Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Never-Ending Thingy Thing

I've learned a lot this year.. I learned that things don't always turn our the way you planned, or the way you think they should. And I've learned that there are things that go wrong that don't always get fixed or get put back together the way they were before. I've learned that some broken things stay broken, and I've learned that you can get through bad times and keep looking for better ones, as long as you have people who love you. --Jennifer Weiner
It's been a long week... not a difficult one, but a tiring one. Daylight Savings really kicked my butt this year and on top of that, it was our first week with our Mr. Seymour. We're tired, but we made it:

He's a sweet little creature, complete with his own darling habits and a few naughty ones. He does well in the car, usually just curling up and going to sleep during the ride. He sleeps well at night, even if he does insist on his bed being at my feet on top of our bed. It's a good thing we upgraded to a king-sized mattress: we'd never get any sleep around here.

The Humane Society had scheduled a dental cleaning for him last Friday. They do that with all little dogs, as they tend to be a bit spoiled with soft food and not enough exercise to keep their mouths in order. It was nice to get it out of the way, but he was sad and groggy and sore for most of the evening:

He bounced back pretty quickly the next day, and he felt well enough to go out on an adventure with me:

And today, he got his first bath. He was terribly unimpressed by that, and equally unimpressed with the indignity of having his ears turned back to dry out:

But it's because of him that's there's any knitting at all on the blog right now. We washed his bed and while it was drying I let him lie on a blanket I knitted ago that has never seen much use:

And yes, through it all, I pick away at this thing: The Never-Ending Thingy Thing. I have no idea what it's going to be. I just know that I haven't even reached half the skein and I'm terribly uninspired by it:

Still, the fabric is nice, I guess:

And yet, I keep working away on it, an hour here and an hour there. I keep saying to myself, "I'll give it another week, and then I'm going to start something else," but I have yet to make good on that threat. Seriously, though, it's March and I have yet to finish anything. Perhaps it's time to break the monogamous knitting vow... or maybe I could kinda cheat and felt something instead. It's nearly spring here, so I think something NOT grey would be in order...

Because we've certainly got a lot of grey around here... dark grey, almost black, with a sweet little face. That'll do just nicely. Have a great week.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Suddenly Seymour

We're hardwired for connection. There's no arguing with the bioscience. -- Brene Brown
And just like that, we got a dog.

Meet Mr. Seymour. We brought him home yesterday, and already I can't imagine our lives without him.

After we lost Rascal, I really couldn't imagine ever wanting another dog. It was a kind of heartbreak I had never imagined, and even now I can't think of him without a quiver in my chest and throat. He was so very special.

It was only a month or so ago when I thought it might be possible for me to have another dog in my life. And as soon as I thought I wanted one, I was afraid to look for one. I wasn't sure I could handle the vulnerability of loving something so much again.

And yet, we started looking. In (poor) effort to armour myself against the disappointment of not finding one, I told myself it wasn't going to happen. We'd never find another one as nice as Rascal. I looked at pages and pages of animals with rescue organizations all over Vancouver Island and on the mainland, and some of them looked close, but not quite right.

And then, I saw Mr. Seymour. He was with the Humane Society in Victoria. And I knew. And then, I was sure we wouldn't get him. Optimism is not my strong point these days.

But then, I started filling in the application with the Humane Society. I told them everything as honestly as I could: that the hubby worked from home so he wouldn't be alone all day, that we'd lost Rascal to the tumour, that we'd spoken to our landlords and they agreed that we could have a dog.

I even told them how hard it was for me when Rascal died... and that I waited so long because I didn't want another dog to have to live up to him.

I submitted the application and declared, "Well, we won't get him. He's so popular, and we're too far away. They probably won't want to do the home visit with us." And then, I did my very best to put it out of my mind.

A week or so passed, and I spent it feeling lonely and looking at other organizations, hoping I'd see another dog. Then on Monday night, my phone rang.

My phone almost never rings. I assumed it was a wrong number and let it go to voicemail. I checked it right away and my chest leaped.

It was the Humane Society, wanting to talk to me about our application for Mr. Seymour.

I called back right away, and the lady on the line told me that ours was the best application, and that we could speak with the foster family and ask any questions we wanted, and if we wanted to meet him and if we liked him, he was ours. She told me she'd get the foster to call us the next day.

The next day, I watched my phone obsessively. By noon, I was convinced they'd found out something about us that ruled us out. By dinnertime, I'd given up. And then, my phone rang again and I took a deep breath and answered it.

The next thing I knew, we were making arrangements to come meet him.

The next day, I had a list of things to buy for his arrival.

He is a sweetie. He's eight-ish years old, and we're told he's a puggle - a pug/poodle cross, though so far everyone he's met thinks he's a shih tzu. He loves to walk, loves squeaky toys, and can fall asleep in five seconds flat if you give him a soft place to lie down. He comes running if he hears a package rustling. He goes crazy when he sees animals on tv: dogs, cats, monkeys, goats... and sometimes pizza. It was funny the first time, but we're trying to break him of the habit, cuz man there are alotta pizzas on tv:

He's similar-looking to Rascal, except he doesn't have any white bits and he's smaller and adorably more stout that he was. I had to change his collar because his own was a bit thin, so I put Rascal's on him. And I admit, when I looked over at him last night, a shiver went through me: it was like Rascal was home again. Even the hubby catches himself calling him that from time to time:

And I admit, that was hard.

But he isn't Rascal. He's Seymour, with his own quirks and lovable bits. He's a bit braver and he certainly has his own mind. I can’t tell you how it felt to see him running up to me and wagging his tail when I can home from the gym this morning. I don't know if he loves us yet, but he knows already he can snuggle into my arms on a long car ride. And I already know we're going to love him for the rest of his life.

I guess I could go knit for a while now. Maybe after we go for a walk. Happy Sunday.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Labyrinths, Cake and Zen Knitting

There will
be a day
when the weight of it all
will be lifted,
and you’ll find strength
in new-“okays,”
even amidst the memories
that took long
to fade away.
And new mercies
will ever-find you
and you
will be carried.
And for the better,
things will change.
–Morgan Harper Nichols
We just got back from a weekend away at our favourite cabin. We go so frequently that I got an "On this day" reminder on Facebook showing the photo I take every single time we go. I guess we're regulars now:

We decided to visit a new place this time around: Providence Farm. I'd read about this place years ago when we first moved here in a local magazine, and I've wanted to visit ever since then. I'm very glad we finally did:

Providence Farm is a therapeutic community which runs a program for people of all kinds of backgrounds who might benefit from the tranquility that working on the farm provides. It has a big old building on site that began its life as a school. The entire property is now run by the Vancouver Island Providence Community Association and operates today as an independent, working, therapeutic, secular organization serving adults and seniors with a variety of mental health challenges, developmental and intellectual disabilities and age-related illnesses.

You can also sign up for an allotment on the farm where you can grow your own organic vegetables:

And hang out with the free-range chickens:

Around the back of the property are some other critters:

And the General Store, which is also a coffee shop:

They also sell items made by participants of many of the programs, including the in-house textiles program which teaches wool spinning, knitting and weaving:

You can also walk the labyrinth. It's a type of meditation, where you slowly follow the path around until you reach the centre. The long, slow path is meant to help you slow down and quieten your mind. It even has a "shortcut" route if you find you need to get there a bit quicker. The result is the same: you have the journey in, the centering in the middle, and the journey back out. It was a good thing for me to try out:

Afterward, we went into Cowichan Bay, which is always a treat, no matter what the weather. This day was particularly pleasant:

We met this cat, who walked straight up to us to say hello. A fellow washing his windows told us his name was Mutumbo, and he lives in one of the houseboats in the bay. "He greets all of the people and checks on all the boats, and he goes up and sits in the harbour master's chair." It seemed like the right kind of life for him:

I have recently developed a fascination with doors, and seeing this one with a cat in it made it a photo opportunity I could not ignore:

And well, sometimes doors are a little sad... especially when you're a doggie waiting outside a bakery:

It was a good change of scenery for me, a good distraction from every day life. I even did some knitting on my epic cobweb lace project, but really, it's not worth looking at just yet. You'd swear I was just showing you the same photo from three weeks ago. If anything, it's nearly a meditation project - doing the same thing over and over again gives you the chance to empty your mind. I imagine it's similar to raking the gravel in a Japanese Zen garden: the same task over and over until you find some kind of enlightenment. And I feel like I need that right now.

It's probably not a secret that my last job was very hard on me, and leaving it was especially hard. I won't go into the details, but right now is a time of transition and recovery for me. I notice that I'm moving a bit slower, I need more sleep, and I'm more sensitive and emotional right now - even for me.

I've been changing things around for myself to try to help myself through this. I'm not exercising as hard as I was, and my routine is not so rigid. I get up a little later, and if I can't muster up the energy, I skip the gym or the pool instead of pushing through it. And I eat different things. I gave up my morning "power smoothie" because I was getting sick of them. Four and a half years of the same thing for breakfast will do that to you. And really, I just wanted something to chew on for a change.

So I've been eating this. It's a version of baked oatmeal with lentils and protein powder. And it's got canned peaches at the bottom of it, which I admit, didn't look great when I flipped it over, but I'm pretty confident it's going to taste great:

I'm very conscious that it is nearly three months since I completed a project, so part of me is desperate to produce something. So I made a cake. It helps that it's the hubby's birthday tomorrow. It seemed like the thing to do.

If you have not yet made a Lemon Madeira Cake, might I suggest that you make one in the near future? It's easy. Here's the recipe. You should do it. I'll sit here and eat a slice while you do it. I might even meditate while I wait.

Anyway, here I sit yet again on a Sunday night, wishing I had some darn knitting share for a change but trying to be ok with not having it. But I think, like all the rest of stuff in life right now, it'll all work out somehow. I mean, it's got to. I can't knit the same thing FOREVER, could I?

I better not ask such questions. Have a great week.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

It Bloomed

How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose, if there were no winter in our year!--Thomas Wentworth Higginson
The rest of Canada laughed at us while we struggled with Island snow last week. Wet, heavy snow that just won't move with the shovel, so wet that, even if you can drive in it, you dare not go out for fear of someone else crashing into you. It is not my favourite, it is no secret.

But, as is the way of winter no matter where you live, the weather warms and the sun comes out and the water begins to trickle its way to the sea. I had to stop and watch this little waterfall during a walk this morning. There is something comforting about seeing things doing the things they always do:

This week, I learned that there are some silver linings in the world. After last week's orchid disaster, the sprig of orchid buds that broke off the plant that I've been working on for the past three years actually began to bloom in the little glass I put them into:

I never thought I'd see it bloom, and it certainly wasn't the way I thought it would happen, but I finally have a blooming orchid in my house:

Perhaps that's another reminder of life's lessons: things tend not to work out the way you thought they would. And maybe that's ok.

We went out for lunch at Duncan Garage Cafe and Bakery yesterday. It's one of my favourite places to go for lunch because they serve the most amazing vegetarian/vegan and gluten free meals. I'm not vegetarian/vegan or gluten-sensitive, but I appreciate how creative and healthy these meals tend to be, so delicious and so indulgent, even though there's not an animal fat in sight. Even the hubby begrudgingly comes along because there are a few things even he enjoys.

Anyway, while we were there, I got up to go to the restrooms, and on the way back, I stopped to look at the community bulletin board. I'm very lonely these days. Moving to a new workplace means that I have a real lack of familiar faces. I was searching for something interesting to go to, a group I could join or an event I could attend. A lady was standing next to me, scanning the board at the same time.

Suddenly, she said, "I'm looking for a knitting circle."

And I said, "Oh. I don't know of any around here."

And she said, "Do you knit?

And I said, "Yes, I do. I knit. A lot."

And she said, "Maybe I should start my own knitting circle."

And I said, "Ok."

And then we looked at each other a little longer, and I said, "Maybe we should exchange numbers."

So we did. I don't know if that was just a passing thing or possibly the most awkward start of a friendship I've ever had, but time will tell.

In the meantime, I am still working on my epic cobweb lace project. It is moving at a glacial pace, so slowly that I didn't even bother taking a photo of it this week. My eyes are straying to other skeins of yarn, and I think I may succumb and start something else. This might be the strongest test to my knitting monogamy ever.

I'm off to go stare at my orchid a bit longer. Have a good week.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Thing About Patience

Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come. --Robert H. Schuller
February on Vancouver Island is a funny time of year. We are fortunate to have a mild climate here, but it tends to give you a bit of false confidence. Only last weekend, I was walking around the marina in the sunshine. It was too warm for my hat and I think I could have worn a lighter coat. I paid a visit to the gallery and happened to glance out one of their windows to marvel at the warm sunshine:

And today, well...

Even my indoor plants looked disappointed:

Speaking of: this is my orchid. I've been working on it for the past three years, trying to get it to bloom. It's been showing buds since Christmas, and this morning it looked like this:

Only a little while later I discovered that the flower spike had snapped. Three years of waiting, just gone in an instant. It's been a long time since I've felt that specific kind of disappointment.

I find myself sort of floating along these days, which is why I haven't posted anything on this blog for the past couple of weeks. I felt the need to be silent, to wait until I had words to say. It's been a strange time for me since I've moved to my new job. I'm settling in, finding some sort of a rhythm, getting to know things, cleaning up messes that were left before me, creating my own ways of doing things... and yet, I feel a bit groundless. My previous job took up so much of my life and so much of my energy that not being there anymore is not as freeing as I thought it would be. I finish my days a bit earlier, but I seem to have so much more time, and this is unreasonably unsettling for me. Maybe it's because I'm not carrying so much of my work inside my mind and body anymore. This way of living seems like a past memory... a vague dream coming back to become reality again. I feel like I've leaped backward in time and got my sleeve stuck in the time machine. And there's no manual for that kind of thing.

I'm trying to be patient with myself, to remind myself that I worked there for nearly five years, so it's going to take more than a few weeks to find my way again. I'm still struggling to get back into a regular gym routine, and my body is impatient to get moving again. But somehow, something deep inside of me is telling me to wait, whispering to me to be patient, that there's no point trying to rush into some kind of impossible state of normalcy, some state of false perfection. I made a cottage pie this morning and it overflowed. I shrugged my shoulders and poured myself another bowl of cereal. We'll call that stage one of being patient... or at the very least, calm.

And then yes, there's the knitting:

If there's one way to learn patience, it's trying to knit a fabric out of cobweb laceweight merino. The photo above was taken last week, and even with all my newly found spare time, it hasn't grown much since then. I was telling a friend about it the other day, and she asked me if I was liking the pattern.

I said, "I think it will be nice once it's finished. So will the flying cars."

I'm wondering if I'll have to break my monogamous knitting rule and go make something out of some super bulky yarn for a while, but in my heart I know I will carry on trudging through this until it's finished. I'm pretty sure it'll be worth it. All of this patience... it's gotta pay off sometime.

Here's hoping. Have a good week. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Lot of Work For Not Very Much

It is not enough to be busy… The question is: what are we busy about? -- Henry David Thoreau
It started out with a necklace I bought while on holiday in L.A. It was so pretty, but it was so different from anything else I'd ever worn that I wasn't even sure I had an outfit to wear it with. This is not the first time this has happened: I have purposely gone shopping to find an entire outfit to go with a new necklace before. I thought I was finished with this kind of obsession, but clearly, I am not.

Anyway, I was looking for something light and drapey and loose... a sort of tunic with dolman sleeves, and probably in white or cream or a pale grey colour. This search also coincided with me being at loose ends with my projects: nothing on the needles, and not really sure what I wanted to make next. "Aha," I said. "Maybe I can make my own top to go with that necklace!"

So, I set off, looking for patterns that would work. I started with tunics and pullovers, then short-sleeved tees, then knitting stitches, then v-neck pullovers. I veered into lace shawls for a brief interlude, but I got back on track and started searching images online of what I imagined would work. White or cream or pale grey tunic... yeah, that's what I want.

I don't know what happened, but I now have this charcoal grey yarn on the needles, and I have no idea what I'm doing. It's 1531 yards of cobweb lace merino. I've already cast on twice for other patterns and then ripped them out, and THAT was not pretty - this yarn tangles and snaps when you rip it back. I have this foreboding feeling in my bones, but I'm going to choose to soldier on. And no, it's not going to go with the freaking necklace.

I haven't done much with it this week, partly because I'm angry at the yarn, and partly because I've started at a new job and my mind is quite tired with all the new things flying at me. I'm glad of the new surroundings and my skills are really being put to work there, but it is a weary time. Meanwhile, here is a cake I made yesterday:

And since the rain has continued on today without breaks, the most productive things I've done today are preparing my meals for the week, doing a bit of freelance admin work and trying to drown the spider mites in my houseplants by leaving them out on the deck. So, here are a few photos of my growing cigar box collection, which has doubled recently with a few good finds:

The outsides are lovely, but the insides are unexpectedly pretty:

This one was in rough shape, but it's much better after some cleaning, airing, and a some strategically placed paste:

This one used to hold my own cutlery at my previous job, because cutlery in an office is a commodity well sought-after. I'll likely put it back in rotation soon:

The one in the middle came with a full set of hand-carved chess pieces, in which I confess I don't have much interest. I just love the box - it's the only one fully made from wood:

And this one has graduated to being a holder for some of my vintage button supply:

And well, we might as well look at the three new little tins I got yesterday. I plan on using the little one for my sewing scissors and darning needles:

One came with a set of dominoes. Maybe this is a sign that I should develop a social life and find a few friends for chess and dominoes:

So, that's that. Half an inch of knitting, a cake, and some vintage receptacles. Here's hoping next week is more productive. Happy Sunday!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Fun Good Things

If you never did, you should.
These things are fun and fun is good.
-- Dr. Seuss
I finished my cowl the other day, but the weather has been so damp that it took three days for it to completely dry after I blocked it. I know, I know... rain is not as hard to deal with as sub-zero temperatures or several feet of snow, but man, that's a lot of rain. I savour every rare minute that the sun shines through my windows. I bask like a gecko on a palm tree.

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with the result. I adore the colour. I can't decide if it's a bit too big. What I know for sure is that it's lovely and soft and comforting on my neck. I'm looking forward to having it around my neck while the weather is still cool:

I am also very pleased with how well the stitches came out. I used this Tear Drop stitch, which I have seen in other patterns before, and I'm quite mesmerized by it. It reminds me of bubbles in a glass of soda water. I'm more of a one-time wonder when it comes to patterns, but  I like it so much that I might actually use it again somewhere:

I actually have nearly two balls leftover, and I'm thinking about making a set of fingerless mitts to match, but I sat on the couch last night with a bit of knitter's block. I didn't really feel like jumping straight into another project with that yarn, but the trouble was that I couldn't really think of what I wanted to make next. That was an unsettling feeling: I usually have a long queue of projects that I want to dive into, but I've made a hat, a scarf, and two cowls over the past couple of months, so I'm kind of tired of making warm weather accessories. Do I want to make a shawl? Meh, not sure. And I'm still feeling kinda lumpy and bloatish from holiday excess that I don't really feel like making a sweater.

Luckily, today I got to go to the local printing workshop for a class that I'd signed up for way back in November. I've been itching to go since my last class where I learned how to make woodblock prints. This class was about monoprinting, which is where you use one plate and use stencils to block out some of the ink to make images. You can run the print through over and over again with different shapes and different inks to build up a picture.

On my way to the workshop, I realized I hadn't really thought about what I was going to make while I was there. I always feel like I should at least have an idea of a project beforehand because I have a tendency to arrive and sit for so long musing about what I want to make that I usually have to rush at the end. This time, I decided that I'd just go in and play around and hope for the best.

I'm very glad that I did. It was great fun playing with inks and pieces of paper. This was my first print, which I think I ran through about four times using different torn paper stencils:

This was one where I ran it through twice without re-inking, but with different positioning of the stencils, then I ran it through again with a darker ink with only some of the inked plate contacting the paper:

This was the one I did after lunch when we got to play with different materials and textures. I did this with paper stencils, some jute woven ribbon, and some plastic ribbon with holes in it:

And this one was my last one. I wasn't so sure I liked it at first, but it's really growing on me:

I'm really glad I took the opportunity to do this today. I think I needed the break from my yarn for a while. I still don't know what I'm going to work on next, but it feels good to have produced something. And I didn't even get any ink on my face this time. That's a result in and of itself.

I think I'm going to go and put my feet up and muse on some laceweight for a while and see if it feels right. Have a great week!