Getting there, or somewhere

Things I did today:

1. I got my hair cut and coloured. I’ve been trying hard to embrace the grey, but it’s not coming in fiercely enough yet to justify its existence. Out it went.

2. I asked the hairdresser to make sure that she didn’t cut my hair so short that I couldn’t push it behind my ears, because even though that’s not flattering, I don’t think I can stop.

3. I figured out my coffee plan for the book tour. There are a thousand indignities that I can suffer in the name of the profession I’ve willingly chosen, but bad coffee? That ain’t one of them. My solution is a hand crank grinder, an aeropress, and a mug from the cupboard. Something that looks like home.

4. I went to the glasses place and spoke to them at length about the way my new glasses touch the back of my ears and hurt me. Except this is the third time, and I could tell that while they were super nice, they’re starting to think I’m super crazy.

5. I started reserving underpants that I want to pack for the tour.

6. I knit, although that’s starting to be pretty funny. I’m still working on the Adrian out of the Habu linen. It’s hysterical to me that I was going to finish this, and another vest, and two scarves before I left. Clearly, I was projecting a vision of success that can’t happen.

7. I realized that this has wardrobe implications for how I thought I would look on the tour.

8. I went to the post office and mailed a few friends a copy of the new book. If I cared about promotion properly, I would have done this sooner. I seem to be in a perpetual battle between my self esteem and what I think manners are. For the record, I think self esteem is losing.

9. I continued on my dishcloth plan. For 9 years, you guys have been giving me dishcloths at all my book tour stops. Ones with your state on them, ones with your province on them, ones with your favourite team or your favourite cause. I have been saving them all, with a plan in mind. You’re going to love what I do with them – except I’m crazy if I think I’m finishing by Monday.


10. I planned a menu for tomorrow night, when my loved ones will gather to fete the book. It’s exciting. Despite my fears, worries and straight up crazy stuff around the book, it’s still amazing to have written another. A book is a big deal. I’m looking forward to celebrating with my family. There’s something funny about hanging your heart out there and seeing what people think. I can at least start that amongst my beloved. At the very least they’ll lie to send me out confident.

11. I wish I knit faster – or with my mind.


I’m a little stressed out this week. No biggie, just the regular stuff that all authors obsess about to the point of illness think about in the days before a new book becomes real. We all oh, man. I hope it’s not just me spend those weeks days tossing around really big issues little questions like all the bookstores around here are closing I think that can’t be good where’s the industry going? We spend some time freaking out and wondering if the book will get reviewed and if that’s okay or not considering the significance of having a body of work come into the world and be read. We think about what might come next for us, a job at McDonalds if I haven’t done a good enough job, that’s what and keeping things in perspective.

We rest up if we can, what with the way everyone is about to hate the book we wrote and we start getting our notes together for the interviews we’ll give I have to go on tv and I’m pretty sure I’m going to say seventeen stupid things consider the relationships we have with our publishers not that it matters, now that it’s all over and start thinking about what we’ll say at the readings we’ll give. Nobody’s coming, but it’s nice to read for the bookstore staff.

Then we all do something I think knitting or heroin are the two choices that takes the edge off. It’s a terrifying special time.

Randomly on a Monday

1. My laptop bricked on Friday – if we understand that I am here using the word “bricked” as in “the laptop became a brick.” Which is to say that it has decided to fulfil its ultimate goal of being a really, really expensive paperweight. It was backed up, so I’m not really that upset (except about what it might cost to fix it, but until I hear back from the laptop fixers, I’m just breathing through my nose when I think about it) but not having it is proving tricky. I’m trying to live a life through an ipad, so we’ll see if I can get this entry off the ground. Forgive any oddities, will you?

2. I finished Lou’s sweater, and I’ll drop it off to him later and see if he’ll participate in a photo shoot. The other day it took Katie and I 10 minutes and every trick in the book to get him to put on a sweater Kelly knit, and the pictures are still blurry because he was moving so fast, and his arm is only in one of the sleeves for half of the shots. This does not bode well. (To be clear, he loves sweaters, but can tell when you want him to put one on and the fact that he’s two now can’t be beat.)


3. In 1989 I bought a card of old buttons at Fabricland. They were 50% off because one of the three buttons was missing. Today I sewed them to Lou’s sweater. Don’t let people tell you your stash doesn’t pay off.


4. Holy cow is it hard to figure out how to do this on an iPad.

5. I started that vesty thing with my Habu Linen.

6. I love it.

7. Today Sam and I are taking the day (or as much of it as I think I can take) to go shopping for clothes. The tour starts in a week (Hey – look over in the sidebar! I have a tour page back again, and it’s working and easy to update! I’ll be adding things that are coming up over the next few days) as always, it is coming down to pants. Well, pants and a shirt – or maybe two shirts, and when I’m in the store by myself I can’t find anything. Sam says that I just don’t know what I look good in, because I can’t see myself properly, and I’m too hard on myself, and so she’s coming along to suggest things I might not normally consider.

8. I’ve promised to be actually consider some of the things.

9. I’m still never going to put on skinny jeans.

It was bound to happen

Have I ever told you guys about my sister-in-law Kelly?  I know I wrote about her here, and another time here, but all you need to know for this story is that she and I have a lot in common. We agree on parenting, on food, on families, on how you should hold a baby if you want them to go to sleep, and what you say to a two year old if you want them to put on shoes. We agree on making things cozy and on teenagers and doctors and how many candles you light at dinner.  Kelly and I took care of Lou and Katie when they had their rough start, and she and I she and I together are pretty much responsible for the wave of handknits that washes ashore and crashes over all the little ones in our family.  (My niece Savannah is starting to be rather prolific too.) Kelly lives in Madagascar – but it turns out that you can take a knitter out of Canada, but you can’t take the Canadian out of the knitter, because there she sits on an island in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Africa, and she’s pounding out woollies all year long in the 40 degree heat. (That’s Celsius. Smoking hot.)   Her bi or tri-annual visits home bring all sorts of warm things with her.  Lou usually gets a sweater or two – and Kelly is home  right now (why you’d come home this time of year is past my reasoning, and likely Kelly’s right this minute) so wee Lou is sporting a new sweater fresh off her needles.

littlelousweater 2014-02-21

(I know the pattern is Tama – you’ll need Kelly to chime in to find out the yarn.)

Last night, I was knitting away, working on the Lancelot for Lou – and I was plowing along at a pretty good clip, and my mobile phone chimed with a text.  I picked it up and looked, and it was a picture, and the picture looked like this:

kellylousweater 2014-02-21

My first reaction was one of confusion. How was someone texting me pictures of my own knitting – and even more confusing, why were they texting me pictures of my knitting from the future, because in the picture, my knitting had all the raglan decreases done, and I only had a few of them finished. I glanced down at my own knitting. Had I left it somewhere? (In the last 30 seconds) or had someone broken in, stolen my knitting and was now sending me pictures of it? Have you seen that movie where the babysitter gets phone calls all night from a killer, and then the cops trace the call and he’s in the house? Was this a knitting version of that?

My knitting was still on my lap, and my knitting looked like this:

mylousblue 2014-02-21


I stared at it, trying to figure out what was going on, and then another text came in, and it said “Bound to happen.”  That’s when I glanced at the name.


Kelly had been sitting there, knitting away on her Lancelot for Lou, and had decided to read this blog while she was doing it.  Apparently she did the same double check from hands to screen, and then burst out laughing. Same sweater, same colour, same Auntie plan. Great minds think alike.

This sweater must really be perfect for Lou.

I’m not normally as balanced

Sometimes, when I sit down for a nice knit-a-thon, I feel guilty.  I like knitting more than almost anything else I could do in a day, and left to my own devices, with no responsibilities or work, that’s pretty much how I’d choose to spend it.  I know I might be a little unique here, but I think my guilt is a useful emotion.  On some level,  I’m grateful for  it.  After I’ve been knitting for a while, this voice in my head will start whispering about a balanced life, and work, and laundry and it will say things like “Knitting doesn’t answer emails” and “knitting isn’t exactly the kind of exercise you could call cardio” and “you can’t eat knitting for dinner.”  Eventually it’s the creeping pangs of consciousness that can get me to get up and do something other than knit.

lousblueyarn 2014-02-20Don’t get me wrong, I think knitting is totally productive, and that it’s doing a lot of really great things for me, like helping protect my brain as I age, keeping my hands and mind nimble, and probably helping to make sure I don’t wind up in prison with a room-mate nicknamed Biter – but as much as I think it’s valuable and I should be doing it every day – rather a lot,  it’s not a ton of fun to knit while you beat yourself up for the other stuff. I love knitting too much to let it get screwed up by my feelings about being the sort of person who has an trashed bathroom.  This system works pretty well for me. Well enough that I’m at the armholes for Lou’s sweater, and the kitchen is clean enough that I don’t have to worry about spores of any kind.

lousblueyarnbody 2014-02-20

Pattern: Lancelot, Yarn: Klickitat Hand-Dyed wool from the Artful Ewe.

Now. I’m going to go scrape whatever the hell that is out of the bottom of the fridge – and then I’ll start a sleeve.  Got a favourite way to make knitting time?

PS. Thanks so much for the warm words about the book and the tour.  I too think a perpetual book tour that took me every single place each one of you lives would be a gas.

PPS. The astute among you will note that I said the kitchen was clean, then said I was going to clean something revolting out of the fridge, which would sort of mean that the kitchen wasn’t clean, but that’s not how it works here. Here, for the kitchen to be clean, it just has to look clean. There’s no frakking way I’m ever buying one of those fridges with a clear door. 

Three Things

1. I haven’t started Lou’s sweater. I bought yarn for it at Madrona, which turns out to have been stupid (except for the part where it’s ridiculously nice yarn) because I had so much on the go at Madrona that I ended up not starting it anyway.  That meant that when I got home I had the yarn that I was originally going to make him a sweater with – the yarn I forgot, but then I didn’t like it anymore because I’d bought new better yarn.  I was going to use the old yarn because using the new yarn made me feel disloyal, but then I remembered the name of this blog and stopped worrying.

Somewhere in there Joe noticed I was agonizing over the thing and reminded me that he’d bought Lou a very nice present while I was away, and suggested I let myself off the hook, and I almost did too. Normally I wouldn’t consider it, but I something happened at Madrona (See #2) and I thought I had better things to knit. Today I’ve reconsidered and I’m going to cast on shortly and bash this thing out.  He’s a little guy, it’s nice yarn and I like knitting a lot.   It will be done in three minutes.

2. In about two weeks (See #3) my new book comes out, and I am leaving on a book tour.  I have a love/hate relationship with book tours. I really, really love meeting you all, and I really love that I’ve got a publisher who supports my work that way, and really, really glad to have a job that I love as much as I love this one.  The hate part is just about the pressure of the travel (a plane every day) and how hard it is for me to look nice for a crowd every day.  I own one bra and two pairs of winter shoes (if you don’t count winter boots, and I don’t, because they’re about frostbite, not fashion) and hardly any clothes and coming up with 12 outfits that all fit into one suitcase and still let me carry as much yarn as I really need to is something I worry about at night.  I should really just buy what I need, but I hate everything in the shops and I hate shopping and so…. here I am, standing in the marketplace at Madrona, and I’ve pretty much decided to buy nothing – on account of I have to go shopping for clothes so I won’t be wearing jeans with a hole and a ratty old tee shirt that says “Newfie girls kick arse” on it at every stop I make on the tour…. when all of a sudden I have this amazing idea.  I’m standing at the Habu booth, and I realized that I didn’t have to buy clothes.  I could MAKE clothes.  I’d knit them all.  Win – win.  I get clothes, I get to knit, I don’t have to go shopping – the second that crossed my mind I was done. I did a rather extraordinary (for me) amount of damage – and apparently what I’m wearing on this tour is an Asymmetric Vest, a funky scarf out of merino and copper (or maybe merino and stainless steel – I got them BOTH.)  A linen version of Adrian (trust me, it’s cool – way cooler than it looks in those pictures) and three pairs of stripy socks – all of which I momentarily believed I could knit in two weeks. Apparently the part of me that wants to buy yarn is willing to rationalize whatever it has to, and apparently that part of me also doesn’t care if I have pants.

3. The book. Below please find listed the cities and dates that the publisher has chosen for me. The tour starts in the west, and then I work my way home.  I hope you’ll be able to come – and I hope that if you decided to buy the book, that you buy it from a bookstore if you can.  This book is a little different from the others I’ve written. I started this book a few years ago (books take a long time) when my Uncle Tupp was still well.  I was casting about for what  I might write next and Tupp was holding one of my previous titles.  He looked at it, and then he looked at me and said “You know Steph, I’m sure you’re a good writer. I just wish you had a book where I got all the jokes – so I could tell.”

That moment, this book was born, and it’s sad for me that Tupp didn’t live to see it.   For the first time, my mum will read the whole book without asking what intarsia is, and why it’s funny. (Try explaining that almost nothing about intarsia is funny unless it’s happening to someone else. Otherwise it’s deadly serious.) My brother might actually read it instead of telling me he’s read it to protect my feelings. (I think that’s very sweet by the way, and have resisted the urge to quiz him so I don’t blow his cover for either of us.) The new book is called The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes: Stories of Tidiness, Self-Esteem and Other Things I gave Up On…and It’s a book for everyone – with stories about the dentist and cleaning and parenting and this unbelievable skunk who was under my porch and … I can’t say there’s no knitting, because the word is in there really quite an abnormal amount (I can’t stop being someone who tries to normalize the presence of knitting and knitters) but this book is approachable for knitters and the non-knitting alike, and I’m so proud and happy about it, and I can’t wait. (Sort of. Part of me wants to wait for another year.)  This is a book you can give your sister – or your dad, or your friend who doesn’t knit who has never understood why you thought I was even a little funny.  Up until now, I’ve written about people who were knitters – and all knitters are people, but not all people are knitters (yet) and this is just a little something to dip my toes in another area of the bookstore. This book won’t be in the knitting section, it will go into humour, next to David Sedaris and Erma Bombeck and … I’m a little scared I think.  It’s not hard to write a really funny book in the knitting section.  The cable charts and hat patterns I’ve been competing with aren’t exactly written to be hilarious – but this little step out into the big world?

It makes me glad I think the next one will be about knitting. Please join me if you can, and you know.  Bring your sister. She’ll get all the jokes.

Tuesday, March 4 – Portland
7:00 p.m.
Powell’s at Cedar Hills Crossing 

Wednesday, March 5 – Seattle
7:00 p.m.
Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE

Thursday, March 6 – San Francisco
7:00 p.m.
Books Inc., Opera Plaza
601 Van Ness, San Francisco, CA  94102

Saturday, March 8 – Tempe
7:00 p.m.
Changing Hands
6428 S. McClintock Dr. Tempe, AZ 85283

Monday, March 10 – Denver
7:30 p.m.
Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch
9315 Dorchester Street, Highlands Ranch, CO 80129

Tuesday, March 11 – St. Louis
7:00 p.m.
Left Bank Books
321 North Tenth Street, St. Louis, MO  63101

Wednesday, March 12 – Boston
7:00 p.m.
Brookline Booksmith
279 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

Friday, March 14 – Baltimore (Owings Mills)
7:00 p.m.
Barnes and Noble, 1819 Reisterstown Road. Baltimore, MD 21208

Saturday, March 15 – Philadelphia (Exton)
3:00 p.m.
Barnes and Noble, 301 Main Street, Exton, PA 19341

I Can Come Back From This

Yesterday I packed for Madrona really carefully.  Suzanne, the great lady who organizes the thing is one of my favourite people, and I’d pretty much give her anything, so when she asked what classes I wanted to teach I said “Whatever you want” and so she picked one of each and I should have thought about what that does to your luggage.  I have everything I need for four different classes, and last night when I was done assembling it all, I had to snuggle my underpants amongst the silk cocoons to make it all fit.

I have two suitcases, and they’re mostly full of class supplies, so I was packing light with personal stuff.  Nothing I didn’t need, nothing I wouldn’t use, you know the drill.  The whole time I was wildly worried that I was forgetting something.  Not something dumb or small, but something big and important and vital.  I went over my checklist about fourteen times.  I went to bed feeling worried.  I lay there in the dark going over scenarios.

Had I forgotten some class supply? I went through the list again in my head, imagining me walking though my day teaching.  Nope.

I went through my clothes and personal stuff in my mind. Underpants? Socks? Did I have shirts? Was I leaving for Seattle with no shirts? I had it all.

Was it an electronic thing? I have my laptop, my laptop charger, my phone, phone charger, iPad, iPad charger…assorted connectors to hook me up to projectors and …. I am a walking Apple Store.  There’s no way I’m missing that stuff.

I started turning the Teacher Talent Show for charity over in my mind then.  I’m responsible for it again this year, and that means I need some really weird stuff to be ready.  The rule is that what happens at the Teacher Talent Show stays at the Teacher Talent Show – there’s a media ban, so that the teachers can show you what they can do without living in fear of a youtube video that will be the sort of thing they wince about forever, and frankly, you wouldn’t believe what some of these people are able to do, outside of knitting, and well, I was pretty sure I’d worked that list too.  It wasn’t that.

It wasn’t anything, I decided, although I had a nagging terrible feeling that some huge, lurking thing was right there. Something important that I was supposed to be remembering – like an anniversary or an appointment you’ve been waiting a year for,  but try as I might, I couldn’t think of a responsibility or an item that I was supposed to do and hadn’t.  I chalked it up to generally being an anxious person who worries too much, and I went to sleep.

I didn’t feel better this morning.  If anything, I felt worse.  I went through all of my things again before I left for the airport but the little voice in the back of my mind screaming “You’re really screwing something up right now” just wouldn’t shut up. I drank coffee and surveyed my luggage – knowing it was true, and just hoped that the moment that I figured out what it was wouldn’t be too public, or something I couldn’t solve.  I got on the plane, and on the way to Vancouver I started to fall asleep, and as I did, I remembered that it was a friend’s birthday and I meant to bring them a present and for one second I thought that I had figured it out. I thought that I had forgotten her gift and that was it and then I remembered I had brought it, and the funk settled in again.    It would have been so awesome if that was it, I thought. I could have mailed her the present and this feeling would go away and it wouldn’t have happened in front of knitters and then… it hit me.

Present.  Monday is Samantha’s 20th birthday, and it is also Lou’s 2nd birthday, and while I’ve got Sam sorted, and I thought I had Lou sorted, it turns out that  I HAVE ONLY KNIT LOU’S BIRTHDAY SWEATER WITH MY MIND. AND I DIDN’T BRING THE YARN. AND IT IS WEDNESDAY AND I AM TEACHING A WHOLE LOT.

I can’t tell you if the feeling I have going on is relief that I finally figured it out, or panic that I didn’t do it and don’t have it.  Lucky for me, they sell yarn and needles at Madrona.  I got this.



Wham, bam, thank you ma’am

Shazam. Just like that, I’m back home among the snow and ice, but only for about 36 hours, since I got home last night and I’ve got a flight to Madrona in the morning. Today is all about packing and printing handouts and doing laundry, although it’s not as bad as all that, since I had the intelligence to pack most of it before I left for Mexico. (I totally did it the wrong way the year before last, and I’ve vowed never again. It was a really crazy 36 hours at home, and I think that Joe enjoyed it even less than I did.  It’s hard living with someone who’s crazy – and being rushed like that makes me crazy.) Still, I’ve got no time to mess around today, so without further ado:

Ten Things I did in Three days

1. I went to the ruins of the Mayan city of Tulum.  It was extremely cool.

tulumruin 2014-02-11

tulumbeach 2014-02-11

2. Actually, I lie. It was extremely amazingly interesting, but it was about as far as you can get from cool.  It was like walking on the surface of Venus.  I have never been so hot in my life. No wonder the city isn’t inhabited anymore. The Mayan’s probably went somewhere with a little freakin’ shade.

3.There were lizards everywhere and they were not small either.

lizardtulum 2014-02-11

lizardeverywhere 2014-02-11

4. I learned that my mother has taken to killing the ants in the apartment with Coppertone  suncreen.  It has been noted in her presence that this is not really bug killer, but her response was “they’re dead, aren’t they?”

5. I met an Irish guy named Noel who said he could teach me thousands of Spanish words in two minutes.  He was right.  (He said that there’s three great rules for knowing lots of Spanish words.  a) If it ends in “ive” in English, then you just add an “o”. Collective = Collectivo. B) If the English word ends in “tion” just change the t to a c. Selection = selección C) If the english word ends in “ly” then the Spanish will end in “mente.” Continually = continuamente.)

6. I swam in a cenote.

cenotesmall 2014-02-11

mumcentoein 2014-02-11

It was fabulous, and full of fish, which is something you get over in a few minutes.  Except for the big ones.

cenotemum 2014-02-11

7. I went snorkelling with my mum on the reef outside of Puerto Morelos, which is a National Marine Park that’s part of the Great Mesoamerican Reef.

maskfaces 2014-02-11It was extremely cool to see all the coral and fish, and a barracuda swam by and I saw a sting ray.  In that picture we have “mask face” and I feel a little proud that it’s on me, and super proud that it’s on my mum.

8. I got a sunburn on the part of my arse that isn’t covered by a bathing suit, and while it totally makes sense that it’s a risk of snorkelling, I didn’t think about it until after. When I was sitting down.

9. I finished a pair of socks on the way home.

socksdonebright 2014-02-11

Trekking XXL 550, in my basic sock pattern from Knitting Rules.

socksobrightdone 2014-02-11

sockshome 2014-02-11

10. Now that I’m back where it’s snowy, they look too bright again.

Adventures with my mother: Day three

Guess who’s learning to snorkel?

memumsnork 2014-02-06

She’s a total natural.  Next stop, the reef.  (I have to say, the more I snorkel here, the more I think about not going back in. Man, there’s a lot of stuff out there. I had no idea I’d been swimming with it for three days.)

mumsnork1 2014-02-06

PS. I am not sunburned and neither is mum. These are just crappy iphone pictures.

PSS. We did not find a panaderia, but we found something better. We were walking home from the town with Don and Allison, when a van passed by, and Don took off a thousand miles an hour after it. We thought he’d taken all leave of his senses, but the van pulled over, and he said something to the driver.  They opened the back and the sliding side doors, and Don waved wildly for us to come over.

panaderiawheels 2014-02-06

It was a bakery on wheels.  Never seen anything like it, and it was cheap and delicious and filled with amazing things. I asked Don how he knew -turns out that one of his superpowers is the ability to smell a cake at a thousand metres.

Adventures with my mother: Day two

Yesterday’s mission, after a swim and a bit of a walk on the beach, job number one for mum and I was to get to the “supermercado” and try to buy some groceries.  We have a kitchen here, and so to not cook for ourselves at least some of the time is a little silly.  We walked to town and found the grocery store.  It’s a tiny place – at least by our standards, four aisles, and one bank of refrigerated stuff, which was mostly drinks.  We walked the aisles, looking for the basic stuff we needed, and marveled at the way things were different.  At first in the store, we didn’t buy anything,  save a tin of black beans and four small bottles of tonic water. (The battle to obtain tonic water is epic.  There’s not much of it, and it only comes in little bottles that my mother can’t truck with.  We’ve gone into store after store, and when I ask for “agua tónica? Grande, no pequeño” the clerks all reel with shock. Whether big bottles just don’t exist, or they’re appalled that your intake would be such that you need a big one, I just can’t say. Small bottles it is.)  There were shelves and shelves of junk food.  Chips, many bags of something with a pig on it (pork rinds? Is that a thing? I’d never considered the possibility that pigs had rinds, like a watermelon or something?) and mountains of pop.

junkfood 2014-02-05

All the liquor is in there (my mother is also surprised at the scarcity of gin, to go with the tonic, but is starting to see an emerging picture of a non-British drinking pattern.) and veritable rafts of cookies, biscuits, lady fingers, candy and strange puffed snack foods composed of what, we cannot say.
The square footage and variety of hot sauce would blow your mind…

mumhotsauce 2014-02-05

and in my favourite aisle, hundreds of candles (mostly religious, and many featuring Our Lady of Guadeloupe, who’s a pretty big deal around here) positioned next to the bug killing stuff. There’s no knowing if there’s a message in that.

ourladyofraid 2014-02-05

(My mother claims there is. There’s such a massive number of tiny ants here – they get into everything, and she hates them so much that she’s been as the avenging hand of Shiva, killing them any way she can -except with the Raid, she won’t buy that.  Mum says that the candles are probably by the Raid because maybe you light one and pray that the ants won’t get into the sugar again. In my case, I’m hoping to find a way to keep them from taking up residence in my laptop every night.  I’m yet to find a place to keep it where when I get up and turn the thing on, a hundred very tiny ants don’t pour from my keyboard as it heats up.)

We were wondering where the “good food” was (not that beans and gin aren’t good food, in my mother’s estimation) but we hadn’t found anything that we really needed.  Turns out there’s a second room – tiny, no bigger than my living room, and you open the door and go in, and that room is air-conditioned, and voila. Everything “good” is in there.  There you find the butter, and the milk – here it comes in tetra pacs and doesn’t need refrigeration, but there is anyway.

milk 2014-02-05

There’s something called “horchata concentrado” that promises to be delicious, and was flying off the shelves…

horchata 2014-02-05

and big bricks and bags of spices that we couldn’t identify. They had no words on them to translate and we guessed that they’re just so common that people here identify them by the way they look.

bricks 2014-02-05

I think the big brick of red stuff is maybe paprika, and I think the brown one could be cumin… but what could the big bag of pale green stuff be? The black? (I use a lot of spices when I cook, but my mind cannot comprehend a life where a brick of paprika isn’t a lifetime supply.)

There are boxes of dried peppers of all kinds, and so many sorts of fresh peppers that the mind reels. Even with the fabulous diversity I get in a Toronto grocery store, there were peppers I couldn’t identify for love nor money.

peppers 2014-02-05

There were these big bags of stuff that look like pasta, and might be pasta (we didn’t find much pasta other than this) but it was shiny and a little translucent in a way that pasta isn’t, and there was a sign on it that I couldn’t totally translate, even with the help of google.  It said “Harina de Maiz nixtamalizado maseca 1k”

notpasta 2014-02-05

All I could get out of that was that it’s corn flour something, and that you get a kilo of it.  It looks interesting though, and I’ll buy it and cook it if I can figure out how on earth I would do that.

There were plantains, and a few vegetables, including the strange chayote that we got fond of while we were in the Domincan Republic, but very little fruit.  What fruit there was reminded me of the standards we have for produce in Canada and the US.  We don’t just want our fruit and veg to taste good, we want it unblemished and gorgeous to look at, and that just doesn’t happen here.

oranges 2014-02-05

See that? Oranges that are really yucky on the outside, and really delicious on the inside.

In the end, we got coffee (very good coffee, it turns out) some yoghurt that mysteriously contains “cereales” but is pretty tasty. Some tomatoes, onions, a chayote, an avocado, milk, tea, bananas, tortillas. rice, beans and some manchego cheese that I managed to order sliced, but wasn’t able to figure out how to ask her to wipe the ham off the slicer before she did it.  Such is the state of my Spanish.  I’m grateful I got as far as I did.  What we didn’t find? Bread, buns… or really a lot of fruit or vegetables.  My guess is they come from somewhere else, and that this small supply is for the tourists.  The words I learned in Spanish yesterday? Two.  “Cortado” – for sliced, and “panaderia” which is bakery, and what we’re looking for today.