Friday, January 27, 2012

Awaiting Developments

   We are expecting some nasty weather today, and the red sky this morning certainly seemed to underline the weather office's predictions. I have a bit of time - the snow will start at noon, they say - so I must fill up a big water bucket and a couple of pots. We have materials for making sandwiches if we can't cook, and of course the wood furnace works without the fan - not as effectively, but it does work. We just have to take a panel off at the back, and it circulates by taking in air from the basement.  I don't know how long it will work before the extremities of the house freeze - we've only had to do it for a few hours so far.
   In bad news, I've lost, misplaced, or can't find one of Katie's mittens! It's most frustrating, as I have finished the hat, but don't think I have enough yarn to make another mitten (nor do I want to do so!). I've looked in the car, but I don't think I took it with me on Wednesday.  I took the one which needed the ends darned in, because I could do that in the car, and I took the hat to knit on. Perhaps I put the finished one in a safe place? But where?  The alpaca-and-angora that I used to line the brim has turned out well. I made it a few stitches smaller than the brim (86 vs. 92) so it wouldn't be too bulky, and then I increased up to 92 when I knit the last row in the purple main yarn, as I didn't want it to show white on the right side, and that seems to have worked as well. It would be a great set if I could find the other wretched mitten!
   I've been having a regular orgy of garden TV watching, reviewing all three seasons of Beechgrove Garden. What a great show! I am always amazed, however, when they plant some really tender plant from South Africa or New Zealand and then are surprised when it gets killed! (We know better than that here in Canada, right??) Personally I'm with Jim McColl - you can keep your tree ferns. Anna Pavord's book tells me why they do it, however - Britain has an amazing climate, so that plants from all over the earth will thrive there - in some places anyway. Perhaps not in Aberdeen, however!
     I have been reading up on the bush cherries I ordered from Veseys - they are hardy to -40 because they were developed for the Prairies - and they are bush because they were meant for mechanized harvest. However, 2 metres high is great for hand-picking as well! I looked for garden blogs about them - hoping someone has some hands-on experience - but nothing so far. I'll have to write mine up myself! It looks like they can be cordoned, however - they recommend goblet pruning on one site. The developer of the plants has a handbook you can order - for $30 - but from other articles I've read by him,  it is probably all about commercial production. Anyway, my three are from the Romance series - Romeo, Juliette, and Crimson Passion. They are cooking, or sour, cherries, and run from early August to mid-September in harvest time. And they will start to bear in three years. So glad I bought that cherry pitter last year!  The longer you leave them on the bush the sweeter they become, and they can reportedly be eaten fresh. Mmm.
*In news from Toronto, J's POW vest fits! I am pleased. Haven't heard from Em so I don't know about her Cloisonee yet. Awaiting developments indeed. It's noon, and no sign of snow yet. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Making Progress

Winter has been avoiding us so far, and this is great news for the firewood supply, and even for the collection of solar energy. The solar pump runs every time the sun is out, and now with the lengthening days the sun is UP more, which may mean even more solar gain. I am knocking on wood as I write this, of course, because there's weather coming - tomorrow sounds like a right mess, with snow, sleet, freezing rain and then rain at the end.  When the weather office says "snow at times heavy" it's a sign to batten down the hatches. To say nothing of storing up some water in case of power outages.
    It's all been great for creative time, however. I finished the POW vest, and it should arrive in Toronto tomorrow. I've fallen hard for the Yarn Harlot's "Cloisonee" mittens, and have made two pairs so far, one for Emily, also winging its way to TO, and one for Katie, whose birthday is next week. I am just finishing a hat to match, and I lined the brim with some lovely Belfast Mini Mills yarn in what I believe may be alpaca and angora. Katie likes her fibres soft, and that's what this is!
I'm trying out a pair of Cloisonee in Briggs & Little yarns, but it looks like they will be rather big and a bit scratchy too. They look gorgeous, though. Black and three bright colours.

I've been working with the blankets from MacAuslands to make some cushion covers. I discovered that my blanket stitch leaves a bit to be desired. Quite sloppy! I must practice. 
    In gardening news, I've been reading Anna Pavord, a great book called "The Curious Gardener", which is a month-by month guide to doing all sorts of things in the garden, as well as a selection of her gardening essays from her columns in the Independent. There are great stories of visits to gardens, including (curiously) two which appear in Monty Don's Around the World in 80 Gardens, which I have just finished watching. (I must say that I truly enjoyed the episode on the gardens of China the most, and his visit to the Yellow Mountains was a revelation. But the last two episodes, particularly the last one in Indochina, where Don was so disappointed that there were no gardens such as he likes or was searching for, was odd; and a rather inconclusive note with which to end the series) I shall keep my eye out for other books by Pavord. She is a great writer. As we don't live in England, a lot of her advice isn't seasonally appropriate for here, but it's very interesting, and welcome. I've planted seeds - cat grass! and some of Veseys Microgreens. They are already up and I must think of a use for some of them today. Speaking of Veseys, their Bulbs catalogure arrived this week, and I fell for the $50 off offer and ordered three hydrangeas and three bush cherries. I must look up the latter - developed in Saskatchewan,  so hardy and productive, but I want to know how to prune them. Can they be cordoned?

Also on the creativity front, I have been doing a bit of mosaic work as well - we bought a 24-inch round arborite-topped table at the Habitat for Humanity Re-store, for $10, and I have made a glass-marble design for the top of it. I started by painting the brown arborite white, so the dark wouldn't show through and spoil the colours of the glass, and then drew out the design on paper. Then I laid out the glass marbles on it. I used sticky-back shelf paper to pick up the design, and then plopped it down on the table, which I had spread with tile adhesive.
It wasn't as simple as all that, as some of the marbles shifted, but it was easily set to rights, and I think it was much easier than working marble - by - marble in the wet adhesive. It took a morning to lay out the marbles on the paper, but I think you'd have to do that anyway, and being able to pick them up with the shelf paper was like magic.  I bought dark grout to make the marbles seem stained-glass like, but I haven't decided what to do with the sides of the table yet - I like it as is, but I don't think the white paint over the arborite will stand up to the weather - the table is meant for the deck. I think I'll have to do the sides as well, and I must do that before I can grout. (It was so much fun that I had another look around the Re-store for more tables. None so far.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Settling in for Winter

Things are getting into gear for winter - activities are getting going again, the Christmas tree is taken down, and furniture is back in the accustomed places. We're settling in with the kitchen, and the whole upheaval of the fall has extended to all sorts of clearing out of unused corners. January is the official de-cluttering month in my house. It's far better than Resolutions,  without discouragements and with tangible benefits like more space and better organization.

      Today I decided to make Butter Chicken, a recipe from the new Canadian Living magazine that arrived last week.  Didn't start until noon, so I am doing it in a pot on the stove, and not in the slow cooker. I had everything needed except almond butter, but a quick Google revealed that making almond butter is a snap! I just toasted a cup of almonds, ground them in the food processor, and added a bit of olive oil. Taa Daa!  This made more than I needed for the recipe - about half a cup in all - so I have some left to use as a healthy spread and see how that works out.
     This past weekend our ballroom dance teachers organized a ball at the Legion - we didn't find out until yesterday that it was black tie! Fred tried on his tux but decided not to wear it! I discovered that, while I have adequate skirts and tops for dancing, they are not really formal, so I shall see what I can do to rectify this for the next time. (Guys have it so easy! A tux and they're all set!). Apparently there won't be another ball there for a while, as the Legion is a popular venue for fundraiser-dances, and is booked for the whole year from now. It's too bad, because it's a good dance floor. The fundraiser dances are usually with local bands, and feature jiving and waltzing almost exclusively, while the ballroom folks had arranged to try us out on everything - Foxtrot, Quickstep, Jive, 3/8 waltz, old-time waltz, salsa, samba, cha cha and rhumba. Our feet were SORE when we left!

     At the Pub on Sunday we had a great time - there were scads of musicians for the session, which was the first one since before Christmas - and quite a few dancers as well. We probably danced more than we've ever done. There were two visitors, both Scottish Country Dance teachers, but the rest - about 10 or 12 - were all our own. It was looking grim for a bit, but Gary and Helen arrived, making up the 8, and then we got several more as well. Good times - and yet more sore feet.
Still plugging away on the POW vest - almost finished the main knitting - after which comes the totally new and exciting cutting steeks and then knitting the neck- and armhole- ribbing, and sewing down the facings. And then blocking! I can't wait. I have a bunch of new ideas, including trying out double knitting.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!

Well, I'm at home full time again, as my employer is out of money to pay me. It's been a stressful three months, so I am going to enjoy whatever respite I manage to get before I'm forced to go out and find work! There's no gardening to do at this time of year - seed starting will commence in a month or so, I suppose - so I am going to concentrate on craft work and see what happens. My friend Paula has given me an idea and I'm going to give it a try. I've been exploring Etsy to see if that's where to set up a shop. It will involve getting a Paypal account, I'm sure. Paula thought that Emily might help out by letting me advertise on her site, because she gets a lot of hits per day. However I am not sure that is the place to get sales for what I'll be making. Who knows!

Christmas is over, and the cupboards were a big hit with everyone who saw them...we managed to get them oiled (one coat) and they are quite functional. Still trying to find things in them, but as we finish the insides (varnish is the best, Phillip says) we will make changes and sort it all out. And there's further exterior sanding and oiling to come.  I was quite pleased with the "spruce cone" LED lights I found at the local Christmas store, and they looked great at the top of the cupboards. I need another set for the cupboards on the other side of the sink. Must keep my eye peeled during the post-Christmas period.

Knitting activity has come down to the Prince of Wales Slipover, from Cheryl Oberle's Folk Vests book.  Jeremy chose the POW pattern as his fave from Alice Starmore's book, and then I found the vest pattern, so I thought I would try this first, before I go on to do sweaters. I've subbed gray shades for the greens, but otherwise it's the same as the book.
I am not keen on the harsh transition from the background colour to the Xs and Os stripe, but it's just like the POW sweater so I can't complain. It must be authentic, as it was designed in Fair Isle in the 1920's, and the portrait with the Prince of Wales in his apparently started a big fashion for the sweaters....not that it made the fortunes of the Fair Isle knitters, of course. I have started the steeks for the armholes, and will soon start the one for the V-neck. This is my first steeked project so I am excited.
While in Halifax before Christmas, I managed to get the pattern for the Murphy Fair Isle Cardigan - it is a Briggs & Little pattern, using their Sport yarn. I don't particularly care for their pattern or colours, but it gives me the stitch counts and sizes for using Sport - I checked before Christmas and I have about 16 colours of Sport, mostly in quite large amounts. POW must be finished first, however.