Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NaBlahBlahBlah Is Almost Over!

God, will I be glad when the month of "posting any old crap just for the sake of posting", otherwise known as NaBloPoMo, is over in Blogland in general, so we can return to reading (gasp!) thoughtful posts where people actually have something to say.

My apologies, and admiration, to people who managed to post something worthwhile every day.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Spring Cleaning for the Mind

I've been taking classes at night, and through correspondence, in order to groom myself for university. I took Physics last spring, and surprised myself by enjoying it, and doing well. I recall hating it in Grade 11, and of course, I thought the intervening 20 years might not serve in my favour. I think they did, though... there's nothing like time and experience to teach one the value of education.

After I finished physics, it was the summer. DH was deployed and I needed to keep busy and keep in the habit of study. I knew the university I chose would look at my top four Grade 12 (or 4U, as they're called out here) courses so I decided to take another course to bring up my average. I chose Philosophy as a nice, easy basket-weaving course to bring my grades up. I signed up for a correspondence course so I could pick my best times to study, and that way still take the night-school class in Calculus in September that is my sole requirement for the program I want.

I'm now half-way through the course... almost exactly. I submitted and received marks for the essays I wrote for the second unit of four on Sunday. And while this course is certainly going to bring my average up as hoped (ridiculously, I received 100% on all my assignments to date, almost 40 pages of essays), it has been anything but mindless or easy.

The first unit was on the nature of God and associated questions. Now, I abandoned Christianity years back... a few years back I converted to another religion because it made more sense to me than what I had been brought up with. I'm no stranger to questioning religion and God, but this course pushed me further then I had gone before and radically changed my thoughts yet again. I still consider myself nominally within my chosen faith group, more for the continuation of community and fellowship than anything, but many of my views don't parallel that faith anymore. Or any faith. I think I'm colouring outside the lines at this point in time...

My next unit was on the nature of truth and reality. Damned if it didn't do the same things to me. I got so involved in the questions, stewing them over for weeks, that they changed the way I thought on many topics.

This course has been, and is continuing to be, spring cleaning for my mind. There's not a stone that won't be looked under and the findings analyzed. Whatever remains, remains because I've put hard thought into it and decided it is worthwhile and valuable and true. Whatever goes, was tested and found wanting.

I didn't expect this. I thought it would be an essay here, a little reading there... I didn't think a simple course would change me so deeply. What a wonderful, difficult ride it has been and will be.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

White-Knuckle Knitting

I have been possessed this week by the Spirit of Mittens. I have never finished a project this complex this quickly, but it was like a really good book- I just couldn't put it down until I knew how it would all turn out.

Okay, I've only finished one mitten, but it's enough to give me a fairly clear idea how this story goes. I'll sum up the plot for you.

Here's the story of the back.

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Pretty cabled goodness in shades of brown and purple. The cuff rolls a bit, but this is pre-blocking, so I'm not worried. I'm not worried for other reasons, but we'll get to that.

Here's the palm...

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I love how the pattern continues on the thumb. I was quite tense during the white-knuckle knitting I endured while transferring the stitches from the waste yarn on to a needle, discovering I had two stitches to every one needed on the top needle, figuring out how to carefully K2Tog across them all... (is this normal? Should I have had to do this?) ... ending up with a thumb that was not quite perfect but not bad for a first attempt.

The huge holes on the side where the thumb was added concerned me for a bit, until I read the instruction to sew them up and realized that this was a normal occurrence. (Although I'd love to pick up two extra stitches in those holes at the beginning of the thumb and add another pair of purple edge stitches. Do you think this is permissible with the Mitten Gods?)

I ad-libbed a bit for the reverse of the thumb, but am happy with it overall.

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There's a problem, though. Gauge, that lying rat-bastard, lied to me again. THEY DON'T FIT.
I swatched three times. I measured carefully. And they are still way, way too small. The thumb crotch is not in the right place, and I can't even dream about knitting in the divinely soft angora lining.

That being said, I'm not really that upset. They were so darned fun to knit, I'm game for casting on immediately for another, much larger, pair. This one? Let's call it a lesson.

However, I think I'll finish off the alpaca scarf first. As you can see by the pretty white background behind the mitten, winter arrived much earlier than anticipated and suddenly I need me a scarf.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bring It On

I have been knitting a fair bit recently. Here's the product of my labours since the last time I shared my stuff with you.

mum's sock

West-Jet Socks II, for Mum. The Harlot's Basic Sock recipe, OnLine SuperSocke 100 yarn.

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Legwarmers, inspired by HelloYarn's recipe. I wear skirts pretty much all the time, and these seemed a wonderfully simple way to keep my legs warm without high boots. Knit from the wonderful hand-painted yarn made at and purchased from Bullock Lake Farms on Salt Spring Island.

Finally. The icing on the cake, and looking good enough to actually be icing. The mittens.

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The palm.

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The top side. What you're looking at is the extended cuff (in between contract colour purled rows). I still have another 10 rows or so before I hit the thumb. Did I mention I am loving these? They're super addictive, warm as heck (already! There's still an angora lining to be added!) and without question, the loveliest thing I have ever knitted.

I never understood the Harlot's fascination with Norwegian/Latvian/Estonian mittens before. I get it now. They're tiny blank canvases to throw the most extravagant patterning you can on to them. Bring it on.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

They Were That Good

At this point in time, I think I have cheated on "10 Projects" enough times to be turfed out on my ear. I'm pretty glad there's no Project Police (there isn't, is there?) 'cause I had that little incident on Salt Spring Island, and then I had a slight indiscretion a couple of days ago in Wool-Tyme. See, I saw a really cool pair of mittens at the Inspirations Needlecraft show, and I coveted them. But I don't wear mittens, so Logical Sue said "Don't buy them" and Impulsive Sue listened. For once.

However, after a couple of weeks of trying to forget them, Logical Sue spoke up. "These mittens," she reasoned, "are Fair-Isle. If ever you hope to do that Kauni cardigan and not have it look like ass, you're going to have to learn Fair-Isle. Better to start with a nice small project. Say, mittens."

I was tempted, but defiant. Then, Logical Sue reminded me that I had a full customer card from Wool-Tyme, good for 15% off my next purchase. Like, perhaps, a mitten kit.

The next thing I knew, I was back at home, surreptitiously shredding a receipt with one hand and looking down, somewhat puzzled, at the package of soft wool, alpaca and angora in other hand. What just happened??? Somewhere in the back of my mind, Logical Sue and Impulsive Sue were howling with glee, having taken the reins and ran with it... err, me.

I finished the other quickie project on the needles (leg warmers, pics soon), swatched and cast on immediately for those mittens. The colours, the stranding, the pattern... it is delighting me like no other project has done before. This is how bad, or how good, it is: I sat beside DH, knitting on the couch tonight for three solid hours while he watched the hockey game.

Hockey always makes me flee the room. I throw up a little in the back of my throat every time I hear some grossly overpaid dimwit with no teeth tell the announcer that "Well, you see, we have to put the puck in the net more, that's what we need to do to win." I was so enthralled with the joy of the mittens that my ears didn't even start to bleed and I was barely blinded by Don Cherry's suit. Yes... They were THAT good.

I'll post pics of them tomorrow, as well. I am utterly charmed by their cleverness and colours, and I feel the need to show them off, just a little, even in their partial state.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Of Fall and the Fallen

My answer to the question "what's your favourite season?" varies... well, seasonally. I am a fickle woman... I love best whoever I'm with at the time. Today, it's most certainly fall. The tangy crunch of the air and the leaves is invigorating, and I finally get to dress like myself again. Those long wool skirts, fluffy sweaters and bright cardigans (sadly, none of it handmade yet) look and feel oddly out of place in July. I feel at home in these clothes; could it be my soup├žon of Finnish blood? Perhaps that explains my abnormal love of saunas, too.

Today was a bit of a career highlight for me: I received my Canadian Forces Decoration, or CD. It's for 12 years of unblemished service in the Forces, or, as we always say, 12 years of undetected crime. Although it's been due for some time now, the actual receiving of a medal is a pretty special event (in my life, anyhow.) This is my fourth; when mounted they will cross the entire span of the left side of my jacket. Just as well it will be my last!

Sunday is Remembrance Day. This year promises to be especially poignant as it will, in all likelihood, be my last one in uniform. I will miss very much the show of solidarity in the coming years, but I have a consolation: I have stood shoulder to shoulder with veterans from past and current conflicts, and the knowledge that I have done my small share in the name of global peacekeeping will balm my sadness.

Take a moment to remember Canada's fallen... your fallen, on the 11th hour on Sunday. It truly is the least we can do.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Weaving and Spinning

You were all very kind not to point out that my happy yarn from Salt Spring is, in fact, a huge violation of the spirit of "10 Projects". It is, I know, but I can live with it if you can. And even if you can't. I will not forfeit my yarn to you, Kate, even if you swear that the purchase is way out of line... :)

Lisa and I participated in another bit of fiber-y goodness today: the Ottawa Valley Weaver's and Spinner's Guild yearly exhibition and show, in the Glebe. We went last year as well, despite the fact that neither of us weave or spin. Heck, we want to do both... and eventually, we will. Too many fiber arts, so little time.

The show is a petite candy land for fiber lovers... there are lace tatters, spinning wheels, drop spindle demonstrations, bats of alpaca, wool and other goodness, handspun and dyed yarn, and needle felting. It's like the flip side of the Inspirations Needlecraft show, and equally as fulfilling in its own way. We lovingly stroked soft, soft things for an hour before moving along.

Although I very much want to learn how to use a drop spindle, I am giving myself a full year before I go there. Next year, I'll strap some training wheels on and learn yet another fiber art. That will let knitting and I have plenty of time to solidify our relationship... after all, we've only been going steady for a year at the end of November. Can you believe it! One baby blanket, three scarves, and five pairs of socks ago, I was "just" a crocheter.

I'm thankful for a little normality in life these last couple of days, and also for the chance to talk to you. You know, I missed it. There was so much going on that I couldn't bring to this public forum; I am still negotiating the fine line of how much of my private life I want up on this page. That being said, I appreciate all your support over the last few weeks. Thank you.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Got My Goat

I mentioned in last night's post that we toured around Salt Spring Island. I must admit, once I chose the destination, I was also a woman with a not-so-hidden agenda... a brief Google search with "Salt Spring Island" and "yarn", I found out that there was a co-operative spinning mill on the island, not too far from Ganges, our main destination.

In all fairness, I did suggest to mum and DH that they ought to do a little research and find places
they wanted to go on the island. I can't help it if they chose to disregard my advice and the whole trip became more or less a glorified excursion in search of yarn.

So, we popped by the mill. Easier said than done, as the place isn't all that well marked, and the building itself is somewhat unprepossessing.

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There's a tiny sign on the door that announces it as the mill, impossible to see from the road and quite easily confused with the recycling depot next-door. We drove by it twice before we found it.

Once inside, we found a humble little spinning mill, and two busy workers. One was washing rovings, and volunteered his daughter to give us the nickel tour of the mill (Tours by donation, call ahead to make sure someone is there.)

After the tour, I'll admit to being antsy to actually lay hands on the finished product. All the finished goodies at the mill were spoken for, but they directed us to Bullock Lake Farm where there was finished yarn for sale.

There was no help for it but to bail back in the car and drive the 10 minutes back through Ganges to the farm. John, the farm's owner, was just leaving on a brief errand as we drove in, but assured us he'd be back soon. We kept ourselves entertained on this beautiful fall day by making eyes at his llama, which made eyes right back at us.

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We waited longer than expected, but when John came back and opened the store for us, it was well worth the wait. I fondled his yarn a bit, and then he asked if we had seen a mohair goat. When we replied in the negative (me looking a bit stunned... I had no idea mohair came from goats), he told us to follow him, as it was feeding time.

Thus did we meet the goats that are responsible for his mohair.

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We were utterly charmed with their gentle, playful nature, and with our host's obvious compassion and love for his animals.

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He keeps these bad boys around for the companionship more then the fiber... he says the amount of fiber he gets from the two llamas is negligible, but they are useful in charming the visitors to the farm and his cottage. And charming they are...

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Speaking of charming. Long llama eyelashes melt my heart, but this melted my pocketbook, as well...

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Wouldn't that melt your heart, too? 50-50 wool/mohair, all from the happy animals at Bullock Lake Farm, spun by the Gulf Islands Spinning Co-op and dyed by John. This stuff has an incredible sheen from the mohair, reminiscent of silk or rayon, an amazing drape, a clean, farm-goodness smell, and the pictures certainly cannot do justice to John's amazing colour work. I was in love. 1100 grams later, I staggered out of the tiny, exquisite yarn store with a paper bag full of love. I stroked it for the rest of the night, and still sneak into the sewing room to visit every now and then. (I love how you buy it in grams... like drugs. Hmmmm.)

I got enough for a sweater or vest in multiple colours, a pair of socks in the solid shades and another in the variegated. I don't know, and don't particularly care, what the weight is (DK? Sport? I don't have one of those wraps-per-inch jobbies.) The fact that I got to know the goats a little and met the man who pretty much was entirely responsible for the yarn was pretty special, and I will wear whatever this yarn turns into with happy memories.

Mum said the whole farm thing was the best part of our day on Salt Spring. I'd have to agree.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Treasures from the Rainforest

DH and I waddled in the door Thursday night, exhausted from travel and emotion. We decided to take it easy on ourselves for dinner, and DH went to the local pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) restaurant for take-out. He picked up the mail on the way home, and in it was a much-needed pick-me-up from my new friend Chelle, out there on the West Coast, courtesy of Knitter's Tea Swap 4.

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What a treasure trove! The tea is amazing... chocolate cinnamon green tea, a wonderful-smelling grapefruit herbal, and a sweet little tin of vanilla green. I haven't tried any of these because you'd have to pry the cup of absolutely heavenly Pear Green (from Steeps Tea) out of my fingers. Thanks, Chelle, for getting me and my husband hooked on this from the first cup, and ne'er a local supplier in sight! :) Divine tea, as promised.

For treats, there was Lindt chocolates and gourmet jelly beans. Perfect!

Yarn-wise... well. Chelle mailed me a Dubrovnik sunset, expertly executed in superwash, hand-painted merino wool. Ironically, the yarn is from Indigo Moon Yarn, on Gabriola Island... about a 20 minute ferry-ride from Nanaimo. The colour is "Kaleidoscope", but I saw it and immediately thought of a certain perfect sunset DH and I fell in love to in Croatia. What an amazingly intuitive choice, Chelle, and what beautiful socks these will make.

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Rounding out this amazing package was a clever Chinese cup with a loose-tea strainer and lid, a cute book to record patterns in, and a package of page protectors, which are invaluable to keep those patterns printed from the Internet neat and tidy.

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I love it all, Chelle, and I am touched by the thoughtfulness and time you took to build this package just for me. Thank you so much.

A Little of Both

It's been another busy week. DH and I flew out, checked into the B&B, and called mum to see how she felt about us choosing not to respect her wishes (with regards to visiting), now that she'd had a couple of days to get used to the idea. She invited us over for dinner. Things were looking up.

I completely understand her instinct to curl up into a ball and let the world go to hell. I'd feel like that, too, if my DH had just died. However, we just felt that maybe the best thing for her wasn't to sit and mourn her loss. We thought if we could interest her in the outside world, give her new sights and adventures and tastes, that she would forget for a minute about her misery and begin to see that there was still much good left in the world... even with her husband, the center of her universe, gone.

So off we went. We cooked Thai and Indian food, went out for dinner, shopped, and adventured all around Salt Spring Island. DH told stories from his deployment. We watched movies, ate cheesecake daily, and laughed. She told funny stories about Dad, and seemed to rise above the grief that we could see deep down.

She's strong. She'd have to be, to make it intact through the past few years. I know it will be hard, these next few days, with life returning to normal for everyone but her. Eventually she'll take that first step, and I bet there will be no stopping her then.

Before I left, I posted that at the least, DH and I will have a nice little holiday, and at best, there would be healing. We found a little of both in Nanaimo, and I think Mum did, too.

I miss her.