tea for two...

i encourage my two cats to compete for my affection by telling each one that she is my 'best girl' whenever the other cat is out of earshot. after only three years, it is still too early to tell if this strategy is having the desired effect. i have, however, noticed a pattern in which one cat always seems to keep me company while the other one sleeps, and i am beginning to fear that i may in fact be 'subject zero' in some twisted plan of theirs. i would elaborate on my suspicions, but Baby Bear is sitting right next to me, so it may be time to change the subject.

it has been snowing for most of the past twenty-four hours, and there is a polar vortex rapidly descending on the entire region. i can scarcely keep up with the demand for hot beverages.

we drink absurd amounts of tea (and the occasional coffee) around here in the Winter, and we prefer to use super-large mugs in order to avoid refilling the smaller cups every twenty minutes. problem is, we were down to one-and-a-half super-large mugs. the "half" in question is my white Santa mug, the handle of which had to be reconstructed several months ago with equal parts patience and crazy glue.

every cup of tea since then has been a gamble with the inevitable. Winter was here, and we needed new mugs. i found myself revisiting this one listing for weeks, so it seemed a good time to make a purchase.

the dream...

me: i really want to support hand-crafters. we should go on Etsy and find a potter. maybe we can custom order mugs with something interesting written on them or with iconic Canadian images to celebrate our support for small businesses.

him: remember when i told you about that four-week pottery workshop at one of the local art schools? we should take it so we can make our own mugs. 

me: that would be kinda awesome. 

the reality (about ten minutes later)...

me: ok, so we each get to pick one Disney mug and one Marvel/DC Comics mug, agreed? do we need anything else from Amazon?

yep. pretty much.

i was keeping my fingers crossed for something awesome in a Wolverine theme, as he is who i have deluded myself into thinking i would be in a comic book reality, but then i scrolled past this one, and kept coming back to it. girls!

i did have to draw the line at any silly Disney princess nonsense, since that has never been my cup of tea! i do, however, have a soft spot for The Nightmare Before Christmas. it is just Grimm enough to cut through the sugary-overload of the usual holiday season offerings. yes, i am that person.

my favorite animator opted for multiple Marvel heroes...

and Stitch.

in typical Amazon fashion, the items arrived in as many individual boxes as they could possibly manage, but the Nightmare cup still sustained a massive crack en route. a replacement was dispatched, and i was advised to dispose of the damaged cup as i see fit. where did i put that bottle of crazy glue?

i have a hard time letting go of mugs, especially the large ones i use every day. Santa is going to be retired from regular rotation and the cracked Nightmare mug will join it as holders for craft supplies.

the record for 'oldest broken mug' belongs to this green one, which has served as drip-catcher to this little plant for the past twenty years. [the frog was pilfered eons ago from one of mom's plants, and i gave him a small rock for company, because i am a compassionate thief].

i broke my go-to mug back in undergrad, and my best bud got me this one as a replacement... which i proceeded to chip and crack some several months later.

i did not have the heart to trash it, so it became home to the clay pot containing the few leaves i had pinched from mom's pothos (E. aureum), back when i "borrowed" the frog. this little plant has tagged along for the past twenty or so years of my life, and i hope it will see me through a few more decades of adventures.

on a parting note, i would like to report that a murder of crows has descended on a tree close to our building. there must be nearly two hundred of them perched along the bare branches, in stark contrast to their snow-covered surroundings. it is intensely unnerving to see the occasional large cloud of dark shapes circling that close overhead, and the cacophony bears a striking resemblance to a rallying cry uttered before a battle. i saw the movie. this will not end well.


war and pieces (of winter wear)...

it is Monday and the world outside looks like a giant, freshly-shaken snow globe cast in tones of brown and grey. i pity anyone who has to drive about in this stuff, but boy is it beautiful from up here.

the past week has been a veritable roulette wheel of first-world problems, culminating in an official declaration of war against the evil forces of UPS. the first clue that something was wrong came when their tracking tool showed my package crossing the Prime Meridian for the third time. it went on to make three crossings between Canada and the States (Quebec to Kentucky and back to Quebec), and was scanned arriving at the local Montreal airport a total of three times (in a row with, no corresponding departures), all within the span of twenty-four hours. worst part? that was only one half of a two-part shipment. so, i find myself dressed and ready to head out the door today... just as soon as the delivery guy shows up with package number two. after several frustrated phone calls last week, i would not be surprised if this one arrives tied to a large rock... flung through the largest window in the place. first-world problems indeed!

i decided to use part of the waiting-in-vain to assess my hat situation for the season. it was either that, or do something actually productive. hats win every time!!!

this is pretty much my default winter look. the blue shawlette is something i whipped up when trying to get rid of a small batch of yarn i had dyed for some other project. the hat too is knit out of yarn i dyed in a colorway i call mixed berry trifle, the rest of which will (eventually... hopefully) become a scarf/shawl, also for self. i have been known to wear this hat around the house for days at a time. so much love.

i attended a fiber festival some many years ago, back when i was relatively new to spinning, where i purchased some wool from a local(ish) shepherdess, which i spun into some rather lovely yarn. it was far too stunning to dye, so i left it bare and knitted a Slouch Tuva Hat (note free pattern on Ravelry).

crazy though it may seem, the small lace holes are a bonus when working with such heavy yarn. they keep the hat from being too-warm, which can happen even on the worst of Winter days.

i had a lot of this yarn left over, so i did what one (naturally) does in such a situation. i made myself a big-kid hat...

 complete with earflaps...

and fingerless mitts to match.

i was really proud of myself, as both the hat and mitts were made sans pattern, back when i was still relatively-new to the craft. that the mitts actually fit is still surprising all these years later.

i should also mention the matching earflap hat for my favorite animator. it was the prototype, as i spun and dyed that yarn a year or more before making my own. the colorway was meant to evoke those leather helmets from the early days of football, back before they understood concepts like concussion and permanent brain damage. to the casual observer, his hat may appear a bit small on my head. i like to think that it is a reflection of my brilliance, but it is probably just that i have a big head.

then there is the hat designed by my fave knitwear designer, Norah Gaughan. it is from her book Knitting Nature, which features thirty-six patterns inspired by—you guessed it—NATURE. [aside: there will be a mostly-Norah post in the near-future, as i am still thumbing through her latest tome, the Knitted Cable Sourcebook]. where was i? oh, yes... i made a Norah hat.

the yarn is a bulky, natural-colored alpaca purchased during one of my first visits to Montreal from my (current) local yarn shop back when they were located near le March√© Atwater... so, well over a decade ago. it is a tam, which should (in theory) look something like a beret, but this one looks more like an ornate pork pie (of the edible kind).

the top features a beautiful array of mini cables, all arranged after the manner of the humble sunflower...

right down to the stem. ah, Norah!

it is now well past nine in the evening, and i fear that my package has fallen victim to the multi-vehicle accidents befalling our fair city on such an icy day. seems like a perfect time for some honey brown lager. salud!


zen and the art of giving up on giving up...

we are entering that time of year when the forces around us provoke an intense need for reflection. what were my goals for this year? how much of that did i accomplish? what changes should i aim to make in the coming year? my answer to all of this is a resounding "mind your own business, forces!!!".

i gave up on making resolutions a long time ago, as it usually amounts to setting one's self up for disappointment. beyond that, in my life, the challenge is usually to talk myself out of giving up on things. i may possibly—just possibly—be the single most impatient person in existence, and that is especially true when it comes to trying things outside of my skill set. anything that requires practice, persistence, or (gasp) patience is a definite non-starter in my universe.

if you have followed my non-adventures for any length of time, you can probably guess by now that i am talking about my forays into the world of watercolouring (spelling totally intended). not gonna lie... i was about to pack up all of the supplies and stash them away in the back of the darkest closet i can find. however, a little voice suggested that i should possibly—just possibly—stick with it a bit longer, and possibly—just possibly—give it a go more than once every six-or-so months. the voice was coming from the face of my favorite animator. i really hate it when he makes so much sense. so, in the spirit of doing something a bit different, i am not going to give up on painting. it is frustrating as hell and i have zero natural aptitude for the thing, which is probably what i need most of all.

in a related vein, i will revisit that orange cardi i started some several weeks ago. i got about halfway through the body, then ripped it back to this...

...then knitted (again) through most of the body, before tossing it in a corner to be revisited another day. i had all but decided to frog it completely and re-purpose the yarn for some other thing. however, in light of my newly-acquired outlook on life, i may possibly—just possibly—give it another go.

one final note: i feel zero shame in admitting that i slept all day... ALL DAY! the sky outside was dark when i awoke, and the glowing red numbers on the clock read 5:38. i closed my eyes and rested my head back against the pillow, trying to decide whether that meant AM or PM. after a week of sleeplessness, it felt good to wake up to such a pressing problem.


zen and the art of accepting the inevitable...

the last pepper ripened a while back, signalling that it was time to bid farewell to what remained of the balcony garden plants that had been dragged indoors at the end of the summer.

the stems of the nasturtiums had grown thin and spindly in the effort to stretch toward the light, before yielding to the inevitable and draping lifelessly around the edge of the pot. i made one final harvest of fresh herbs to be added to future meals, then began the task of uprooting all the plants and returning the pots outdoors. 

i was in the middle of ripping out the dry nasturtium leaves, when i heard an odd noise. two odd noises to be exact. it was the sound of two small objects hitting the floor in quick succession. i moved aside the container of soil and there they were. 

it should be noted that nasturtiums are the sole aesthetic concession i tend to make when planting a vegetable garden. they are edible, but i grow them simply because i enjoy the shape of the leaves and the bright pop of color from the flowers. having grown nasturtiums on many occasions, i have never before noticed any seeds being dropped from the plants... until now. perhaps this was some form of reward for keeping it alive those few extra weeks. 

[random aside for my fellow Neuroscience nerds: dried nasturtium seeds look like chickpeas, but the green ones bear a striking resemblance to tiny brains. disturbing on so many levels.]

on that note... be well. Happy Turkey Day to all the people in-country, and to those of us living in self-imposed exile, i hope you have a truly ordinary Thursday. 


zen and the art of living outside your comfort zone...

we spent part of yesterday morning nestled in the back corner of our local boulangerie/p√Ętisserie, discussing the fine art of writing for children's television over a shared cup bowl of mokaccino (no exaggeration... it was served in a soup bowl) as the first snow of the season drifted down on the scenery beyond the large windows. after an unusually long, mild Autumn, we have finally arrived at the heart of life in Canada. see it? snow.

it has gone down to a (still mild) -3°C (27°F), with wind-chill factors approaching what-the-heck-am-i-doing-in-Canada levels of coldness. still, it was pretty magical to watch the stuff accumulate. arriving home, i hunted down the camera and steeped out onto the balcony just long enough to be reminded that this was the very same space so tightly-packed with overgrown herbs and other delightful things just a couple months ago, that we had to institute a maximum capacity of one adult and one cat at a time for safety's sake. like all things in life, its time will come around again.

now, pardon me while i sip my lukewarm coffee and (try to) talk myself out of purchasing blue fur-lined snow boots with bright orange laces. talk about leaving your comfort zone!


zen and the art of yielding to powers beyond your control...

  • spread favorite furry blanket on favorite comfy sofa and top with bags of yarn and other related stuff for fondling.
  • move laptop from bedroom to coffee table next to comfy sofa.
  • search for mouse and place it next to laptop on coffee table next to comfy sofa.
  • fill kettle and stare out window at flock of birds circling overhead while water boils.
  • make two large cups of tea and hunt down reading glasses while they steep.
  • place reading glasses next to mouse next to laptop on coffee table next to comfy sofa.
  • deposit one cup of tea in studio and (finally) carry tea for self to the coffee table next to the comfy sofa only to find...

  • carry tea for self to dining table and return for laptop and glasses... and mouse.
  • sit on uncomfortable chair (with no furry blanket for snuggling or bags of yarn and other related stuff for fondling) and ponder where you went wrong in life.


remnants of joy and disaster...

my mom has an old cookbook with a bright red cover that is nearly as old as i am, and i once set out to make all the recipes in the bread section. this was back in my mid-to-late teens, when i discovered that kneading dough was a great meditation for letting go of stress. mom would wake in the middle of the night to find me seated cross-legged on the kitchen floor, waiting for my dough to proof. i learned one practical way of make sense of a senseless world somewhere between the Sally Lunn buns, French baguettes, and good-old-fashioned loaves of sandwich bread. fast-forward to the present, and frustration still leaves me with an overwhelming urge to bake for sanity's sake.

there has been some baking in recent days. i made an old favorite: scones with extra-sharp white cheddar cheese.

the dark spots around the sides are crispy bits of oven-toasted cheese. and, yes, it is as tasty as it sounds.

there was also an experimental batch of biscuits featuring more butter than should ever be allowed in any recipe. i figure that we are pretty much waiting for the apocalypse, so what difference does it make at this point?

this one involved repeated folding and rolling of the dough to create layers that stack like pages in a book.

i am convinced the death-by-butter dough would make for a fantastic pot pie crust, but that adventure will have to wait for some future disappointment in humanity. so, basically... any day now. i need to go hug a cat. be well, everyone.


a much-needed visit to my happy place ...

[at the risk of breaking my own rule against discussing real-world issues in this space] i woke up this morning with an intense urge to pull this out from its hiding place. sigh.

i lived in Massachusetts in 2008, when a historically-Black church a short drive from the uni where i taught was burnt on Election night. it was a sobering reminder of how unkind we can be to each other in the face of an ever-changing world. i just hope that everyone stays safe (and sane) in the coming days.

as though sensing my extreme angst today, the mailmanperson arrived bearing the second edition of Making magazine, titled "fauna".

i mentioned the first issue "flora" in an earlier post (and i am still searching for the perfect (itch-free) yarn to make the Branches & Buds Pullover).

Making is a multi-craftual magazine, though it does lean heavily toward the knitting side. there is embroidery, cross-stitching, sewing, recipes (including one for a grownup beverage in each issue), and a bit of adult-coloring-book action. seriously... who does not want to color an Icelandic sheep wearing an Icelandic sweater?

i was drawn to the Open Waters Shawl by Melanie Berg. this piece made me nostalgic for my (brief) professing days, as it would have fit splendidly into my wardrobe of (mostly) black attire accented with fabulous shawls and purses. what i lacked in clothing style, i made up for with accessories that were always over-the-top amazing.

the Throstle Shawl by Bristol Ivy is more my style these days.

the standout piece of the whole collection, however, has to be the Stag Head Pullover.

me: [hurrying into the studio, pointing to the sweater] who designed this?
him: uhm...?
me: one guess!
him: judging by your excitement, i'm gonna say it's Norah Gaughan

and then i made a high-pitched sound of the type that can only be perceived by dolphins and other sea-dwelling mammals. i will save the full extent of my hero-worship for another day, but she is my absolute fave knitwear designer, and her brand new book of cables is at the very top of this year's Christmas book list. it is primarily a reference book for crafting complex cables of the kind that defines much of her design aesthetic, but it also includes a number of beautiful patterns, like the Chunky Cardigan and the Sideways Pullover. sigh.

now, pardon me while i plot and scheme as i go diving through the stash. sure, we may be on the verge of a nightmare of epic proportions, but i am going to find comfort in my happy place. please make sure you vote, and be safe.


short story #5: the lifestyle to which i have become accustomed...

me: sweetie, can you get some marmalade while you're at the store?

he returned an hour later with two types of jam and THREE TYPES of marmalade, including this one.

yes, it is made with ten-year old Scotch Whisky. seriously, how am i ever supposed to go back to Smuckers®?

me: great. you had to go and echelon the marmalade?
him: that's what you get for sending me to the store without adult supervision.

lesson learned.

~the end


short story #4: Autumn wellness tea...

i have a cold, so i am drinking lots of tea.

it is made with equal parts water and season-appropriate juice (either cranberry or apple cider).

to which i add a cinnamon stick and heat before adding a smidge of honey and my favorite tea of the moment.

i am a big fan of Stash tea.

the end!


short story #3: all the monsters in my dreams...

i have been watching marathon amounts of The Great British Menu, and Michael O'Hare has become my favorite of all the veteran chefs, which is surprising, as i had him pegged as a (potentially) homicidal lunatic the very first time he set foot in the kitchen. inspired by his wackiness, and by the overcast skies outside, i set out to spin a yarn with an O'Hare-esque title.

i dragged the drum carder and box of supplies from their hiding places, and proceeded to blend fiber.

after the first pass, it looked like someone beat a clown to death with a bag of sewer rats.

after the second pass, it was ready to spin...

into a lovely skein. i call this colorway "all the monsters in my dreams look like people i have known".

what's the connection, you ask? none, i reply. Mr. O'Hare would approve.

the end!