK conditions are rather perilous. In pretty much any given location around the city, you can have one foot in a puddle ...... and the other foot in snow ...... then one step farther, both feet in a patch of ice ...... and hopefully you can navigate that without landing on your keester! While out on my travels today, I was pleased to see Terry wasn't having a problem navigating our sidewalks ...... and that he currently loves our University! I love our University too. I MISS our University! I was a guest speaker this past week for the BC Rural & Remote Health Research Network's "The Many Faces of Health Research: Promoting Seniors' Wellbeing Using the Seniors Mental Health Policy Lens Toolkit" presentation. Sound complicated? This project is just one of the multitude of things that's keeping me really busy this year! It was rather fun to be back up at the University ... made me realize how much I miss being there (sniffle) and how very much I want to be a student again!

With all this craziness, I haven't had much time during my weekends or evenings to continue with the quilting. Sadly, I've only managed to complete Heart #2 ...... and partially finish Heart #3 ...... of my wall hanging. Getting all three hearts joined and quilted before Valentine's Day 2010 is looking rather uncertain at this point! However, I have made a point to relax for a few minutes at the end of each day, even if that brief bit of relaxation didn't accomodate sewing. My routine usually includes a fast shower, but this stuff ...... a gift (thank you, S.!) this past Christmas ... is certainly helping me to slow down and smell the Moroccan Roses! (If you like roses and have a Body Shop near you, I highly recommend this stuff. It stinks purty!)

So I deliberately took some time out today and took myself out for brunch.Do you have a White Spot near you? I have a special place in my heart for this restaurant chain, and was reminiscing about why that is over bacon and eggs this morning.

My oldest boy, Robert, had surgery for lung cancer when he was a toddler. There I was, about 20 years old (too young to be married and a mum, never mind mum to a little lad facing lung cancer!) and in the big city of Vancouver BC all alone. I was afraid to walk too far from the hospital for fear I wouldn't be able to find my way back again, but found I really needed to get out of the hospital for a little while each day. I found a White Spot restaurant a couple of short blocks away ... still within sight of Vancouver General Hospital ... and, bless them!, they had chicken pot pie on their menu! Respite and comfort food! I noticed today that they still have chicken pot pie on their menu.

That's only one reason that I have a special place in my heart for White Spot. After my boy started recuperating from his surgery, he was seriously craving two things: real potatoes ... particularly home-made potato soup ... and peanut butter. Both items were forbidden on his ward as too many of the children there had difficulties swallowing.

Okay, that was the excuse given by the hospital staff at the time. I might buy it for the lack of peanut butter, but not for the lack of real potatoes!

Robert begged and begged for potato soup, and finally someone brought him a bowl of instant mashed potato flakes mixed with hot water. He was NOT impressed! I can still hear his squeaky little voice letting the entire ward know "You're not fooling me! That's NOT potato soup!"

Nearing the end of his hospital stay, I was allowed to take him out on day passes for short periods of time. On one of those day passes, I took him to the White Spot near the hospital. On Cambie Street, if I remember correctly. Robert was a bit of an extravert and exhibitionist, and quickly regaled all the waitresses with every gruesome detail about his lung surgery along with a close-up display of incision and sutures. He explained that all he really wanted was real potatoes and peanut butter ... and, bless them!, the White Spot staff brought him a beautifully arranged platter with a little bowl of peanut butter surrounded by pieces of real boiled potatoes! Even dressed up with a bit of parsley! Robert was so thrilled! Any busy restaurant that takes the time and makes the effort to cater to a sick little 2 1/2 year old like that is pretty darned special in my books!

While I'm on the topic of pretty darned special in my books, this fella ...
... Canadian wrestling legend Gene Kiniski, is right up there with the White Spot (photo from One another day pass, I took Robert down to a Dino's restaurant on Broadway ... about the same distance from Vancouver General as the White Spot but in a different direction. We had just ordered pizza when Robert spotted Gene Kiniski. He knew who Gene was because Grandad F. had been an avid "wrastlin'" fan and Robert had watched many hours of "wrastlin'" on TV with his Grandad. Before I could catch him, Robert was down out of his chair, across the restaurant, and regaling Gene Kiniski with tales about his surgery and the accompanying display of incision and sutures. And Gene, bless him!, picked Robert up, sat him on his knee and treated him with the utmost graciousness and patience. He gave Robert a very special memory to take home and brag about to his Grandad F.!
Hmm. This isn't where I was planning on going with this post. I suppose Robert is on my mind because we are almost at the time of year when he left us. Robert lived with lung cancer for another 6 years after the White Spot / Gene Kiniski experiences. Sometimes he's as close today as he was 30 years ago.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Introspective weekend

It is now Sunday evening, and my week off work has come to an end. I have totally enjoyed myself reading, napping, working on my quilting, cooking things I enjoy tasting, blogging ... as usual, I didn't realize how tired I was ...... until I stopped and spent a day (or two) in my jammies NOT doing or even THINKING ABOUT work stuff. As long as I keep pretending I'm an Energizer Bunny, I seldom feel tired. I haven't had a genuine vacation since I started my current job nearly 3 years ago, other than the odd long weekend here and there, and ... after some introspection this weekend ... have to admit I can't keep up the constant pace I have been attempting to maintain. Might have something to do with being closer to 60 than 50. Might have something to do with the lack of vacations. Might have something to do with the fact that each year gets a little shorter. I'm not committing myself to any particular reason here, but Lucy expresses it well:This weekend, I finished hand-quilting my table runner:My stitching is NOT perfect, but I sure did enjoy the quiet time spent doing the stitching! I was quite excited to discover my Brother sewing machine was up to machine quilting because that meant I could finish MORE projects FASTER. This past week has reminded me that quilting is not about PRODUCTION or SPEED. It's about quiet time, about quieting my mind and nourishing my soul.

My table runner is ready for the bias binding around the outside edges now. I didn't get that done as I want to bind it with a solid dark red / wine fabric, and I didn't have enough of what I wanted to cut bias binding from. And I didn't feel like getting out of my jammies to get on the bus and go downtown to the fabric store.

Instead, I found two new quilting projects to start. First, I found this Love in Bloom wallhanging ...... and just happen to have the perfect narrow wall between my dining room and front hall where it will fit. So, I cut out all the necessary pieces ...... and managed to hand sew one "heart" block together.

Second, I found this Flying Home for Christmas quilt pattern ...

... and was intrigued by the construction of each "flying goose" unit as the perfect triangle is achieved by sewing a coloured rectangle, folded in half, between two identical background squares, then opening out the sandwich, like so create this:

The quilt consists of 5 rows of 17 flying geese surrounded by an outer border of "trees". I sat and cut out the 85 coloured rectangles and 170 light coloured squares to make the individual units:

I particularly found sitting and hand-stitching the "daisies" for my table runner relaxing, so I have intentions of keeping a basket of quilt parts handy just for that purpose. May take me a while to complete these two projects, but I hope to devote a little more evening / weekend time to doing these creative "soul-nourishing" things.

Oh, did you notice my laptop in some of the photos above? I had been catching up on Coronation Street episodes via the CBC website, and noticed a whole list of CBC offerings available for online viewing. I did a little sampling, and discovered Heartland, a great little TV show filmed in Alberta. So Heartland kept me company while I cut quilt blocks.
Did you know Shaun Johnston plays Grandpa Jack in Heartland?
I discovered quite a few years ago that this Ponoka, Alberta lad is very talented at portraying the type of ranch hand who could leave his boots under my bed anytime! What? I said the type of ranch hand, as in fictitious character, not Shaun Johnston personally!

Friday, 1 January 2010

2009 Becomes 2010

Did you stay up until midnight to ring in 2010? I didn't. By 9:30 pm, I knew it was a losing battle, so was in bed and sound asleep by 10. And that's okay!

It was a nice day yesterday. And today too for that matter. About minus fifteen. A little more snow.

I LOVE snow on the trees ... it's the best part of winter! I think I love winter. I don't mind the cold (as long as there's no wind), and I seriously hate summer heat. I guess that means I'm living in the right part of the world for me?

Yesterday, I made PERSIMMON CHUTNEY. This is a persimmon:It looks somewhat like an orange-coloured tomato, but quite different leaves. Probably not your best example of a fresh persimmon ... you have to take into consideration that I live IN THE NORTH. That means most fresh produce must be trucked in here, which means we don`t always get the bestest to choose from. I don`t know anything about persimmons ... only that I bought some in Vancouver years ago (I was on a `try weird fruits` kick at the time), liked them, and went searching for cool things to do with them. Persimmon Chutney is one of the cool things I discovered.

I grew up with lots of homemade pickles and relish with which to add interest to hohum meat and potatoes. This chutney definately beats the hohums ... but its not like Gramma`s sweet cucumber relish!

I thought a nice way to close 2009 and open 2010 would be for us to make Persimmon Chutney together, so .... combine the following in a saucepan:

1 and a half cups cider vinegar
1 cup chopped onion
1 tart apple, peeled and cored and chopped
1 cup golden raisins
three quarters cup white sugar
Yes, I changed saucepans ... this is not unusual for me as I`m not a very good judge of sizes or quantities, and often find my pot is too small once I start cooking.

one quarter cup lemon juice
1 green chili, chopped
I used 2 including the seeds ... and seriously debated about using 3. I LOVE the heat, but if I made it too hot, I might have to eat all the chutney myself, so stayed with 2 so I can share. If you seriously don`t like too much heat, use 1 chili and scrape out the seeds.

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest

1 teaspoon ground coriander seed

one half teaspoon ground cloves
(I think this is a little bit too much cloves ... a bit overpowering ... next time I`ll cut it down to one quarter teaspoon ground cloves.)

Simmer for about half an hour, or until somewhat thickened.

Add 3 fresh persimmons, peeled and chopped.

Simmer another 10 minutes, then cool and refrigerate.
That was so easy! And it`s PRETTY!

This chutney goes really well with lots of different things ... meat, fish, cheese. It`s especially yummy with Indian foods like Butter Chicken. I had some last night with cream cheese and crackers (and a glass or two of wine ... no wonder I couldn`t stay awake till midnight). Today I enjoyed some of this chutney at dinner with a nice piece of salmon.
This chutney also keeps well in the fridge, although I usually eat it all up pretty quick.
So ... Happy 2010 to everyone! May your New Year be healthy and safe, and may you enjoy a few adventures along the way. And perhaps some Persimmon Chutney!