Sunday, 27 December 2015

Post Christmas Cough

I am not fully over the cold.  I am left with a post Christmas cough and hoarse voice.  It was touch and go whether we headed to my mother's place for Christmas Eve.  On the 23rd I was doing the analysis.  Well enough to go or sick enough to stay home.  The final decision was made the morning of the 24th.  I was still not completely well but if I was still a student, my mother would have sent me off to school.  

Mother's checklist:

  • no fever - check
  • no vomiting - check
  • able to stand upright - check
  • able to breathe through nose - check
  • able to speak - half a check

I have been discussing white Christmases with my co-workers and friends.  We all loved them as children.  We are nostalgic about them but as we age or have to travel we prefer the green ones.  White Christmases are only for those who get to stay home for the holidays.  We had to travel and were grateful for the lack of snow this year.

We arrived mid afternoon.  It is a long drive and we left later than I liked but given my state of health, no packing or other preparation was done in advance.  We managed not to forget anything important.

I tried to stay out of the way once there so not to infect anyone.  I had my brother try on his sweater.  It fits so no ripping back.  Cody (my niece's boyfriend) arrived and I held up the back of the vest to him and decided it would fit.

The light was poor and I am tired of my poor photos.  I did not feel up to playing with the camera settings so no photos of knitwear.  Today is still too dark for decent photos so we will have to wait for photos of the knitwear.

Last year my sister decided we should have a new tradition which was continued this year.  11 adults and one child went for Christmas Day brunch at the Pillar and Post

My first cousin twice removed is 10 and 1/2 months old.  I took one look at her and realized my dilemma was over.  All the girl categories and some other children's categories are now taken care of.  Her mother and I had a discussion of what sweater would suit.  Machine washable but not necessarily machine dryable; outdoor sweater, any colour but white.  By the time next fall rolls around she will be a toddler and growing fast enough to fit the 2-4 year old size.  I will size generously to ensure the sweater has a chance of being worn.

The food was excellent and solved so many of my food issues I hope we go again next year.  I can't eat gluten or dairy; I limit meat intake and try to minimize sugar intake.  Planning a meal that includes feeding me can be difficult when you are not used to dealing with food issues.  The buffet works for everyone.  My sister rounds up as many family members as possible and makes the advance reservations. 

The dessert buffet included a vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free dessert.  I was so thrilled to be able to have any dessert for a change, I ate two!  It was one too many mind you and I paid for it later.

Christmas Day consisted of getting up in the morning, going out to eat, taking an afternoon nap, eating again (Christmas Eve leftovers) then going to bed early.  There was a bit of visiting included somewhere in there.  My memory of it is a little hazy as a few glasses of wine were consumed.  (No driving was involved after imbibing.)

I managed not fight with anyone.  I did not make anyone cry.  I hope I did not infect anyone.  It was a successful holiday.

Just in case you came here for photos, I have included a few of my mother's back yard.  Enjoy.  

Just for fun - some photos of my mother's dog.  I love my mother's optimism.  She went out and acquired a puppy for her 80th birthday.

Hope your Holidays went well and were better than expected.  Knitting photos next week I promise.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

It must be Christmas!

Hi everyone - This is "Hubby" (not my real name) writing tonight. The photo is Tony's sweater. It is not blocked, but it's basted together ready for Tony to try on at Christmas. Not sure I understand all that, but I trust readers will. 

Mary Jane is not up to blogging tonight. She's a bit under the weather - lying on the sofa - coughing, sneezing, blowing.... and knitting, of course. So good hubby that I am, I'm blogging for the first time. 

So - tonight's post will be brief - In fact, it's over. 
Nite all. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Not so Brilliant

All week long I write the next post in my head.  My insights are brilliant.  I am funny and endearing.  The photos are spectacular and exactly capture what I am trying to say.  The lighting is perfect and the colours true.

Then on Sunday I sit down at the dining room table and stare at my laptop.  I can't remember a single thing.  The topics explored in my head on Monday are gone.  The the fabulous sentences and phrases are a ghost of a dream.   You remember you had them but they have completely faded away.  I am blank.  Instead, I write the first thought that comes to mind. Usually something from the last 24 hours if I am lucky.  The photos are whatever I can structure on Sunday morning.  The lighting sucks and the colours are some exotic shade banned from the colour wheel.

So sit back and enjoy some  poor photography while I explore what I can extract from the faint tendrils of my formerly brilliant insights.

Back in the spring I had a plan for the summer.  I was going to visit a different town or village in the County every Friday.  I was going to be a Tourist in my own backyard.  The plan was to have lunch at a restaurant never tried before.  I was going to leisurely explore the shops and uniqueness that makes up each community.  Like so many plans that are just good intentions, it did not happen.

On Friday I had the opportunity to head on over to Amherstburg.  I had a 3 o'clock appointment. I decided to go early and explore Amherstburg.  It might be December but it was not too late to start the summer plan.  The day was warm after all.

I had lunch here.

I greatly enjoyed the gumbo soup and spinach salad.  The building was a bar back in 1836.  The historical sign on the building said it was called Bullocks Tavern.  I don't know if it has been a bar for all of its 179 years.  I like to think beer has been continuously dispensed from this location with generation after generation hanging out at the same "local".  The patrons telling some johnny come lately that, "My great great great grandfather drank here.  It is a family tradition."

The windows overlook the Detroit River and I was able to watch the ships pass by.  Amherstburg has a lovely water front park.  I love the seasonal decorations on the fountain.

The hydrants along the waterfront reflect the military heritage of the Town origins.
I explored some shops, the waterfront and made note of some other shops and restaurants I want to check out on my next tourist day in Amherstburg.

I worked on my brother's sweater over lunch and later.  I cast off the two fronts on Saturday.

Again a lousy photo.  I just did not want to take the time to uncurl and pin out the fronts so you could see the full pieces.  Trust me, once you've seen one front, 

you have seen all plain raglan sleeve fronts.  I felt my time was better spent assembling the next afghan strip.

Five more squares to go.  I am starting to worry about how to finish this baby.  It is at least 5 feet long.  That is going to be a lot of stitches to pick up not to mention the estimated 4 feet width.  If I knit a few rows all around the edge I may need some more circular needles.  I am starting to contemplate doing an i-cord edge.  Only pick up stitches then the i-cord finishes off the edge nicely. The one row is all bind off.

My office Christmas Party was last night.  That is part of the reason for the late posting today.  Of course, it would not be a party with out knitting so I cast on the sleeve and headed out the door.

Dinner was lovely.  Hubby and I enjoyed the comedian entertainer.  I even tipped him afterwards for not hassling me for knitting during his performance.

Years ago Hubby and I visited Halifax while the Halifax Busker Festival was on.  For us, the Festival was a happy coincidence.  We wandered about the City enjoying the bits of the performances we saw while exploring the sights.  

Hubby wanted to go to the casino.  I find gambling boring.  I work hard for everything I have and to sit putting money in a machine with nothing to show for it afterwards (I am not a lucky person) is not my idea of entertainment.  I would rather knit. Knitting is  endlessly entertaining and at the end you have socks, a sweater or some other useful article.  I found some seating outside the Casino where I could knit and be out of any possible rain while I waited.

Turns out I was sitting in one of the busker venues.  I was the only one there.  The performer refused to perform at the specified time as there was only me - knitting away.  That was okay, I was simply putting in time and knitting.  I did not expect or need any other entertainment.  Eventually a few other people sat down and the performer began his routine.  That is when the hassling began.  He insulted me for crocheting.  I said it was knitting.  He acted insulted that I was not paying full attention to him.  He  said he was not a TV.  I calmly said as I looked him straight in the eye I knit without looking at my needles. 

Now if the comments had been part of a very funny comedy routine I would have been quite happy to go along with the jokes.  I would be the one laughing loudest.   After all, my knitting has been part of my own comedy schtick for years.   The worst part of the whole sorry episode in Halifax?  The guy was not funny.  

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Random Thoughts on a Sunday

1.  I think I am totally losing it.  My only thought today was that it was supposed to be sunny and I could finally get a photo shoot with my Doodler.  So while I waited and waited for the sun to come out I knit.  I completely forgot I started the laundry and needed to go for groceries.  I knit and kept checking the weather app.  Yesterday it said today would be sunny all day.  At six this morning it said it would be sunny at 8 AM.  At 8 it was 9 AM.  At 9 it said 10 AM.  Finally at 11 this morning it said 2:00 PM.

2.  The result of all that knitting - look almost another square!

3.  If I am not careful I am going to forget to cook dinner.

4. At 2:00 PM the sun was out and I met Hubby at Sadler's Pond for photo of the Doodler.  It was blocked and just waiting until someone else could operate the camera.  Hubby is not much of a photographer so I set the camera on automatic and let him loose.

5. Hubby doesn't understand the concept of straight horizons but it was a nice picture of the shawl.

6. Close ups

7.  To take the photos, I took off my coat, put on the shawl and closed it with a shawl pin.  My Hubby looked at it and said, "So, that is what that is for!".  It is whale bone and I bought it as a souvenir of my trip to Iceland a few years ago.

8.  A few photos of Sadler's Pond.  I like reflections.

9.  I attended a craft show yesterday and bought another knitting bag.  All knitters need more than 3 dozen right?

10.  Progress on the sweater for my brother.  I am doing both fronts at the same time.  I know it takes a little more time but mentally it seems faster.

11.  My ass is not as bad looking as I thought it was.

12.  It is amazing how much knitting, dinner prep and dishwasher unloading you can accomplish while waiting for photos to download.

13.  Timbit hockey players are unbelievably adorable.  Watching them play is a lot like watching Weebles on skates except they fall down - alot - but get right back up.  I asked Hubby if the jerseys are deliberately made too big to increase the adorableness.  Apparently they don't come any smaller.  Timbits players were the entertainment between the first and second periods of the 73's game on Tuesday.  It was a lot more fun to watch than the new vehicle driving on the ice featured at previous games.  That would only have been fun if the vehicle slid into the boards.    The blue team had a goalie and 6 players.  All on the ice at once.  The red team had 5 players.  One red kid realized there was no goalie so he stood in the crease so now it was 6 on 4.

I had qualms about children used as entertainment for adults.  After talking with some parents and friends of parents with Timbit players, the kids don't view themselves that way.  They are just thrilled to bits to be on the same ice as the 73's.

They tried so hard to play hockey.  They fell down if they skated hard.  They fell down if they changed direction.  They fell down if they touched the puck.  They ran into each other and fell down.  It was a joy to watch their enthusiasm for the game.

13. Essex played Lakeshore on Tuesday.  It was a great game.  The end result was in doubt until Essex won.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Squirrel Love

If you absolutely hate squirrels and  are not interested in another viewpoint stop now and either come back next week or scroll down further for the knitting update.

I like squirrels.  For most urban dwellers this is a controversial opinion.  I find them entertaining.  I think their bushy tails are adorable.  I know others feel differently.

I have seen uncounted number of articles, heard radio interviews and other communications on how how to protect your bulbs from squirrels.  Everyone else it seems are trying to protect their tulip bulbs from squirrels.  I don't care for tulips.  One good wind and the display is done.  Instead, I plant daffodils.  Squirrels leave them alone.  Daffodils are toxic to squirrels and they know it.  Daffodils also happen to be my favourite flower.  So sorry if yours are tulips.

I laugh at the various displays of squirrel proof bird feeders.  From the myriad of articles etc I have come to the conclusion that none of them are successful and are a waste of money.  I don't mind the squirrels at my bird feeder.  After all they got to eat too.  But I make them earn their keep.  My dog Reba thinks the squirrels should stay out of the yard.  She is entitled to her opinion and I am entitled to mine.  I let the squirrels take a snack before I open the door and let Reba out.  She takes off after the squirrel.   She is entitled to her fun too. There is no chance my 12 year old overweight terrier is going to catch one - ever.  But she is happy; she protected the back yard.  I am happy; Reba got a little extra exercise.  The squirrel should be happy; he/she gets fed.

She came close once though.  The squirrel was used to having a head start.  Sometimes it takes Reba too long to spot the squirrel.  Well this one dawdled and Reba didn't.  She flew off the back deck and added a burst of speed.  Pretty impressive for an old girl.   The squirrel made a second mistake.  He did not head for the tree; he headed for the fence.  Reba had extra time to gain speed and she did.  If the squirrel had been fatter he never would have made it through the chain link.  Reba stretched out her neck and bit down on the tail before it cleared the wire.  Good thing for the squirrel she has no front teeth.  The tail just slid through.

I can see the bird feeder from where I sit to write this.  The gang of 3 grey squirrels are back.  They chase each other around the feeder.  They only act in concert to chase away the black squirrel.  I let him eat a little longer before letting Reba out.  He does not get as many chances at the feeder as the greys.

I also put food out specifically for the squirrels.  I dye wool with black walnuts.  I do not bother hulling them first I just put the whole walnut in the pot to extract the dye from the hull.  After I am done I put the walnuts out for the squirrels.  Mine now have a real liking for boiled walnuts.  If the squirrel buries the nut there is no chance I will have a tree growing where I don't want one.

There was one time I collected a bag of walnuts for dyeing but a string of circumstances prevented me from using them right away.  I left them in a bag in the garage.  One day I found the bag in the yard empty.  The garage door had been left open; the squirrels made their way inside and helped themselves.  Oh well, at least someone put the walnuts to good use.

I anyone complains to me about squirrels.  I tell them to get a terrier.

Knitting Content (so the squirrel haters know to stop scrolling)

I have finished the Doodler shawl.  It still needs its finishing bath and blocking.  I will do that later.  I prefer to photograph the items dry.  The i-cord bind-off took me most of yesterday to complete. There were more that 500 stitches to cast off.  The pattern has 3 choices for binding off this shawl.  I wanted to do the third option  but I ran out of colour C (the dark purple) before finishing the fourth wedge of Clue 3 thus eliminating option 3 for casting off.  I did not think that the second option would enhance the shawl with my colour choices  and would likely highlight the fact I ran out of colour C so I chose option 1.  I like it.

[The sun was shining when I went out to take this picture.  As soon as I had the set up complete, the sun went behind a cloud and stayed there.]

 One more entry completed. Now to concentrate on the sweater for my brother.  I want to have it at a stage where he can try it on at Christmas.  Then I can make any adjustments before doing the finishing (collar and front bands).

If at all possible I want to get at least the front or back of the man's vest done before Christmas as well.  I can get a better idea of how it will fit my niece's boyfriend when I see him.

I am probably delusional to think I can accomplish this much knitting before December 24.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Decorating for Christmas

In years past, around this time, I would be madly knitting away.  I would check the completed objects drawer and start assigning items to people and figuring out what I still needed to knit for Christmas gifts.

This year is a bit different.  I am not knitting Christmas gifts this year.  Actually, I am not planning on Christmas gifts at all.  I have distributed the items from the completed drawer to those who wanted specific items.  

Decorating for Christmas is minimalist.  It is done.  See.

My Christmas Cactus is blooming and I bought a Poinsettia.  That's it.  No tree, no ornaments, nada.  Mother Nature did her part too.

I have not decorated for  Christmas for about 25 years.  I used to.  It was stressful. When my Hubby and I got together we discussed whether or not to decorate for the holidays.  He did not care one way or the other and I did not want to.  Making this decision to not decorate inside or out was very liberating.  There was a lot of social pressure to conform to the social norm of decorating a tree and installing outside lights.  Just read the book "Skipping Christmas" by John Grisham.  I laugh each time I read it and really understand what Luther Krank is trying to achieve.  I have had similar pressures put on me.

Once I actually had a woman almost screaming at me.  I should decorate.  I should do all those other things that everyone else does. How could I opt out of Christmas?  ( I don't, I just do it in my own way.)  I do not bake for the holidays either.  I did not cave.  Several years ago I ran into that woman again.  She apologized.  One year something happened and she stopped decorating and baking.  She too found it very freeing and told me she now "gets" it.

My Hubby and I celebrate Christmas.  We watch our favourite Christmas movies.  I send Christmas cards.  We get together with friends and family.  We actually enjoy ourselves and have our own annual traditions.  They just aren't what everyone else is doing.

The one thing that has not changed this year is I am still knitting madly.  I finished the On Hold Socks.

Some details for you.

I make my own sock blockers.

I cut these out of a hard foam sheet I picked up at Michaels.  A really good material for making these is the stuff political signs are made from.  For several elections, I called one of the political candidates and asked for a sign.  I figured I would be able to keep it after the election was over.  Each time I was not fast enough the morning after and the sign would be gone, picked up or maybe taken by someone else needing sock blockers.

This past election, my sister volunteered to put up signs for her local candidate.  Her garage was full of them.  She promised to save me some after the election.  Her candidate did not get elected and he is unlikely to run again in four years.  There should be lots for sock blockers.  I will collect them from her when we get together for Christmas.

 Doodler shawl Clue 3 came out this week.  The first instructions were to pick up 300 stitches.  I put it aside.  I just was not in the mood and worked on the socks and afghan.  I wound colour C and started Clue 3 this morning once the sun was shining.  It was easier to find those stitch legs in bright natural light.  Colour C is very dark.  It looks black but is actually a real deep dark purple.

I have not looked at any spoiler photos yet so what this clue is going to look like is still a mystery to me.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Too Many Mistakes

Most of this week's knitting time was spent on the Doodler Shawl.  It did not help that I made a mistake in the 14th wedge and had to rip it back.  Apparently I cannot count to 5.  Somehow 6 became 5.  Since 6 and 5 are not the same, the stitch count at the end of the wedge did not work.  I could have fudged it.  But then the yarn-overs would not line up properly.  I tried to fix it without ripping back all that work but could not.  All I could do was to rewind the yarn and watch the stitches disappear.

Now I do whatever I can to prevent mistakes.  Clue 1 was a series of short rows.  On each right side, you knit to 5 stitches before the last turn so each row is 5 stitches shorter than the row before.  To make it easier for myself, on the return wrong side row I leave a marker 5 stitches from the turn. That way I only have to knit back to the marker.  This of course assumes I can count to 5.  Apparently I have trouble with this simple task.

In one of the later wedges I forgot to move the marker 5 stitches and knit back to the previous turn instead.   I did not catch this mistake until the wedge was finished and I did not have the heart to rip it all out.  So one wedge is now two rows wider than it should be.  I fudged this mistake by skipping the yarn over that goes on top of the turn so that the hole formed is about the same size as the ones formed by one turn and a yarn over.  You would be hard pressed to find the mistake.  Near the beginning of the shawl I forgot to make the yarn over on top of the turn.  The hole lines up so I just stuck my finger in the hole created by the short row turn, stretching it out so it is approximately the same size as the other holes.  To make sure that the stitch count stayed right, I just skipped a knit 2 together.

Clue 2 came out on Friday.  I had come down with a bug so I spent the day alternating sleeping and knitting.   My suspicion is the bug was affecting my ability to knit the pattern correctly.   Clue 2 is done but not without mistakes.  I had the right stitch count at the end of Clue 1 but as I neared the last cable I counted the stitches and I was one short.  I must have miscounted and done an extra row somewhere so I fudged it again.

I like to hold my work away from me from time to time to admire it.  That is when I realized that 10 rows back I had purled a row instead of knitting it.  Why it took me 10 rows to see it I just can't figure out.   Must be the bug.   Maybe I should have slept more and knit less.  I ripped them out and re-knit.

I have no idea what is going to happen next and there are two more clues and another colour to add. Next clue comes out on Friday.  Can't wait.

There is another mistake I made with this shawl but it is one of those rare fortuitous mistakes.  The grape Hedgehog Fibres Sock yarn had less yardage than the other colours I was using.  I was afraid I would run out so I bought 2 skeins instead of one.  One skein was enough for me to finish with colour A in the pattern.  Many others ran short but I did not.  Maybe there is a mistake in there somewhere  after all and I  have just not found it yet.

I finished the 10th afghan square and the 11th is on the needles.  I sewed the next five together.  Held the column away from me to admire and that's when I saw it.  All the squares had the wrong orientation.  Unpicked all 4 seams and resewed.  I went to sew the second column to the first and realized I had sewn the seams differently.  I liked the second version better so I unpicked all the seams from the first column and resewed them.  Progress is slow when items are ripped and re-knit and unpicked and resewn.

Afghan is 50% complete if you don't count the narrow border to be added at the end.

I am hoping for better progress on the works in progress while I wait for Clue 3.

Last Sunday Hubby had to go to Pelee Island for a meeting.  He asked me if I wanted to go with him. I could take a hike and photographs while he was otherwise engaged.  There was also the hour and a half ferry ride each way for knitting.  The weather was perfect and I went.

The light was amazing and I am pleased with my photos.  I present them here for your enjoyment.

Kingsville Harbour:

My favourite walk on the island is through the woods to Fish Point.  The Point is as far south as you can get in Canada unless you have a private boat and can get to Middle Island.

The woods:

There was a storm from the East since the last time I hiked here and the trail along the east side of the point was gone, eroded away.  So Reba and I traipsed along the east shore until the fallen trees made further progress impossible.

We eventually re-found the trail which takes you to the west side of the point along the shore.

Fish Point:

Reba and the Doodler posing:

We headed back along the west side of the point.  Walking the beach is not easy.  Reba does not like to get too close to the water.  She does not like the waves.  However, with the trail through the bush gone, the west shore was the easier option.

The calm water did not last long.  By Thursday the ferries were cancelled due to high winds on the lake.  When the wind is right, the water levels in the west basin are pushed to the east end of the lake.  Port Dover flooded but the beaches on Pelee Island grew bigger.  The high winds and low water made it too dangerous for the ferry to run.  Hubby went over on Wednesday morning before the storm but was trapped until Saturday noon when the ferry service continued.