A Much Better Idea

Every year I invite Kate and Carlos to a Levee. A Levee is sort of a uniquely Canadian gathering or New Years open house.  It’s almost always done on the first of the year, and we’ve celebrated together in this way for a couple of years, and it’s been awesome, so a few weeks ago I called up Kate to invite her, and Katie said she had a much, much better idea. I listened to Katie’s idea, keeping in mind that she’s my husbands sister, and this means that she’s a little tiny bit of the crazy that runs in his family – and trying to remember that I’m a little tiny bit of the crazy that runs in mine.  Kate said, essentially – "Let’s leave.  It’s snowing, it’s terribly cold, the winter isn’t going to quit anytime soon, and …. let’s go."  Carlos was in the background yelling "Let’s go NOW" and so I took a deep breath, tried hard not to be me, who is the kind of person who really hates last minute plans and always finds fault with them, and turned the plan over to Joe and Katie. 

So it happens, dear ones, that I’m writing this to you from a patio near the sea in Cuba, where we’re making a different kind of snowman.  I’m a little bit sunburned, a lot tired, and I’m having the best ever time.  Joe, Sam, Kate, Carlos, Lou and I wish you all the best from here.  More tomorrow.  I’ll tell you all about it.

Happy New Year.

Somewhere Under the Wrapping Paper

Hello dear ones, and how is your holiday so far? We’re here, buried in a happy mess of our own making, up to our armpits in food and drink, and I don’t know how it happened, but there’s little pieces of tape stuck to everything.  The holiday is very nice so far, with snow, and candles and music and no end of good things, and after a knitting  marathon of epic proportions, I have only a single sock to finish. (I made it on everything else, if you call Joe poking me awake 47 times on Christmas eve to keep knitting "making it" which I totally do.)  In these parts, the holiday goes on for days and days, so there’s still a lot to be done, but here’s some snapshots of our best moments so far.

Old Joe, relishing his grampa years, reading Santa mouse, the Night Before Christmas and How The Grinch Stole Christmas to a thrilled audience, young and older alike. (Santa mouse is a crowd pleaser in these parts.)

A beautiful Christmas dinner…

A relaxed dog, who looked like we all felt.

The surprise "big win" of the year, with Ken delivering matching tiger onesies for all the cousins.  (They could only have been more delightful with "trap doors")

A walk in the woods by the pond. 

and everything almost the way it should be.

It’s taken me 45 years to learn that "almost" is as good as it gets, and I’ll happily take it.
Tomorrow, some of the knits, eh? They’re not a secret anymore. 

Christmas Eve

Thanks everyone, for the hopes and wishes that our family fared well in the storm. We did indeed, coming off extremely lucky compared to neighbours who lost trees, or had extensive damage, or are still out of power. We’re fine. The storm, was, like so many things the world offers, as beautiful as it was crushing.

It reminded me of how often events in our lives are two things. Hard, and lovely.

Powerful, but compelling.

Fragile, but strong.

My world is still sparkling, encased in ice, and glitters wherever the light finds it.

Today is a wild day, as we catch up, wrap gifts, get ready to celebrate together, and hunker down into a proper winter, deep, dark and gleaming.

Happy Christmas to you and yours if you celebrate it, Happy Holiday to those of you who don’t, and our best thoughts and wishes from this family to yours.


I went to the mall

Oh, the humanity. Somehow I thought that if I went to the mall on the day of an ice storm – on a workday, it might not be busy there.  This was, I reasoned, the best possible day to go. I would go, it would be fast, I could go to the five stores I needed really quickly, and I would be out. 

Listen carefully.  I was wrong. So wrong. I was so wrong you should never ever listen to me and my reasoning again if it matters to you how things turn out at all.  There were a million people there. They were all buying what I was buying and there were queues that snaked through the place like some monstrous boa, coiled around the men’s underpants display as though it were sated on my hopes and dreams.  I saw one lady crying. She was just walking though the mall crying and you know what? I get it.  I was crying on the inside.  I am not going back there for a year, you hear me? I’m not doing it. Even Santa’s elves looked like they were right on the edge of a rampage, and the whole place had the feeling of a powder keg.  I’m probably lucky I got out before it blew. 

I left without getting one thing, but I couldn’t take it anymore.  There’s no way I needed that thing more than I needed to get out of there.

I’m going to knit now.

PS: Check out this gift for knitters.  Cool, eh? There’s a few sizes and colours, and thanks to go Julia C. for finding it.  Good eye.  I tell you, they didn’t have that at the mall. 

Randomly on a Day Close to Christmas

 1. Yesterday wasn’t a good day, if we’re defining good as "things were accomplished that are appropriate to the time of year and the normal march of time."

2. Despite drinking enough coffee that I could totally feel my hair growing, and once I think I stopped blinking for a while, I got almost nothing done.

3. I spent hours ripping up the house looking for a vital piece of paper that I didn’t find.

4. Then I spent hours putting the house back together, which is sort of the opposite of cleaning for the holidays.

5. Whenever I can’t find something like that I always think I threw it out, even though I would never throw out something like that.

6. Solstice is this weekend, and at the last minute I remembered to make the ice lanterns, but after I filled the molds there was no room in the freezer and I had no idea what to do until I remembered that this is Canada, and the whole country is a freezer at present.

Problem solved.

7. I almost forgot to make the peppermint bark before tomorrow, also – what is up with candy canes having green on them, or coming in strange colours or flavours like egg nog or french vanilla or gingerbread.  I almost bought cherry by accident for crying out loud. Is it too much to ask to rein in a simple thing like candy canes?  I want red and white only, and they should be peppermint.  Is this a world gone mad?

8. I knit almost nothing yesterday.  Two inches on a sock and a half a sweater front.

9. That kind of progress is serious problem, especially since I have two appointments today that are really, really going to screw with me.

10. I have wrapped nothing and I don’t know what’s going to happen with that.

11. I am starting to freak out a little bit.

12. Please don’t make me go to the mall.

Seven Days

Seven days to go, and today is the first day I felt a wave of the tiniest bit of panic sweep over me.  I’ve had a couple of curve balls come my way (nothing bad, just the planets way of making raising the high bar I’m trying to leap by a couple of centimetres, but this weeks chores have turned into more of a panicked run than the persistent quick walk that I was sticking with. Still, nothing is on fire – so I’m trying to keep my head.  (I came perilously close to a freakout when Joe announced last night that he’s working 10am -10pm for the next three days, but miraculously, I neither divorced nor killed him, but somehow managed to find something in my house that was simultaneous gratitude that I’m married to a hard worker, and absolutely nothing short of nauseating horror that I’m going to have to do all the shopping. I’ve decided not to make eye contact with the problem just yet.

The table of knitting to do looked like this yesterday:

And today there’s big changes.

The scarf is back, blocking complete, and the little red sweater now has not just a back, but a left front as well.  The little cream sweater got the buttons sewn on, and there’s another few inches on one of the men’s socks.  The baby hat made no progress, the nearly finished pair of socks are still nearly finished, but behold! The slippers are all sewn together and felted, and they just need buttons and a little bit of sewing. An hours work, no more.
Not only that, but Sam and I finished the gingerbread, a leviathan task around here.

There’s nothing in the kitchen that doesn’t have icing on it, but I’m overlooking that – well, that and about a million other things, but the time for careful consideration is past.  It’s just me now, sprinting through random Christmas tasks with icing in my hair and tape stuck to my shirt right over my right nipple. (Didn’t notice that one until I got home. Blast it.)

Gifts for Knitters? I have no idea today.  Get them a bottle of wine.  When this is over they’re going to need it.

Like the Wind

Status update? Not too shabby.  Last night, I knit like the wind and Sam, clever girl that she is, baked the first batch of Gingerbread.  The price exacted for doing this chore was that Sam got to do it her way, and so this year we’ll have our traditional trees and snowflakes and stars and moose, with the addition of foxes, hedgehogs, snails, pterodactyls and T-rexes. (The extensive cookie cutter collection is in full use.)

While she created a plethora of festive cookies (it turns out the hedgehogs are pretty festive) I knit and knit.  So, yesterday I was here:

and today I am here:

A few changes.  The scarf is gone, because it’s blocking – which is a tiny step forward, but is still forward indeed.  One of the pairs of socks is gone, because they’re in my purse to be travel knitting.  I only got an inch done on them yesterday, but still, that’s not too bad, considering that this time of year it’s too cold to knit while you’re walking. The buttons for the little sweater aren’t on, but they are in my pocket. (I know that’s a seems like a small step forward, but it took me 20 minutes to choose them.) No progress on the red sweater or the nearly finished men’s socks, and that baby hat haunts me in my sleep, but see the pile of knitted kindling in the back?

Whammo! All the pieces for two pairs of French Press Slippers. I forgot how truly quick they are, and I don’t just mean quick for me – quick for anybody.  I started when we got back from an errand downtown in the early evening, and by bedtime I was all done both pairs, except for the seaming, and that won’t take more than an hour.  (They don’t have to be sewn up nicely. They’re going to be felted.)  One evening, two presents. It was like watching a knitting hurricane happen.  They went so fast that I while I was knitting them I was thinking crazy things like "I should make more pairs, everyone could have slippers. How much more time could it take?"   Then I realized I was having the some kind of  quick present induced knitting stroke and put down the needles.  Near miss, that one.  It’s intoxicating to have it go so fast. 
Today I seam (and put icing on hedgehogs) tomorrow, I felt!

Gifts for Knitters:

If your knitter is forever spreading out wet knitting on the carpet or your bed, and you’ve got a million pin holes in your mattress, this idea might work for you.  For the precise knitter, who likes to have all the right things, a blocking mat with a grid on it might be just the ticket. If your knitter is a little more guerilla, or if they like to make big things, then you might want to stop by a store that sells flooring, and pick up a couple of packages of those foam tiles that are for kids to play on. They’re easy to stick pins in, easy to clean, don’t get soggy wet and can be interlocked into whatever shape your knitter’s knitted thing is.  Long scarf? Sweater? Triangular shawl? They can be rearranged to suit whatever, and when you’re not using them, they stack and store easily.  Get a couple of packs and while you’re at it, buy some pins for their stocking. Knitters who block things always need more pins.  (Get rustproof ones, and they should have the little balls on the top.  Makes it easier for us to find them before you step on them.)

Maybe Behinder

On Saturday morning I woke up and decided that this was the weekend to "get it together".
This decision by itself did very little to fix things around here, but I got out my Christmas spreadsheet and made a very large pot of coffee, and I took stock of the way things are around here, and tried to do some realistic thinking about where I’m at with this thing.

Joe and I have a completely unrealistic goal of being finished with the shopping by Wednesday – a goal that seemed totally doable when we set it last Wednesday, but I’m starting to understand that one of us needs to commit to going to a store to make it happen, and neither of us have quite faced up to that. There’s a cleaning schedule in place, one that should have the house spotless and shining by the 20th. Alarms set to remind me to wrap gifts for 15 minutes here and there, and I planned out when I’ll bake what. (The baking thing is getting reined in this year. We didn’t eat or give away all of it last year, so even though it’s a lot of fun to do it,  it’s time to check the volume. Sam and I have agreed that even if nobody eats them, we aren’t ready to give up gingerbread moose.) I even got the pickled beets done, and three jars of lemon curd, and ran them through the canner. 

There’s only a little more to do there for the "food gifts" (Peppermint bark, I’m looking at you) but after a weekend of applying myself to the thing, I feel like it’s all possible, possible as long as I don’t think about the knitting.   On November 28th I showed you this. 

That was the pile of yarn looking to become gifts, and today it looks like this.

That’s a considerable improvement, and I’m not just talking about the tree being up.  The scarf? Finished, but for the blocking. Of the two pairs of men’s socks I hadn’t even started yet, one pair is DONE and the other pair is 1/4 of the way there. (Note to self: PANIC ABOUT THAT.) The little cream and white baby sweater and hat? The hat’s halfway done, and the sweater is totally finished, but for two wee buttons that need sewing on. (Note to self: FIND BUTTONS.) The two pairs of slippers that I hadn’t even got the yarn for? I got it, and it’s wound, but no magic elves have turned up to fix that little problem.  (Note to self: SLIPPERS TAKE A LONG TIME TO DRY.) There’s a little red sweater in there, and the back is done, but a back alone doesn’t make a sweater – and there’s still a pair of men’s socks unfinished.  So, taking stock?

1. Finish red sweater. Two fronts, two sleeves and a collar.
2. Finish blue and white baby set. Sew on buttons, complete the hat. (Remember it has six hours of duplicate stitch.)
3. Finish the socks that are only 1/4 of the way there.
4. Finish the socks that have only 1/4 of the way to go.
5. Knit two pairs of French Press Slippers and felt them.

Doable? No way to tell, but I can tell you this: I could really use some elves who want to make gingerbread and scrub the bathtub while I knit… and that brings me to:

Gifts for knitters: Some Sort of Time Machine.

You’ve probably noticed that your knitter likes to knit. You might even have noticed that they like it a lot better than all of the other stuff they’re supposed to be doing (see above re: bathtub scrubbing.)  I could be projecting here (but I am pretty sure I’m not) when I say there’s nothing your knitter wants more than a few more hours in a day to knit – and I know what you’re thinking. "Hey Crazy Lady who watches too much Dr Who, there’s no such thing as a time machine", but you’d be wrong.  You can be the time machine for your knitter.  An awesome gift, as we come down to the wire, or you run out of money, is your time, given freely to your knitter.  A written commitment to doing some of the things that your knitter likes less than knitting to give them time to knit is an amazing gift.  A little note that says "I will be YOU for six hours" or "This coupon entitles the bearer to four undisturbed hours of knitting while I do chores they hate" or "This magic note can exchange 1 hour of cleaning for 1 hour of knitting" is going to be make you a rock star of gift giving.  Don’t forget to use your best handwriting, and wrap it. 

Not Finished

In an impressive and entirely predictable turn of events, the planned post about finishing isn’t finished, mostly because the finishing isn’t.  There’s a little thing I’m making for Christmas.  The thing is little, but the amount of work isn’t, and the first wave of all the pieces is done, and now there’s just the finishing.  It’s a fussy little Norwegian baby sweater, and just the sort of thing I like, although you wouldn’t have known that from the impressive wave of regret I experienced yesterday when I realized that although I’m done, I’m far, far, far from done. 

That there is the tiny little pieces.  A sweater body, and wee sleeves, and if you look you can see that not only isn’t it sewn together, but that the sleeves, body and hems look funny, and that’s because every single one of them needs for me to sit down and sew the snot out of them.  I started yesterday and just about came undone.  Sewing up one little sleeve hem took about 30 minutes. It’s all so tiny and so particular, and like I said, I’m usually all over that kind of particular. It’s less fun on a deadline – and really, I’m not ready to talk about the duplicate stitch. 

There’s a pattern on the front in the picture, and I swear that I thought it was intarsia. When I got to the place in the pattern where I was confident the colourwork should start, it didn’t. There were no instructions for it, and I sat there looking at the pattern, trying to figure out what that meant.  Skip to the end of the pattern, and there is is. The entire front design is duplicate stitched on, and that, my friends, was a plot twist I didn’t see coming. That lands the finishing on this sweater that I thought was going to be finished a long way off, and we haven’t even talked about the neckband. Or the button plackets, or oh, man – the bodice tuck. (That’s right, there’s a bodice tuck.) 
All I need is one good Christmas movie and I think I can have the bulk of it done, but it means that there’s a few more hours in this than I thought there were, and that throws off the socks and… now it really feels like Christmas. The pile of yarn I showed you two weeks ago is being slowly converted to knitting, but maybe not fast enough, and the only thing keeping me relaxed and easy going is that I refuse to face the music.   Denial is a powerful tool, and I’m using it.

Ready for a few more gifts for knitters? Go!

Needle cases: Needle storage can be a big problem for knitters, and there’s lots of good solutions your knitter might love.  If you see knitting needles strewn around your house like kindling or the occasional dpn is found wandering your home or drifting through your knitters bags, then one of these might be the ticket. Della Q has several beautiful ones, and I especially like the look of this travel wallet, but their circular organizer is pretty fly too.  This from Crafter’s Tool Butler from  Jordana Paige is awesome, but it’s hard to go wrong with anything from them.  Lantern Moon makes pretty needle rolls, and dig Namaste’s Double Wide Circular case. (Trust me, faithful non-knitter. That’s a sweet ride.)

Of course, knitters (being makers themselves) like handmade things too, so maybe something from another maker would turn their head?  How about a beautiful handmade needle case? This  DPN needle case is so beautiful (and it’s organic linen and has a vintage button) this one has glasses on it, this one zips up, this one has skulls, and this one has little birdies. Like project bags, there’s a million choices.

If you’re looking for more of a stocking stuffer, something like this Clover Knitting Needle Tube Case would come in handy if your knitter uses DPNs. (Those are the short needles with points on both ends.)  

Books for knitters: These are some of my favourites, and if your knitter doesn’t have them on his shelf, I know they would be useful.  These are the "Joy of Cooking" for knitters.  Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book,  The Principles of Knitting,  Finishing School: A Master Class for KnittersReader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Principles and Techniques of Handkni
.  If your knitter likes to read this website, then may I humbly suggest  Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot’s Bag of Knitting Tricks?  It’s the only useful book I’ve ever written, and it’s got some handy stuff in it, I swear.  If your knitter already has those? This new book is getting rave reviews.  Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting.

Books knitters would like kids to have:
 Let me tell you what knitters would love. A world where knitting is seen as normal, and the path to that starts with the young.  These books are wonderful introductions for knitting families. Yetsa’s Sweater (a wonderful story about Cowichan sweaters)  WoolburKnitting Nell,   Extra YarnAmos’s Sweater (that one is a favourite in our family.) For something festive, consider  Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn.

Hey, Does that wall have writing on it?

This afternoon, as I sat down to write to you about finishing (the sweater kind, not the getting anything done kind) I looked around me at my home and something snapped.

When I finally got home on Tuesday – late in the afternoon, I threw my suitcase inside the door, grabbed Sam and left, and we went downtown to meet up with the rest of the family so that we could go to the new aquarium.   Ken thought the thing up for us all and if you’d have told me we were going to like it as much as we did… well. I think that we had all sort of agreed to go along with Ken’s plan because he’s so nice and that’s really generous and we love him and want him to be happy. 

It turns out that Ken’s a genius, and of course it was brilliant and we had a ridiculously good time and it was super unbelievably fun. The girls all loved it, and it was a fantastic way to spend some time together as a family.

I don’t know why we doubted him for a minute. I think maybe the girls thought they were too old for a field trip like that, but er… look at those faces.

This is Sam touching a fish.

This is Sam finding out that the fish she’s touching is a shark.

Here I’d spent the whole day, in the airport, on the plane, in the cab on the way home thinking that all I wanted to do was pour a glass of wine the size of my head and drink it in bed while I got my knit on, and I even lied to Ken when he said "I’m sure this is the last thing in the world you want to do right now" and I said "No, no.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world." I’m so glad I went.

I LOVE family outings, and I’m never happier than when all three of my girls are in one room and I would have hated that they had fun without me.  Ken’s so clever.

It was a wonderful time, and then we had dinner downtown and I made everyone take a family selfie at the bottom of the CN Tower (they love me. It was about -20 and I’ve got everyone on the stairs outside yelling "SMILE! IT’S A FAMILY SELFIE"

(I’d like to point out that they are smiling, and I don’t think they were just humouring me, but they would lie and say they were – and also, this family selfie is much better than the first one, in which only my forehead and part of Meg’s face appear – but I did get the sawfish in that one.)

It was very good fun, and then yesterday I worked on finishing (again, the sweater kind, not the getting anything done kind) and then last night I had an evening out planned with our Bike Rally Team (yeah. I think we’re a little attached) and then tonight I’m reprising my role as "Joe’s Wife" for the studio holiday party and I’m really, really trying to find my lipstick – but after all this, being out of town and working and then all this other stuff?

My house looks like it was broken into by a marauding squad of macaques. No – let me be clearer than that.  My house looks like someone had a party, put up a tree, left everything to do with all that lying around, then forgot about recycling day, cooked several meals while thinking about the disaster, then shopped for Christmas stuff and left that out while bringing the wrapping stuff upstairs without actually wrapping anything, left a suitcase in the living room, dried their hair, then brought in a weeks worth of mail, studied for a test, put a layer of skeins of yarn and knitting projects over the whole thing and then brought in drunken macaques to "clean up." That’s what it looks like, and it was only when I sat down to blog I could see it all – and so now I’m totally going to have to clean it up, and that’s why there’s not a blog post about finishing. (The knitting kind.)

I’ll see you tomorrow, after I dig my way out of this.  Maybe I should just sell the house?