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!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Where We Climb Like Mountain Goats

I often tell people that we go to Los Angeles nearly every year, and when I am asked what we do while we're there, they're usually surprised when I tell them that we enjoy hiking in nature. Yes, Los Angeles, synonymous with Disneyland and Hollywood and fame, silicon, extravagance, and excess... it also has some wonderful hiking spots.

We arrived on Friday afternoon to sunny skies and a lovely little suite in Van Nuys, complete with the ubiquitous Californian swimming pool. Yes, I like nature, but I am pretty high maintenance when it comes to accommodations:

The next day, we set out to explore one of the canyons we had not yet been to before: Las Virgenes Open Space Preserve. You can see how dry it is out here, even after the rains they got earlier last week. It took me a while to adjust to it, having come from rainy Vancouver Island. I have always hated climbing hills, but the hubby always seems to convince me to go just a little bit higher. I'm pretty sure he's part mountain goat. Having said that, we are rewarded with some spectacular views:

Luckily, we also rewarded ourselves handsomely for all the hard work of that climb later at Brent's Deli, where a sandwich ain't a sandwich unless it has 18 slices of pastrami in it:

The next day, we explored the Encino Farmer's Market. It was cool to see Californian produce available fresh from the farms in Fresno and the San Fernando valley:

Later on, we went up to the Santa Susana Pass to do more goat-hiking. You can see this is NOT where fruit is grown:

But it's a pretty cool place to sit and eat an apple:

After that, we moved onto an area called The Garden of the Gods, which was part of the Iverson movie ranch where many of the Western "B" movies were filmed between 1912 until the early 1960s. My dad is a big fan of westerns, and I bet he would recognize a lot of the views:

Today, we walked around the King Gillette Ranch, owned by the famous razor guy. I can't figure out if he was really a king or if King was actually his first name, but regardless, he sure lived like a king. The stable house has been converted into the visitor's centre, which wasn't too shabby-looking at all:

And after that, we made our way to Malibu Creek State Park, which we have hiked many times over the years. I never get tired of the views there. I'm so used to being the only ones on the trails there, but it's Martin Luther King Jr. day here today, so there were loads of people out and about... not that you could tell in this photo. It's a vast enough space to share, I guess:

It looks like we've been running around the whole time we have been here, but in truth, we've really only been out until just after lunch. The afternoons have been spent back at our little suite, reading and watching videos and napping, with the occasional adventure on the inflatable swan in the pool. No, this is not nature either, but it's kinda close:

And yes, I've had a few blissful hours of knitting. I've made some great progress on this improvised cowl that I'm making with an alpaca/merino/cashmere blend. It's a bit strange to be knitting something snuggly and warm in a place where I've been sweating buckets, but goodness knows I'll need it for when I get home, because the forecast back on the Island sure isn't for days upon days of sunshine:

It's been nice to get a few days away from responsibilities and from the things that have been monopolizing my brain lately. I usually live a pretty regimented life: work hard, exercise hard, eat right, sleep early... but right now, I feel like it's all I can do to sit quietly and breathe. I've decided not to beat myself up about it, and as I sit here in my stretchy pants and contemplate another dinner of lots of smoked meat, I feel grateful to have had some rest. Regimens can wait... rest and healing can't.

We're flying back tomorrow, and while I'm sad to leave the sunshine, I'm ready to go home. Maybe I'll be finished my cowl by the time we land. It'll be nice to feel the soft squishiness on my neck...

... just as soon as I wipe the sweat off it first. Have a good week!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Waking Up In January

January is the giant of months. Partly because it seems to begin after Christmas and go on for ever; but also because it can strike blows that disorganize one's life, and transform the familiar, welcoming garden into a strange black-and-white Brueghel world. -- Dorothy Hammond Innes, Home is My Garden
I realized a couple of days ago that I clean forgot about writing a blogpost last weekend. These holidays really throw me off. Part of the problem was that we flew back from Winnipeg to Vancouver Island last Saturday, then New Year's Eve was the next day, and then the next thing I knew, I woke up on the couch and looked around and decided it was a good idea to make some vegetable soup. Yes, that's what a New Year's party looks like around here. Par-tay.

I had another week at home and took advantage of it by treating myself to a few vintage treasures I'd been admiring, like this beautiful tin. I could not stop thinking about it, and when I found that it was still available this week, I decided it belonged in my home. I think it was originally a chocolate or toffee box, but I have yet to decide what should go in there. I might put some of my special pens in it, or maybe line it with some fabric and put some jewelry in it... not really sure. For now, it lives on the ledge by the stairs for me to stop and admire each time I go up or down:

I also decided it was time to buy this book from the second-hand bookshop. It's a reproduction of Edith Holden's sketchbook from 1906. She worked as an illustrator, and as all artists do, she kept a sketchbook of her musings. It looked familiar to me when I saw it earlier this week. I remember seeing something like it in a Chapters a few years ago, and I regretted not buying a copy then. As soon as I saw this one, I thought I'd better not miss the opportunity:

I'm always so enchanted by people's sketchbooks. I keep buying some of my own, but I'm not in the habit of doing anything with them. Perhaps, if I was prone to making New Year's Resolutions, that might be one of them. For now, I think I'll treat myself to looking through a year of this lady's sketchbook as inspiration:

And then, of course, there's the knitting. I finished this cowl early last week. It's a very simple pattern called Copilot, and it is a lovely pattern to make use of variegated yarn. It took me a few tries to get it done because I thought I'd be creative and try to make the centre section slant the other direction, but it turns out that my slip-slip-knit stitches really don't lie as flat as my k2tog stitches, and the result looked so awkward that, even though I was nearly at the end, I decided to rip back all the way to the start of the second section to work all of the stitches at k2tog, just like the original pattern was written. Sometimes, my adventurous knitting-nature gets the better of me:

The ripping-out phase wasn't finished then, though. Just as I was reaching the last two rows before bind-off, I realized I was going to run out. I ripped back and did one fewer eyelet row and worked to the last garter stitch section... only to find out I was going to run out before the end of the section. I ripped back again and decided I'd do one fewer garter stitch row... and I STILL was going to run out, with about 40 stitches left in the bind-off. That was when I put the project in the time-out corner while I fumed for a few minutes. Finally, I got up and hunted out some scrap yarn that mostly matched and completed the bind-off with it. I dont think you can tell at all:

Incidentally, this is one of the skeins of yarn I bought the day I broke my foot two summers ago. Maybe it was destined to be difficult to work with. I'm glad to say that it was worth it. I'm loving this cowl:

Meanwhile, I'm working on yet another cowl, this time in with this alpaca/merino/cashmere blend... and I've already ripped it out three times. Maybe this is the theme of the year: I'm going to have to do things over and over until I learn. Oddly, that sounds like every, single year of my knitting life.

I've decided not to have any resolutions this year, because I've decided not to believe that I have so many things that need "fixing. Instead, have a few "commitments" to this year:

  1. Eat protein and vegetables at every meal.
  2. Move a little every day... yes, even if it's raining or it's -28 degrees in Winnipeg.
  3. Take three deep breaths before I get out of the car to go into the office.
  4. Never read the comments to YouTube, Facebook, or indeed anything posted on the internet. Life's too short to give airtime to trolls.
I have to say: that last one is the toughest. I think it's because we think we're connecting to people when we leave or read comments, and so I yearn to read them, but it usually means I end up feeling sad or frustrated by people's negativity. And right now, I really feel like I need protection from any of that kind of energy.

It's raining here on the Island this week, which is good and not-so-good in its own way, but I'm looking forward to a change of scenery later this week. I won't say where I'm going, because that will mean I will HAVE to pay attention and write a post about it. So... until then, have a great week!