curse of the mummy...

the balcony garden project seems to have turned into the all over my living room garden project. the weather climbed to 19°C (66°F) last week, and we debated shifting the plants outside, then a cold front arrived and it plunged down to -4°C (25°F), so it looks like the first of the squash blossoms will indeed bloom indoors. beyond that, our furry little neighbors have been running recon missions, taking note of the growing sea of green on the other side of the glass. i really do not want to get kicked out of Canada for beating a squirrel to death with a half-eaten zucchini, so perhaps it is for the best that they stay put for the foreseeable future.

my seasonal obsession with tulips is coming to an end. i purchased one last orange bunch today, but i was far more interested in the withering petals on last week's blooms.

if you study them long enough, beautiful figures begin to emerge. this one looks like an elegant pair of  flamenco dancers, and the one above looks like a cunning cobra. do you see it?

in the always-exciting world of feline shenanigans, mama kitty has found a new way to combine her two favorite activities. laying around...

and watching the little one get into trouble...

which is really easy to do since the little one lives to get into trouble. she seems to think that this is her personal jungle. can you spot the fierce and mighty hunter in her favorite nap spot?

i spent some time this past week knitting swatches for (potential) future projects

i also (finally) got around to some of the podcasts on my 'watch later' list. after sifting through the cringe-inducing antics of the mutual admiration society, i found one or two gems that i intend to watch regularly. the real joy, however, came from my sample knitting. any activity that requires yarn and rulers and measuring and math and reorganizing needles by size (and brand... don't judge me!) is near-nirvana for my special type of OCD. 

the best part comes after you wash them. highbrow knitters may pull out fancy equipment for blocking their damp swatches. i grabbed a utility knife and cut a flap from the nearest cardboard box. ah, simplicity!

some swatches involved knitting the same fiber on different sized needles to compare the finished fabric...

while other swatches involved knitting the same pattern in different yarns to see which best suited the desired project.

[total aside regarding my notes-to-self: those numbers on the first line refer to the stitch x row count in a 10cm x 10cm (4" x 4") square, and the second line is the size (and brand, as they tend to differ ever so slightly) needle used to knit the sample. i could explain in more detail how that relates to the finished garment, but that would require breaking out the laser pointer and putting on the librarian glasses, and nobody needs to be subjected to such things.]


this is the lace motif from the Carta Cardigan, which has been near the top of my queue for the past three years. it is a perfect project for warm(ish) weather, but it does come with one major drawback. the pattern pdf (it is free, i am not breaking any rules) consists of two pages of diagrams with lots of numbers and a cover page with exactly three lines of instructions, which they refer to as "knitting tips". furthermore, the limited information only relates to the sample size, which is 36" across the bust—i laugh at 36" across the bust—so there was definitely going to be even more math involved. this, boys and girls, is why we drink and knit. couple-few adult beverages later, and i had redrawn the diagrams with two new sets of numbers, one based on the pastel yarn and one based on the gold yarn. i got a second opinion from my favorite animator. it went something like this:

me: which of these two swatches would be best for knitting this cardi [pointing to photo of said cardi on the screen]?
him: [taking a swatch in each hand and fondling them for a few seconds, then pushing one toward me] this one.
me: but.. it's the color of orange sherbet.
him: so?
me: that's like light salmon, which is almost as bad as pink. can you seriously see me in that color?
him: [holding the swatch up to my arm] what's wrong with it? that color would look really nice on you.

at which point, i fixed him with a look of utter disbelief, then picked up my needle to cast on a cardi in the mind-numbing shade of orange sherbet

will this project make it to completion, or will i freak out and frog it in a pastel-induced panic? time will tell.

the simple lace repeat makes for a good movie-watching project. i even managed Masquerade (loved it, by the way) subtitled without dropping a stitch. i planned on enjoying a S. Korean period piece mini-marathon, but that proved harder with more action-filled films, so i resorted to watching Ancient Aliens [which only ever ends with me yelling at the screen after someone "proves" their point by drawing connections between things that have absolutely nothing to do with each other... or with the supposed "point" to begin with]. some folks exercise to reach their pain barrier, i listen to people using pseudo-science to explain pseudo-archaeology to reach mine.  

which brings me to... [seriously, i do not plan these things, life is just self-referencing that way].

the trim around our kitchen window is in need of repair, so we spent a minute or two discussing options, before my favorite animator grabbed a hammer and pried a loose board away from the wall. what followed was a scene straight out of the annals of archaeology. 

it should be noted that while i can handle regular dust (the stuff one encounters in day-to-day tidying), my latest nemesis seems to be what we like to call ancient dust. the stuff that accumulates atop a ceiling fan that has sat motionless for the past eight months? hazard! giving large sofa cushions the occasional thwacking? even bigger hazard!!! how do i know, you ask? learned it the hard way, i reply.

one minute we are chatting in the kitchen while he removed many rusty nails from the piece of wood, and the next minute i am swallowing large quantities of antihistamines and issuing a list of instructions, should a trip to the emergency room become necessary. i removed my long-sleeve shirt (everything feels like burlap made from nettles when i am in that state) and sat cross-legged on the sofa waiting for the pills to kick in. he sat across from me, trying his best to look sympathetic, but that only lasts so long when sarcasm is the default setting.

him: you're like one of those explorers who opens a tomb and dies on the spot. everyone thinks it's the curse of the mummy, which only serves to keep that legend going. i bet if they went back and checked, they would discover that all those archaeologists had allergies. there was no curse. it was the ancient dust that killed them. 

at which point, i laughed till i fell over sideways, then i watched a video of a man trying to catch a duck with a device that was surely patented by one Wile E. Coyote, which resulted in even more laughter, and that proved to be the best medicine of all. 


if you can see this...

it is a wet and overcast Friday in Montreal. i am sipping coffee while watching a raccoon amble around the roof of the two-story brownstone directly across the street. part of me wants to grab a large piece of cardboard and post a sign on the balcony that reads "if you can see this, there is a raccoon on your roof", but it might get awkward when all the neighbors start pulling out the extra-long ladders. for now, i will sip my coffee and assume that the raccoon will get down the same way (s)he got up there in the first place.

we were both feeling a bit under the weather, so all non-vital activity ground to a standstill for the past couple-few days. beyond that, i seem to have pulled (or ripped) a muscle in my shoulder-back junction area (clearly they did not teach us back anatomy in all those neuroscience classes). it only hurts when i pick up anything heavier than a large cup of tea, or when i twist my neck in the opposite direction, or when i inhale too deeply. inhaling deeply is highly overrated.

i am fighting the urge to frog (that is knit-speak for "rip out") the pink cardi i started a few weeks back. it is not the fault of the Bly pattern. i am on the fence as to whether or not i will ever wear this garment. to be honest, i am frightened by the pinkness of the thing. furthermore, this is a very knobbly cotton yarn and it is taking a serious toll on my hands. i am going to shove it to the side for a while, lest i do something rash... with destruction by fire being at the very top of the list.

on a positive note, this was my first time using Amy Herzopg's custom-fit method (you can find her books here and here on Amazon, and workshops here and here on Craftsy). i am a believer! the conventional method for sizing knitted tops is to measure around the fullest part of the bust, which works well for the smaller-busted among us. however, if you came back for seconds (or thirds) in that department, you will end up with a garment that is ill-fitted around the shoulders (not to mention around the waist, if you happen to be of the hourglass-shaped persuasion). if you have ever tried on a pair of jeans that fit perfectly around the hips, only to be left with like several extra inches of fabric bunched up around the waist, you understand the struggle. enter Amy Herzog and her brilliant observation taken from the world of sewing: why not just pick a base size that fits your shoulders, then add darts [increases and decreases] to shape the garment to fit your curves??? why not, indeed.

my (maternal) grandmother was a seamstress (she taught everyone in the family to sew from a young age—including my mom's little brother, who was a tailor's assistant before going off to study architecture... but i am straying from the point). she would make garments so well-fitted, it was as if the fabric was woven around your body. it makes so much sense to apply that logic to knitwear, where you are literally building the fabric stitch-by-stitch. armed with this mind-blowing revelation, i set out to create my very first item using what Amy terms bust darts. on the hanger, it may look like the garment is wearing a bra, but you try it on, and it fits!!! i may continue working on the cardi to practice using the waist and hip shaping... then i will frog it... maybe

on the greener side of life, the potatoes put on some serious growth this past week.

i added more soil to the bag. i will unfold that edge (which i turned down to get more light to the bottom) and fill it all the way to the top in the next week or two.

Mama Kitty was very excited by all of this action. trust me, this is excited in her universe.

then there was that yarn i dyed a couple weeks back.

i cannot decide which of the two colorways i prefer. koi pond...

... or industrial decay.

they have both managed to displace mixed-berry trifle as my favorite hand-dyed yarn to date.

i loved that combo so very much, i even allowed myself to turn some of it into a ribbed, slouchy hat, which is my go-to head-warmer. that is as much wool as i can tolerate without breaking out in hives, so i savor every moment of the experience. i may in fact be wearing it at this very moment. truth.

i used the industrial decay combo on two skeins of different weights, by which i mean different thickness of the spun yarn.

i bought all three skeins of bare yarn from the wonderful folks at Fibre Garden (which is were i bought last summer's painter's box of fiber).

to the left is Leicester-Foot™ (an 80/20 superwash-BFL/nylon combo that is perfect for socks), and to the right is Wash-It™ (a 100% superwash merino that seems destined to become next-winter's favorite slouchy hat).

koi pond is on their Socky-Talky™ base (a 80/20 superwash-merino/nylon blend that is also good for socks).

me: both of these yarns have nylon. people usually look for that when they're knitting socks. don't know what i'm gonna do with them.
him: you can knit me socks.
me: maybe i will put them in my display cans and smile at them in awe every time i pass by.
him: or, you can knit me socks.
me: or, maybe i can make more fingerless gloves... but i already have so many fingerless gloves.

at which point i grabbed the umbrella swift...

and began to wind the first ball in preparation for sock-knitting.

then i fell in love all over again. seriously, how could i ever ruin such a beautiful thing by placing it next to someone's feet?

i may be forced to buy a six-pack of Hanes, and hope he does not notice the difference.


potatoes, potatoes, and even more potatoes...

every week, as i settle down to do this thing, i make a solemn oath to keep it brief. one or two (short) paragraphs of text, brief mention (or photo) of some crafty thing in progress, brief mention (or photo) of one other random thing that has happened in our very static lives (a meal, a trinket, kitty antics, etc.), then bid you a fond adieu and disappear back into my fortress of solitude... then i realize two, three, or more hours have flown by, and i am staring at enough text to bore even the author beyond the point of tears. i am saying this by way of apologizing in advance—and retroactively—for my inability to be brief. it is a gift and a curse. and, yes... this post will be (mostly) about potatoes, of which there is so very much to say.

growing up in a family that viewed rice as the natural accompaniment to every single meal imaginable, i developed a deep, burning love for potatoes and pasta from a young age. fusion cuisine was practically invented in our home. mom would make an awesome Caribbean-style stew or curry, and i would have mine over a mound of spaghetti or spilling out of a split baked potato. fast-forward a couple decades, and imagine my continued dismay at having to avoid pasta most days. enter the humble potato.

last year's CSA farm share went until late October, and ended with large quantities of storage crops (potatoes, carrots, onions, and the like) to see the members through a decent-sized chunk of the Winter. we had potatoes baked, scalloped, mashed, home-fried, and made into large pots of truly delicious soups before deciding that we needed a break. the remaining spuds were tucked away at the back of a kitchen storage bin (more on that later), and we set our sights on other ingredients. there may have even been a slight increase in the number of meals containing rice, but i am still not a fan of the stuff.

then, about a month ago, i found myself in the mood for a baked potato, so i did the naturally insane thing and purchased a whole bag of potatoes (by which i mean like ten pounds, which is pretty much bulk quantity in a household of two). since then, we have already had potatoes baked, mashed, and home-fried, and there may have been one meal of potato-cheddar soup... or maybe that was just a flashback from some earlier 'trying to get rid of potatoes' experience. at any cost, we are down to less than half of the bag of potatoes, so there will be a few more spud-tastic meals in the coming week, but i can see the light at the of the tunnel. no, really, i can.

so, there i was making room in our usual potato storage space for the now-smaller bag, when it dawned on me that there are still potatoes from last Fall tucked away back there. some months ago, when i noticed they were developing rather prominent eyes, i commented that it was a shame that Summer was so far away, or i would plant them (as opposed to throwing them away). then i wrapped them up in a paper bag and stashed them away in hopes that they would not go to rot before it warmed up... then i totally forgot that they existed.

behold... potatoes that have been lurking in the shadows of my kitchen for several months!!!

they may look like some new species that was discovered at a previously-unreachable depth of the ocean, but they are perfectly fine for planting. the body of the potatoes have lost their firmness, as most of that substance has gone into keeping those sprouts alive, but there is no mushy dampness or odd smells to suggest rotting.

i was so excited by the find, that i almost overlooked the other bag tucked even deeper back in the bin.

the red ones are of a mystery variety (they were in a plain, brown-paper bag), while the white ones were in a bag labeled "goldrush", which is a type of russet (the classic baked potato).

when faced with an abundance of sprouted potatoes—especially, while you are trying to simultaneously get rid of their un-sprouted cousins—the logical thing to do is to grab some soil and get planting so that you will have even more future-potatoes. naturally.

potatoes can be easily grown in or out of the ground, just as long as they have good drainage and a loose growing medium. i tend to prefer to grow them in containers, as the harvesting process is as simple as tipping out the contents and using your hands to sort the spuds from the soil. no shovels or pitchforks required, which means no crying over accidental piercings.

i used one of the grow bags for the red potatoes...

and a recycled, fabric-type bag from the bakery for the russets. why, you ask? because it was there.

as for the growing medium, i am a big fan of using leaf mulch (all the fallen leaves you rake up in the yard), but that is not an option at present, so i went for potting soil layered with some ripped up packing paper (yes, i still have a ton of that stuff thanks to the atrocious packing practices at Amazon). Mama Kitty is intrigued by the crinkling sound of paper, so she offered to help... in a purely supervisory capacity, of course.

this consisted of laying on half of the paper and ignoring my repeated requests to shove over.

meanwhile, across the room, Baby Bear had to be physically removed from the chair i had placed in that location for the express purpose of not having to bend over too much while getting this done. gee... i wonder where she gets that from.

having successfully replaced a cat with a bag, i put a layer of paper at the bottom...

 topped it with a couple inches of soil (mixed with a bit of bone meal)...

note, i skipped the customary step of cutting the larger potatoes into smaller chunks. life is too short to bother with such things. (note, also, that i was under close observation the whole time).

i nestled the potatoes into the soil, making sure the sprouts were pointing "up"...

added in another layer of paper...

then topped it off with more soil and another dash of bone meal, placed the bag in a large plant saucer, and gave them a healthy splash of water.

as the plants grow upward, i will periodically cover all but the top layer of leaves with more paper and soil. potato plants send horizontal runners out from the buried stem into the soil, and the potatoes grow along those runners. the more stem you have underground, the more surface area you have for runners and, subsequently, for potatoes to develop. therefore, you start the plant at the bottom of the container, and slowly increase the soil level as it grows. so, why not just fill the container all the way up to the top with soil from the start? excellent question. the developing plant—and the withering potato that is providing it with nourishment—would likely rot before the growing ends reach the light.

i planted them rather densely, which should result in small potatoes, which is perfectly fine, since we will eventually be deluged with potatoes from the farm.

him: between our farm share and the stuff we're growing, we probably won't have to buy any veggies all Summer.

at which point, i groaned and realized that i am already sick of future-potatoes.

in (tangentially) related news, the zucchinis are still growing like crazy, so much so that they are already forming tons of flower buds. at this rate, we will be feasting on squash blossoms before it is warm enough to transfer the plants to the balcony.

i popped a few nasturtium seeds in between the zukes, and they have proven to be equally aggressive growers.

while nasturtiums are edible, i grow them for purely aesthetic purposes. the flowers come in a variety of colors (the variety i planted is called jewel mix), and the foliage looks like a cross between a taro leaf and a lily pad. they are like parasols for tiny mythical creatures. perhaps i have said too much.

and on the subject of tiny things... a couple-few weeks ago, i was introduced to the world of mini foods and videos of tiny edible meals created from common ingredients. why? i have no idea. it seems completely pointless, until you find that you have been holding your breath in nervous anticipation at the flipping of a sliver of salmon cooked in a drop of oil or smiling at the precise placement of chocolate-glazing on a donut less than half the size of a Cheerio. it is downright addictive... and contagious to boot. picture the scene: i am seated, cross-legged, on the chesterfield with one kitty napping on the armrest and the other kitty curled up against my thigh. in walks my favorite animator.

him: my three favorite girls in one spot. what are you watching?
me: videos of people making insanely tiny meals.
him: why?
me: i have no idea.
[an hour later]
him: ooh... go back to the guy with the little toys. he has better tiny knife skills.

pretty much.

i meant to talk about that yarn i dyed last week... and that package i (still) need to send halfway around the world... and the cardi of white and (gasp) pink... and my frustration with the 24-hour day... and all the other things, but i will save some (or all) of that for another day. adieu.