July 30, 2012

Day one

Day one is over and done. It's actually the morning of day two. I'm in my tent, listening to the rally wake up all around me. Day one was hard, but not the stuff of nightmares (except for the pain- but best not to even think about it.) Best moment- Sam and Ken hoist the tandem by the shores of lake Ontario at around 80km.

Today is the longest day, 126km. I bet you know exactly what I'm thinking.

Posted by Stephanie at 5:49 AM

July 28, 2012


I was packing, and I was on the phone with my sister.  I was putting things in my bag that I  never thought I'd own, never mind worry about leaving behind.  Things like chamois cream, or energy gel, or tire levers.  The whole time I looked for my black and white cycle shorts (because they are my lucky ones - I've never fallen down wearing them) and my anxiety was coming to a terrible head.  I've been frightened this whole time, but I've managed to hold it together. I've had little mantras that I tell myself, to keep going.  I tell myself things like that I don't have to do this well.  I just have to do it. That you guys donated a ton of money, and that this is the exchange. You do your best, and I do mine.  I have to be honest. Almost none of it makes me feel better. Erin tells me it's going to be fine. I know I should believe her, because she's done this before, but I sort of don't.  I busy myself with organizing my stuff and try agreeing with her, but I'm trying not to cry.

After the flurry of phone calls and I've filled a big hockey bag with stuff to take to the trucks, I go to bed early, but I can't sleep.  I'm on the edge of sleep when part of packing day dawns on me.  In the morning we'll put all of our stuff on a truck, and then you go home and sleep.  The next morning we all meet downtown at Queen's Park, group up as riders, and leave - all 300 of us.  The trucks with all our stuff leave after that, and drive ahead to our first stop in Port Hope - this is our route, if anyone is wondering...and that's when we'll see our stuff again.  That means that I suddenly realize that I have to put my purse and shoes and stuff on the trucks in the morning, and won't see them again.  I have to get up to put my shoes in, and twenty minutes later I was up again to find other shoes to wear while I pack my shoes.  I almost fell asleep, and then got back up when I remembered that I shouldn't pack all my bike shorts, because I'll have to wear some until I get to the trucks. The whole night went like that.  I don't know if I've told you, but part of the crazy on this whole bike trip, is that all 300 riders camp each evening.  *You ride, unpack, set up camp, sleep, clear camp and  repeat from * for six days. It's nuts.

This morning I woke up  (or is it really waking up if you've been awake for hours?) and did the last few crazy things.  I packed my camping stuff, and Sam's camping stuff and there was another flurry of texts and calls as we made sure everyone had everything... and then we headed down to "Packing Day." 

At packing day, you make your way through "financial" (where they make sure you've raised your minimum - we breezed through that. (Thank you knitters!) and then through "forms" where they make sure that you've filled in all your health forms. (This is Canada, so all we have to do is make sure the rally all has our provincial health numbers.) Then we got our jerseys (everyone wears matching jerseys the first, second and last days) and then they assign you a truck, give you two bins, and you  put all your camping stuff in one, all your yarn worldly goods in another, and the "Rubbermaid Wranglers" load it all in, and that's it.  You're done.  You're officially ready for the rally - or as ready as you're going to get.
We all stood there, took a deep breath, reflected on the realness of the whole thing, and then somehow weren't ready to let go of each other.
We did the only reasonable thing and went to brunch.  (We're Torontonians. Brunch is huge here.)

We talked and laughed, old hands and new riders, and said encouraging things to each other.  Everyone eventually let go- we did a few last organizing things, helped each other with a few bike dilemmas (Ken managed to get my pump on my bike, which was great, because it kept me awake the night before.)  Now we're all alone, each in our own houses, and I don't know about them, but I'm afraid. 

I made myself feel better by refining my sock-in-progress bike system...

and went around the block to make sure it worked.  (It does - and it also holds my iphone, which I've figured out how to blog from, so if fair winds are with me, I should be able to update from the road. If not, watch my twitter feed, on twitter if you're on it, or on the right in the sidebar if you're not.)

Now I'm here, and I'm supposed to have a dinner that's "carb loading" but I'm not sure what that means, and I'm as ready as I'm ever going to be, and today about a hundred people told me I was ready... and I'm still scared. I feel like if anyone thinks I can do this,  they've just fallen for some crazy glamour that I've wrought, and really, I am as bad as I think and....and that tomorrow morning I'll find out what I'm made of, and I hope it's half as good as everyone thinks.   It helps that I have two daughters and a sister with me, because surely we're made of the same stuff... but tomorrow morning at 9am,  300 people trying to change the world a tiny little bit will ride out of Toronto, and we'll just see what happens after that. 

Thank you for all your crazy donations. It really made it worth it. Even if I suck, you guys have made this whole thing a success.

(PS. I'm going to try not to suck.)

Posted by Stephanie at 6:42 PM

July 26, 2012

With Love

Dear Blog,

I love you guys.  Yesterday when I posted about hoping for another thousand, to get a matching thousand, I was hopeful.  Today I'm inspired- and truthfully, a little stunned by the collective power of knitters.  I was so shocked at the outpouring of decency and goodwill and willingness to help others, that last night I was almost ashamed.  I don't know why, but I sat there looking at the donations and kept thinking that I don't deserve this help, and that I'm way too ordinary, and that if any of you really knew how terrible I am at riding my bike you'd never count me among your own, and I almost posted "Guys. It's too much. Please stop. I can never, ever live up to this." and a friend stopped me.  I was getting weepy on the phone with her, and she said something important. 

She said "Nobody is giving you anything.  You have agreed to do your best with fundraising and riding, and in exchange they've agreed to do their best to make things a a little better for people with HIV/AIDS who are coming to the end of their lives.  It's all kindness Steph.  It's all kindness.  Don't you dare stop them.  It's more kindness in the world, and you have nothing to live up to, and for s**t's sake. Can't the world use all the nice it can get? "

I don't know if I totally believed her, but I didn't post.  I just let it happen, and today, knitters are still doing something amazing, and I just don't know what to say, or what to do, or how to ever thank you, or how to tell you that someone who is one of the crappiest riders going to Montreal is now the top fundraiser for the whole rally... or how to tell you about the look on peoples faces when I explain that it's knitters. It's just how knitters are... and how much what you're doing is changing the idea of who cares about this, and how crazy wonderful knitters are, and how I think it's because you're knitters that you do this.

I've been telling people for years that knitting changes your brain. Changes the way you think and teaches important lessons, and that one of them is the idea of cumulative action.  Cumulative action is the idea that small actions aren't unimportant if they are combined with other small actions. It's a lesson that not everyone learns.  Some people go their whole lives thinking that unless you can do something big, there's no point in doing anything at all... and they have trouble seeing how one small action in their life could ripple and matter.  They can't see the possibility, and so the don't do what they could.  The problems seem too large for a small action to change anything. 

Here's the thing though, there are no knitters like that.  None.  Knitting teaches you that one small action does matter. That one small action, like knitting a stitch, isn't unimportant. It's vital.  One small action repeated many times is a sweater. Or a shawl. Or a pair of socks to hold the feet of someone you love, and that idea? The concept of cumulative action? It makes knitters the most remarkable fundraisers of all.  Other groups, they have to rely on the part of their community that understands that... knitters? Our whole group gets it.  Our whole group sees that one small thing - put together with many other things can create something enormous, and wonderful, and magical.

Why are knitters like this? Because they knit, and they have learned everything they need to know about little things mattering.

I love you all, and I don't know how to thank you.  I guess I'll just do my best, and hope that whatever small gestures I can make really matter.

Fondly, and with great affection and awe,


(PS. Lise, who clearly has this whole giving-knitter thing down, has very, very generously offered her amazing Tread Softly as a bid item. It's a gorgeous beaded circular shawl, and she's willing to let it go in exchange for a donation.  As before, if her beautiful work is meant to be yours, please send an email to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca, and I'll let you know if it's your destiny.  You'll make the donation, and Lise will mail it to you, because darn it, she's nice like that.)

(PPS. Did I say I love you?)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:02 PM

July 25, 2012

Break an Egg

I love this shawl.  Even though it's name is spelled funny (I still think it should be Omelette, but who am I to argue.)  I took it out on a little field trip yesterday, so that I could photograph it somewhere pretty, and I ended up in High Park. 

Yarn: Space Cadet Superwash merino Laceweight, in Honey.
Pattern: Omelet. By Joyce Fassbender.

Now let me tell you a little thing about taking pictures of knitted things in public.  It's poorly understood, or it must be, because in all the years that I've been outside hanging skeins of yarn from trees, or nestling socks among hostas, or laying shawls over rocks by a creek, not a single soul has ever asked me what I am doing. Even my neighbours don't get into it, and they see this behaviour several times a week. They walk by, they wish me good morning, they might say something like "nice weather" or "your lilies look great" but nobody has ever said "Hey Steph,  I notice that you frequently need to put mittens in a cherry tree and take pictures of that.  Can I ask why?" Realistically, I think they're afraid of the answer.   I feel like they're worried that I'll say something really crazy, and then it will be uncomfortable.

Yesterday, as I hung Omelet over trees, railings, fences and the like, not one, but two people told me it was pretty.  They still didn't ask what I was doing or why, but I think that the fact that people were willing to speak to me while I was doing something that's normally ignored very studiously,  means that they were moved by the beauty of this thing.

They should be.  Omelet is so lovely that it really hurts to follow through and give it up like I said I would, but I'm trying to remember the phrase "Give until it hurts."  (I thought that the last time I landed on the road on a training ride too.)  To be completely truthful, I'm also thinking about knitting another one, if there's too much of a pang as this one heads off to its destiny.  If you are this shawl's destiny - email me. StephanieATyarnharlotDOT.ca.  Highest offer before I post tomorrow takes her home. (To answer a quick question from yesterday, No.  You can't re-offer if someone outbids you.  I know that's how it works on Ebay, but here I really like the idea of someone offering truly what they think it's worth and can afford, without getting caught up in competition or craziness. Make a bid that suits you and your pocketbook, and see what happens.)

Finally let me tell you about something wild.  There's this amazing knitter named Lisa, and she sent me an email the other day that just about knocked me to my knees.  I was so stunned I called Joe in to read over my shoulder.  Lisa's email says that if I raise another $1000, she will match it.  That means $1000 can turn into $2000, and that's a lot of money my friends.  A lot of money.  I know you've all given what you're able, and I'm very, very grateful and please don't feel any pressure at all,  but if you haven't given yet and you were thinking about it, now would be a great time.  Even $5 put with a bunch of other $5 adds up like stitches on a sweater.  Thanks for thinking about it.  I'll see you tomorrow.  There's another shawl to bid on, and this one has beads.

PS. I've had the opportunity to explain to a few people on the Rally where the fundraising money is coming from.  I really, really wish you could be with me when our family explains that we're representing knitters.  It's priceless. 

Posted by Stephanie at 11:56 AM

July 24, 2012

Fleece Fini

Sunday marked the end of the Tour de Fleece, and right up until the last minute I was spinning like a fiend.  (Actually, I kept going after the end.  I was in the middle of something, and I really want it done.)  I felt a keen pressure this year.  I always give away all the yarn that I make during the tour.  I know, it's weird, but it has always been a stash busting thing for me, and so it makes no sense to just move it from one category of stash to the other- or at least that's what I tell myself.  I spin a whole heap of different yarns, and out the door they go.  This time was a little different.  I wanted really, really pretty things, because I knew I was going to be  (mostly) giving it away as Karmic Balancing gifts, and I thought that it would be great if they were unusual or especially pretty handspun.  I also knew I wasn't really going to have that much time - that this year really wasn't going to be my most impressive year, so I went for quality over quantity.  Here's what I had at the end.

All the North Ronaldsay, in all its colours. 

That started out as 500g of roving, and now is about 1100 metres of the prettiest 2 ply fingering weight yarn - perfect I think, for an Icelandic shawl - one of the ones like The Brimnes Lace Shawl (except for you could make two with this yardage) or Svinavatnshyrna (I have no idea how to say that.)  You could even do something like my Jacob Damask.... or rather, that is to say that Megan C could do something like that, and I hope she does, because it's her name that I just pulled out of the hat.
(Man. I really hope she's not into chunky blue cotton.)

This was a nice quick and dirty spin.  A friend saw this in the stash recently, and fell promptly in love. It's BMFA's BFL - in a colour that I can't name (I bet Tina can.) In exchange for a donation, she asked for a woven scarf, out of this roving, handspun. 

Phase one is now complete. Weaving's up next. 

Next up, I wanted something a little fun.  Spinderella's Thrums to the rescue, as always.  (I love this little company.  It looks like they don't have batts right now, but maybe soon.  I hope so anyway, because this was my last one, and although I know the point was to use stuff up,  I suddenly feel lonely for these batts.)

This one was called Confetti on Ice, and ended up being a charming and quirky little skein, not more than about 175m of a two ply.  I think it would make amazing mittens, but it will be up to Rosemarie R to figure out.  I hope she thinks this yarn is as fun as I do.

Finally, last but certainly not least, and also not done, is this little beauty. 

That's one half of what should be one really luxurious yarn - 50% merino/ 50% yak down.  It's so soft it makes babies seem like sandpaper, and it was the only thing I really wanted to finish for the Tour - but I'm not giving up.  Gimme a few days, and some knitter's going to score big on that one.

Overall, I'm not ridiculously displeased with how much I spun - I guess. It was an interesting thing, doing it without a real goal.  In the past my goal has always been a certain amount.  1500 grams one year, 1400 another. This year I only produced 900 grams - although I did ride my bike almost 400km during that period.  (I hate the part of me that just added 900 grams and 400km and decided that was only 1300 grams (???) and that it was still less.  How did I figure that?)  The decision to have no goal this year, to just "do my best" was one that didn't sit well with me at all.  It turns out that I don't just use goals as motivators - but also so that I can tell when I'm done, or if I did well, or if I accomplished anything.  Without a goal, I really wasn't sure whether or not this yarn was "enough", which is Stupid with a capital S. Of course it's enough.  Of course when you have a lot going on it's okay to just do what you can - I just wish I'd set a lower goal than usual, and then met that.  Maybe I'm just someone who needs to be able to see the finish line.  

I'd like to thank the two knitters who made donations in exchange for the beautiful hat and scarf yesterday.  You guys are amazing.  Also amazing? Tomorrow's bid item is Omelet.  (At least I hope someone thinks that's amazing) and there's still more Karmic Balancing gifts coming... from my stash and wheel too.  I hope I have time to fit them all in.  4 days and 17 hours until the ride.  Not that I'm counting or can't stop thinking about it or anything. 

Posted by Stephanie at 3:56 PM

July 23, 2012

The Actual Monday Version

Welcome to the second last edition of Karmic Balancing gifts for the Bike Rally donors.  We leave on Sunday, and I know that it's been all Rally, all the time around here - it feels that way if you're me too.  I have mixed feelings about leaving Sunday.  I'm terrified, and thrilled.  Terrified because I am still largely sane, despite this decision, and thrilled because I don't know how much longer I can take being terrified and it just makes sense to end it.

This week the training tapers off so that riders can be well rested, my bike goes in for a really good tune-up (here's to wishing there was somewhere I could drop myself off) and our little family will gather their camping things and buy inner-tubes and try to find an air mattress that will fit in the tent but not weigh a million pounds and install yet another bag on the bike to see if I can get knitting in there... I think that one is just me.

It's almost over, or at least that's what I keep telling myself.  That means there will be a round of Karmic Balancing gifts today, and then more when I come back.  (There's still tons of stuff.) Sam's scarf was adopted for a beautiful donation, and she was blown away by the response.  Thanks for all the bids guys - Sam really feels like her effort paid off, and she's proud.  (Proud enough that she's still knitting, but we'll see if it lasts.)   In the meantime, I give you this weeks round of gifts - and all our thanks.  


First up, five, count 'em five lucky knitters are going to choose their favourite tie-dyed drawstring bags from Benita and Sandy at Dyed in the Wool.

These handy project bags will go to Nancy H, Cerridwen J, Kyle P, July H and Jan B. 

Laura, of Laura Helton Designs, would like to pass on two sets of custom stitch markers.

Kristine M and Kelly A will be choosing their favourite colours and styles.

Genia went into the stash and came up with 546 yards of Plymouth Earth Ranch alpaca, that she's graciously going to mail to Amanda I.

A knitter who wishes to remain anonymous has donated four beautiful skeins of Handmaiden Seacell. 

I know. Right? One set will be going off to Katherine S (our lovely Presbytera of the comments) and the other to Elizabeth M. 

Nicole has a great gift.  A brand new, beautiful photo album, and she'll throw in pre-cut scrapbook paper in whatever colour is Amanda B's favourite - to be photo mats or journaling boxes.  (I love this gift.)

Kathleen Dames has offered up what she does best:

Both a digital and print copy of her pattern book Avast No. 1, she'll be sharing it with Carol T.

Jeanne makes bags for her friends - and they're pretty as all get out.  For the purposes of today's karma today Beth B is her friend, and Jeanne will be sending her a beautiful bag like this.

(There's actually another one. Beth will be choosing. How nice is that?)

The Ladybug Fiber Company has two great gifts.  Dutch Tulips is a (be still my beating heart, you guys know how I feel about this) SELF STRIPING merino/cashmere/nylon yarn that's going to live with Michelle H.

and this skein is Quinoa. Kettle dyed sock yarn. 

Gorgeous, and going to live with Faith N.
I am going to try hard to be happy for both of them.

Kit over at Insouciant Studios has a gift certificate that she's throwing into the universe...

and Beth R is catching it.  Good luck choosing. There's a lot of nice stuff there.

Riin over at Happy Fuzzy Yarn (a long time friend of the show) has a generous gift.

Two skeins of her gorgeous merino/tencel fingering weight yarn in Purple Kale are going to live with Stephannie R. (As an aside, Riin is working on a cool Local Wool Project.)

Patti's stash has offered up something wonderful (I suspect it was actually Patti)

It's an incredible skein of Wollmeise "We're different" Lacegarn.  300 grams, or an amazing 1575m.  When Heidi A gets it, I feel like she's going to make something great.

Last, but certainly not least, Danielle  is offering a nice gift.

This is her pattern Shipshape, and it's just an example of what you can get in her shop, which Tania H will soon discover, since Danielle is making her a present of three Makewise designs. 

Finally, last but not least, I've got two amazing gifts that aren't yarn - so I don't want to give them away the same way.  The idea of someone winning one of these gifts randomly and not really, really loving them is too much for an avid knitter to bear, so I'm going to do it the same way as Sam's scarf. If you want them, email me with a bid (StephanieATyarnharlotDOTca) and I'll have the donors mail these wonders to the highest bidder.  Only I will know what you donated for it to come and live with you (again, I like the karma on that better.)

First, Patti B has knit this amazing shawl.  The pattern is Gale, and the yarn is Loft, and damn, isn't it the prettiest? 

This would make a great scarf/wrap for the winter, and I just know there's someone out there who's heart just turned over when they saw it. 

If you love this, then email me (not a comment) about Patti's shawl.
Not to be outdone, lookie what Lisa sent.

For those of you that don't have your own way of getting one (either because the thought of purls in colourwork makes you want to chew your own arm off, or because you don't know how to knit, both are valid) that there is a Bohus hat, made from the green meadow kit, and it's amazing.
If you want to keep your ears warm in style this year, email me about Lisa's hat.

A special thanks to both Patti (who is this Patti) and Lisa (who is Lisa Kobeck of ST-2 and Retreat fame) for these amazing gifts.  It's hard to part with something that beautiful, and I'm impressed with both of you.

Stay tuned tomorrow, when I'm summing up the Tour de Fleece and trying to be as gracious as the two of them are.  I'm going to try and give everything I made on the tour away as a karmic balancing gift. 


Posted by Stephanie at 12:33 PM

July 20, 2012

For the Non-Knitters

One of the big challenges of the bike rally is the fundraising.  Thanks to peculiar and wonderful characteristics of knitters, our little family team has done very, very well in this regard. (Thank you very much, a thousand times, thank you.) For the kids, this fundraising can be really, really tricky.  When you're young, most of the people you know are young, and the young are notoriously poor. (Or, they are as poor as their parents let them be, which is, in this family, pretty poor.  We think poverty supports a work ethic in the young.) The girls have done their level best to fundraise, knowing (because we have told them) that they are responsible to do the best they can - no matter what.  Recently, Sam took this message to heart.

She and I were in a yarn shop, and Sam was behaving the way most teenaged girls do when they're asked to take part in their mother's activities, which is to say that mostly, she was rolling her eyes, sighing loudly and tolerating me in only the minimum way necessary.  I was picking yarn for Flow and Lizette, and I was saying things like "Do you like the brick? Maybe the green.. is this a good green?" and Sam was saying things like "The brick is fine. The green is great. Get it and let's go" and I wasn't being rushed.  (My reasoning is that I didn't rush weaning her, and she can not rush me in a yarn shop as compensation.) I was puttering along, and she wandered off.  I picked my yarn, and then scurried around to find her. 

Find her I did, standing in front of a stand of novelty yarn.  She was fingering a few interesting scarves, and she had that look about her.  Sometimes there are people who ask me if my kids knit.  The answer is that all of them know how (they are my girls, after all) but that only one of them knits for fun, and that would be Megan. Amanda and Sam only knit to please me, or to score points. Sam spins from time to time, and Amanda knits when she thinks it would improve our relationship, but never before have I seen Samantha stand in front of yarn and look at it like it might be fun.  That's what I saw that day.  Novelty yarns can be a gateway drug for some recalcitrant knitters, and that's what I saw in Sam's face. That if knitting was socks, and hats and sweaters - she wasn't interested, but if knitting was all this fun stuff?  She ran her hands down several ruffle scarves. 

"Is this knitting?" she asked.
"Yup" I replied, being careful not to display enthusiasm.  (Enthusiasm only puts teens off.  They can't know you're in favour of their ideas. Takes the shine right off it.)
"Could I do it?" She queried. 
"Yup" I said, again, appearing disinterested in every way.
"If I got this, could I knit it into a scarf for a Rally fundraiser?"
"You bet" I said, and I took a slow, deep breath.  Caution was needed here.  If Sam sensed that I approved, then all could be lost.  I decided to apply maternal reverse pressure.  "It's pretty expensive yarn." I said,  "I don't know if I can buy that for you."  That worked.  There is nothing more delicious to the psyche of a teenaged girl than the idea of driving their parents into the poorhouse, and me shying from a pricetag made the genesis of the idea take flight within her.
"Please?" she said. 
"I suppose." I said, and my heart leapt, but I covered it.  We travelled home, and Sam asked for needles, and for information on how to knit this ruffle yarn.  I didn't help her.  I did loan her needles, but I suggested that she look the rest of the info up on the internet.  (You don't want to get in a girls business like that. Better to let her own it.) 

She did look it up, and I promptly looked the other way, resisting the urge to be helpful in any way.  (This is a hard thing about mothering for me.)

"Mum, how many stitches do I cast on?"
"I don't know Sam.  You decide."
"Mum, should I use it all? How long is long enough?"
"I don't know Sam.  You decide."

She did decide, and lo.  The child has knit.

The end product is a beautiful long scarf, out of the spectacular gateway yarn of her choice, and Sam's offering it up here for anyone who wants it - preference given to those who can't make it themselves. 

It has all the frustration, glee and delight that an 18 year old committed to fundraising can put into it, and here's how the fundraiser will work (according to Sam.)  If you want it, you can email me at stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca (replacing the AT with @ and the DOT with .) and tell me how much you would like to pay for it.  The highest bidder wins, and I'll email that person and tell them they're in.  That person will then make a donation for that amount to Sam's fundraising page, and Sam will pack up the scarf, and mail it to that person.

(That look is "Blue Steel" in case there's any Zoolander fans out there. Sam's career as a model is still developing.)

I'll be the one looking at the amounts and making the call, because Sam's a kid, and really just practicing knitting, and the amount non-knitters (or maybe knitters) think her work is worth should maybe, probably be something that her Mum knows, and not totally her. (Experienced knitters know we're undervalued as artists, but maybe not the new kids.)

I'm feeling proud of her tonight.  It's hard to fundraise as a kid, and really, how do we even talk about the awesome that is a teenager looking out for others? This is supposed to be the most self-centred time of her life... the time she has the most difficulty seeing the needs of others, and if this is what being a teen looks like on her? Taking part in a 660km rally for the People with AIDS foundation?

She's going to be amazing.

Bid away. Feel free to leave comments about the compelling nature of her work, but all bids for the scarf should come in email.  (StephanieATyarnharlotDOTca)

Thanks friends. 

Posted by Stephanie at 5:03 PM

July 19, 2012

Clarity is Everything

Yesterday I was walking home from an errand, and I passed through this little park at the corner.  There was a bunch of kids playing, and one of them was bananas.  He was running a little too fast, playing a little too rough, laughing a little too hard... every experienced parent can take one look at that scene and think "Well.  That's a game that ends in tears" and two seconds later that's just about what happened.  He went to playfully push at another littler kid, but he was too wound up, and without meaning to hurt anyone, he knocked the kid over and then, just to add insult to injury, accidentally stepped on his arm. 

The other kid started to cry, and the first boy tried to say something about how he didn't mean to, and then he was off running again, and the parent in charge stood up off the bench and shouted "BILLY!" (Name changed to protect the innocent)  "GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF."

I cringed, the kid froze, then started running again, and shouted something unintelligible and then started trying to figure out how to be next on the slide, and distract everyone from what he'd done, and was just even more crazed.   The kid knew from the tone that he was in trouble, I mean, the kid's not an idiot and the mum was yelling - and he did knock someone down and then step on them, which is frowned upon in all polite societies - but he clearly had no idea what came next and he was just all over the place.  He was in the process of removing a four year old from his path when his mum stood up again and yelled "WHAT DID I TELL YOU!"  She watched him for a few minutes, and then he shoved another kid out of his way, and she charged over, scooped him up and sat him down on the bench for a time out.  He pouted, and she said "I TOLD YOU TO STOP PUSHING" and with that, I lost it.  I lost it on the inside, naturally, because I'm not about to get in some poor mum's face about her parenting, I mean, unless she's doing him a terrible injury, like beating him or trying to chain him to a park bench or something,  but in that moment my heart went out to the two of them.  I remember those afternoons, and I suddenly wished we had the kind of society where more than one person was charged with raising kids, so that on a scorching afternoon when no mum could possibly be at her best, somebody who's lived the dream could come up and say this:  "You know what might help? Better instructions, because I know you're tired and you've probably told him a thousand times before today (or maybe even today) but technically, you told him to get a hold of himself, and that instruction is nothing like "stop pushing".  Now why don't you have a cuppa tea and a lie down and I'll read this lunatic a story before one of you has to go into protective custody in Belize."

I used to say stuff like "Get a hold of yourself" all the time.  Megan was the kid who cured me, because she was so literal.  I'd say "Cut it out!" and she'd say "Cut what? With scissors?" If I said "get a hold of yourself" she might have crossed her arms in a hug - "Simmer down"  would have brought me a blank stare.  She knew I didn't like something about her behaviour, but what element exactly - and really, how was cutting something out going to be better?  Meg was the kid who taught me to be clear.  "Settle down" became "please don't run right now" or "No pushing! It is not your turn. Your turn is after Susan. You're next."  I didn't learn it with Amanda, because she was my first, and just the fiercest, fastest kid ever, and her whole childhood was spent with me trying to keep her from killing herself or others, but I think it would have helped her - and me to have known to say "you may not try to put something in the cat's nose" instead of "Be nice."

I was thinking about this today, not because I was still worried about it (that mum is a good mum and she and that wild animal will be just fine) but because I've been wandering around the house for two days trying to put all my ducks in a row, and failing miserably.  The kitchen is still trashed, there's a mountain of stuff on the dining room table, I have no idea why my half unpacked suitcase is still in the living room - I've been trying to find 30 minutes to block a shawl for two days and it's still sitting crumpled on the shelf outside the bathroom, and I'm dinner tonight is going to be pretty weird if I don't get to the grocery store, and really, I can't tell you how close I am to finishing the white North Ronaldsay on the wheel - which is in the middle of the living room, next to the vacuum I'm clearly not using... and I stood there in the middle of the whole thing and couldn't get any of it done, and I caught myself thinking "What is this scene? GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF."

Then I remembered.  I need better instructions than that.  I'm going to make a list.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:25 PM

July 18, 2012


Yeah.  I know.  It's not Monday, it's Wednesday - although it does have a wicked Monday vibe to it. I came home from Oakland on Monday after a really amazingly great time at Verb, and then - well then I have no idea what happened.  I got hit by a train, I think.  As always, everything here at home was in complete disarray upon my arrival, made worse by the minor flooding we had in our basement during the last big rain.  There's been dudes outside for the last few days doing some other improvement/change/waterproofing, and I love how they talk. They seem completely convinced that this will be the time that they stop the basement from leaking.  I don't believe them.  Not even a little bit.  At this point, every time the basement leaks I just can't understand why we don't give up.  Take all our stuff out of there, put the laundry on the second floor, and then seal over the damn pit of despair that is the whole cellar, and get on with our lives.  That's what I think,  because really, if it leaks again after this, it's more likely that the tide of my hot bitter tears will do more to damage the place.  (You can see now why Joe's the one talking with the guys outside.  I can't go near them.  I  would yell things like "LIAR, YOU'RE LYING" or "STOP PRETENDING YOU CAN FIX IT, WE ALL KNOW WHAT YOU CAN DO."

I've got a million things to show you.  I leaned some crazy knot tying thing, and you're going to love it.  I'm done Omelet, I just need a half hour to block it, and I'm almost done Flow, and almost done Lizette, and although no spinning at the wheel happened while I was away, I got a little done last night and want to show you that.  I've got a ton to blog about, and all that has to happen is an extra 16 hours in this day, and I'll be all organized.  (Maybe today isn't the day it all comes together.) 

For now, I have three things I can show you.

1. The knitters I met at my talk in Oakland.   (They were nice.)

2. A really huge plant. 

This freaked me right the frak out.  I feel like that plant is a houseplant, a tiny little thing that sits on your desk, and you give it a sip of water once a week. This version, the California version, is a behemoth.  Look.  I've added knitters for scale.

See that?  (That's Kristine and Adrienne, owners of A Verb for Keeping Warm)

3. I can show you this week's karmic balancing gifts, and my gratefulness to all those who donated to our little family team so far.  We leave in a week and three days - and your generous donations are almost enough to distract me from my terror. 


Two beautiful gifts from Susan at The Spinning Bunny.  First, a kit in the colour of the winners choice for the lovely Santa Clara wrap (including needles and everything!)

and that will be going off to Rebecca K, then (as if that were't enough!) a Spinning Bunny Bare Bones Toe-Up Sock pattern plus your choice of color and fingering yarn (Panda or Woody) plus two 24"/60cm US 1/2.25mm orange Dreamz circs  and Susan will be sending it to lucky, lucky Marie W.

Shana T will be getting beautiful custom stitch markers from Susan (YarnDork)

these are just an example.  Shana will be choosing her own colours and style. 

The inestimable Judy Becker will be mailing Ericka M an autographed copy of her very nifty book Beyond Toes

and not to be outdone (the also inestimable) Cat Bordhi will be sending her complete digital library - that's one PDF copy of each of these three books -

To both Kate L, and Lynne E

It's good news for Trish W, who has won one of the most coveted of gifts...

A stash weasel.  These weasels are the brainchild of young felt artist McKenna, over at A Tangle of Weasels, and they're brilliant.

Charming Beckett, over at Artbeco, has offered a set of stitch markers for a donor. 

That's just a sample.  Michelle M will be choosing her favourites.

Nina and Mark over at SoapMarked have a $30 gift certificate that they're sharing.

Jan C is going to be very clean.

Jennifer over at Holiday Yarns is a longtime friend of the show, and she's got three gifts to send into the world to spread the love.  A Spring is Sprung mitten kit will wing its way to Georg H.

Emily F will get a kit for the Patmore Bag (I love Downton Abby stuff)

and Kristy HM will be choosing her favourite skein of FlockSock. (I stole that picture from here- so it's not very good. The actual yarn isn't blurry at all.)

Jocelyn over at Deco Noir has some bloody brilliant knitter tee shirts, and she's sharing. 

Kim S will be telling the world that she has Knit for Brains, and Peri U will be Knitting her Heart out.

Georg (yeah, the Georg who was randomly draw for a prize today, the planet loves balance) has some great stitch markers to send out.  She's a sock designer, not a stitch marker distributor, which is too darn bad.. because ...

as Lisa L will soon discover,  THEY GLOW IN THE DARK.

Jaime, who's just the nicest knitter, has a copy of the Haapsalu Shawl that she's going to be sending to Theresa M.

Jane Richmond has a wonderful gift.. two $25 gift certificates - one for Donna C, and one for Kelly Y so that they can choose a bunch of amazing patterns... like this one...

or any of these.

Anne Hanson over at Knitspot.  (C'mon.  You all know about Knitspot) has generously donated not just a $25 gift certificate to her pattern store, but a fabulous tee shirt.

I love that shirt, and I hope that Ann F enjoys the patterns and the shirt as much as I would.

Sally has the loveliest gift to share.  She sells Longaberger stuff (I'd never heard of this company, but it looks like they've got buckets of good stuff) and she's donating a beautiful Social Gathering basket

and filling it with delicious, life sustaining coffee.   She'll mail it to Claudia K, who I hope will just love it. 

A thousand thanks to this weeks givers.  I appreciate all you've done for us. 

Posted by Stephanie at 2:32 PM

July 13, 2012

In Case You Worry

I wanted you to know that I got needles,  not that anyone's staying up late at night, staring at the ceiling and thinking "I sure do hope that Steph got a pair of needles yesterday" although you would, if you could see the massive queues here at Vancouver Airport today.  Me being able to knit is occasionally a public safety issue.   I went for a walk yesterday morning - after I hit the gym (so unlike me, but the rally is soon. Can't fall off the training curve) I headed down from the hotel to a place that someone had told me might have knitting needles - Dressew.  (I know.  It's a weird name.)

I found it with no  trouble, and went right in.   Dudes, this place is cool.  There was a huge button section (I did not succumb.  If you know me, this is a substantial triumph over the almighty power of buttons.) This is only "some" of the buttons.

There was a massive fringe section. (This held no power over me, but was fascinating.  Who knew?)

There were a hundred million zippers...

and a wig section where I found myself strangely compelled.  (I almost bought one.  What's up with that?  Perhaps a lifetime of dissatisfaction with my hair just caught up with me, right there in Dressew.) 

I found a needle section, but there were no knitting needles...

until I came round a corner and found the tiniest little knitting needles section you ever saw. 

This didn't annoy me, because it is a sewing shop, after all, not a knitting shop (which really, really doesn't explain the wigs) so I just crossed my fingers that there would be what I needed.

There wasn't. The straight metal needles went right from 4mm to 5mm, like 4.5 wasn't even a possibility.  I ended up grabbing a pair of bamboo straights in the right size - and just resolved to be of good humour. 

I bought them, and walked back trying to let how pretty Vancouver is make all the difference.

By the time I got to class, it turned out that a rescue had been launched by a student, who had just the right needles, and let me take them.

So everything is okay.

I thought you would want to know. You know.  In the interest of public safety. 
Next stop, San Francisco.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:39 PM

July 12, 2012

Applied Experience

Good Morning friends, and it is a very good morning, full of hope and possibility - or maybe it just feels that way because I'm in beautiful Vancouver drinking a cup of coffee and looking at the North Shore Mountains, instead of out riding a bike.  (Don't worry, I'm still training. I'm headed to the stationary bike in the gym in a few minutes.  At least I've never fallen off one of those.)

It must be how beautifully yesterday went that's got me in such a great mood, because I'm not even totally stressed out about the knitting pickle I find myself in, and make no mistake, I should be.   Yesterday morning I got up and surveyed all that is in the works around here, and I made a big pile of knitting,  I packed Omelet, and Lizette, and the stuff to start Flow, and then a sock and then another skein of sock yarn, and then thought something like "Oh right, that sweater for Marlowe" and started to add more yarn, and then wondered if I should bring my wheel, because it is the Tour de Fleece. 

Then I stepped back, looked at that, and I can't really explain what happened next. I suppose that I overthought it.  I suppose I looked at the last eighty-seven thousand times that I've packed way, way more yarn than I needed, and I thought about the last week, where I thought I was going to get so much knitting done and didn't hardly get any, and I looked at my itinerary and thought "You're busy doofus" and then I did something that in retrospect makes me wonder if I hit my head harder than I thought on that last ride. 

I took out the baby sweater yarn. I took out the sock - I forgot about the wheel, and only packed Omelet, Lizette, and Flow.  (I did put a package of sock needles in my purse just in case there was some sort of emergency. I am still somewhat myself.) I've been trying to finish those three things for weeks, and despite my best effors, they've been un-finishable. Heck, Flow was un-startable. It was more than enough I told myself.  Don't overpack, I said.
I zipped the bag, and left. 

About an hour later, having been through security and posted to the blog, I sat in the airport waiting to board my flight, and I took out my knitting.  I realized instantly that I'd made a mistake.  First of all, I thought there was another chart to do on Omelet.  I don't know why I thought that, there isn't. There's never been. I had only about ten rows and a cast off to go - and knitters, it was a 5 hour flight, and- I realized with horror, It was the only knitting I had in my bag.  Panic swept over me like a wave before I got a hold of myself.

There was nothing for it, and somehow it all worked out anyway.  I finished the knitting on the plane - the last few stitches as I landed in Vancouver, the cast off as I arrived at my hotel.

Obviously it needs a proper blocking, but I'll worry about that when I get home.  I was right smug with how it all worked out, and I turned to pick up Flow and make a start on it. 

Flow's that cool tank from Norah Gaughan, and I love it.  It's a simple knit, making it a really good foil for Lizette, which is sort of at a fussy part.  I thought it would be a great thing to have to just churn away on - and I took it out of my suitcase, cast on, immediately realized my needle size was wrong-ish, and did a little gauge swatch.  Totally wrong. I had 5mm, I need 4.5mm, and I can't believe someone who's been shafted a million times by this an experienced knitter like me didn't pack a range of needles - or swatch first, but that's another affliction.  I tried not to panic.   In my teaching stuff there's a pile of needles for students to borrow if they're stuck.  Surely one set was 4.5mm? Nope.  I resolved to worry about it the next day, and went to give my talk at the Vancouver Library.  They look like this, and a big high five to Amanda and Fiona of Knit Social for doing an amazing job.  (They seem like the kind of women who would always pack a range of needles.)

I had a very nice time giving the talk - and then went back to the hotel and knit for a tiny bit. Since I coudn't start Flow, I worked on Lizette.  I knew I had a million repeats of a chart to do before something else happened, and then two whole sleeves, so that was enough knitting to hold me.

Wrong.  I have only a few repeats of a chart to go, and the sleeves are tiny, and I have all day today to get through and not only that but tomorrow is a travel day and Lizette is not going to cut it, and now that I think about it, I think that Flow isn't either, not when you think about coming home again, and really, why didn't I think about that? I'm trying not to panic, since there's a craft store near the hotel, and after I go to the gym I'm going to walk over and try to get some needles, and tomorrow I land at A Verb for Keeping Warm, and I'm pretty freakin' sure I can get a backup skein there to take on the plane home, in case I finish all of this.

The crazy thing is that as I typed that, I know what's really going to happen.   I'm going to be so worried that I'll run out of knitting that I'll buy more knitting, but then I won't run out of knitting after all, because I have been doing this for a while and I'm probably right, and then ....

I guess I don't have to ever really wonder why the stash doesn't shrink.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:30 PM

July 11, 2012

This should not get out

Today marks the end of my mum-cation - the week I've had alone in the house, and it wasn't until a text from my sister-in-law Katie, that I wondered if I did it wrong.  Katie is Lou's mum, and she said that since she figures that she's about 20 years away from the kind of freedom I enjoyed this week, that she really hoped it had been a week of margaritas, long baths and takeaway dinners, and the minute I read that, I felt like I'd wasted an opportunity in the most horrible way.  I don't mind missing out on the margaritas, I don't really care for them (tequila flashback to important lesson learned when I was 19) but when I thought of the idea of the takeaway, I was furious with myself for cooking.

The thing is, for someone as deeply introverted as I am, just this much alone time has been delicious all by itself, and there was something brilliant about still cleaning the kitchen, but cleaning it alone - or getting up in the morning and not encountering a soul, or thinking in a nice straight line all afternoon without interruption.  I may not have had takeaway, but I did stay up late writing, curled in my office chair, long past the time when the company of my family would have reminded me of the hours that normal people keep.  I felt like those were my treats, and I like that better than margaritas.  (Still pissed about the cooking. Why didn't I think of takeaway?)

The interesting thing was my knitting and spinning output.  I had these wild visions of kilos of roving passing though the wheel. Whole sweaters flying off of the needles... at the very least I was sure I would finish Lizette.  It only needed a front and short sleeves, for crying out loud.  I would probably start and finish Flow, and some socks. For sure socks. And Omelet! I was free! I had nobody at home! I was only taking care of myself! How hard could it be?

Turns out, pretty hard. Between the riding (the riding takes up a lot of knitting time.  I can't wait until August.  I'm going to knit the daylights out of August. August is going to be like a frat party of knitting) and the fact that just being alone doesn't really change the number of hours a day I work (might have increased it, actually) it means something really profound.

All these years that I've thought that if only the kids were gone I'd get so much knitting done? They're not the ones holding me back.   I think the family actually helps me get knitting done.  When they're not home, I don't watch movies, go places in the car... sit in the backyard and talk - all prime knitting time.  Turns out I'm my problem, not them - but I'd rather you didn't mention it. 

PS. I wrote this post in the back of a cab, on my way to the airport.  I fly to Vancouver today, and Joe and Sam fly to Toronto. 

Despite how much I loved being alone, I really missed them. I can't believe I won't see them for 5 more days.

PPS. I have Omelet packed for the plane.  I think I can finish.

How hard can it be?

Posted by Stephanie at 10:27 AM

July 9, 2012

Winning Monday

This was a hard weekend for our family cycling team.  It was the weekend that we were doing our back-to-backs.  See, the rally has a list of training accomplishments that need to be done by certain dates.  50km by this date, 100km by that date, and then back-to-backs, which are two long rides done back to back, one day after the other.  We decided it would be Saturday for us - or at least for Amanda and I.  Samantha and Ken are way ahead, and have already completed theirs, and Erin did hers last weekend I think, because she had to be a mum this weekend.  I'd been dreading it all week.  The plan was to do 120km on Saturday (that's (75 miles, if you're keeping track) then go home, sleep and get up the next day and do 65 km more. (40 miles.) Now, I think that any reasonable person would be pretty worried about that, so I didn't worry about being worried, until Saturday morning, when I woke up with a knot of anxiety in my tummy - so significant that it threatened to make me dizzy at times.

It's been hot here all week, and I was worried about that, but on Saturday it was threatening rain, and so I worried about that too.  We arrived at the meeting place to ride, and there were about 60 riders standing around, all looking at an ominous sky that rippled with threatening clouds.

We made light of it, said that at least a little rain would be cooling on our bikes, but people don't look up that often if they aren't concerned.  We checked in, got the route straight, and started promptly at 8am.  At 8:01 there was a tremendous crack of lightning, earthshaking thunder - and then the sky opened.  It sheeted down on us, pounding so hard that at times I was sure it was hailing.  (It wasn't.)
Lots of riders turned back at that point, but us - we didn't, because it was our back-to-back deadline, and there didn't seem to be a lot of choices around it.  I could hardly see where I was going (glasses + bike + buckets of rain = CRAP) and I worried about running into the back of Amanda, or slipping, or my brakes not working... within moments I was so wet that my shoes were full of water. 

It let up about 10 minutes later, but continued to rain a little, until around the 5k mark.  It was at that point that Amanda had the second bad thing in her day.  She checked over her shoulder for traffic, overcompensated by a millimetre, and her front rim hit the edge of a gully by the curb.  If it had been dry, everything likely would have been okay, but it wasn't dry.  It was very, very wet, and she tumbled and skidded off her bike, then smeared along the road for a couple of metres, before coming to a halt tangled in her bike.  ( I narrowly missed running her over, which was the only thing that could have made it worse.)  She was literally covered in road rash - both legs, elbows, a shoulder, her side, both hands...

You could have knocked me over with a feather when the kid got up, let go a few tears, and then got on her bike and kept riding.  115 km to go, all banged up, and she kept riding.  I don't know if I would have.  So proud of her.
30km later I took a scary spill on an incline and smashed the right side of my arse enough that it's still so swollen I sit crooked in chairs.  I cut my leg up, just where it was starting to heal, and skidded my elbow pretty good.  I'm the mother  though, so I pretended it didn't hurt, but it really did. 
I cried on the inside.

5km later Amanda had a flat, and by then the sun was searingly, hatefully hot... and the rest of the day passed in a haze of aches, pains and determination. 

The next morning Amanda and I texted each other from bed comparing the size of the relative trucks we felt had hit us, and trying to get out of riding again. There was no way out, and we finished our back to backs yesterday without anything else happening... which was a minor miracle considering the level of anxiety we both had.  Falling is hard on the soul.  It was so bad at a couple of points on Saturday that I couldn't even remember why I was doing it. 

And then I remembered. Fundraising. The whole point. Riding my bike to Montreal actually does nothing to raise funds without your help, and I'm ever so grateful that you all make it worth it. 

(PS. While Amanda and I were falling down, across the city my sister Erin took a tumble too.  I think it's genetic.)

Without further ado, this week's Karmic Balancing gifts, with our thanks.

The forever generous Debbi (Stitches of My Life Designs) went into the stash and came up with karmic balancing presents. She'll be sending Wendy W a beautiful skein of Brooks Farm Riata  (mohair, silk and wool)

A beautiful skein of Shepherd's Wool is headed off in the mail to Bettina H

She's parting with a skein of Gaia Lace (40%cashmere, 60% silk) - heading off to a happy new life with Becky G.

Finally - Sunshine P is going to be lucky to get 3 skeins of Tilli Tomas - Beaded Plie. 

Katherine did a little stash diving herself, and she'd like to share two balls of sock yarn (I love this stuff- but as you know, I'm a sucker for self patterning yarn) with Jean A.

The lovely folks at Miss Babs Yarn and Fibers (a source of many delicious things) have donated a $25 gift certificate that is going to Corrie S.

Dani over at Lioness Arts has very generously offered to dye up a gift.  She's willing to part with four skeins (that's enough for a sweater) of her Alpaca/silk in
the colourway "Shapes in the Clouds."

Lovely stuff, and it now belongs to Aprille J.

The lovely ladies at Jordana Paige, purveyors of fine knitting accessories, have kindly donated a bag- the fabulous Rio bag, to be exact. 

The family cyclists (I think this time it was Sam)  pulled out Kim P's name. 

By the way? You should totally take a look at the Jordana Paige Fundraiser for the Preeclampsia Foundation. They're selling off imperfect bags for $50 bucks a pop, with 100% of the sale price going to the foundation. Very nice.

Stephanie at Dirty Water Dyeworks has a beautiful kit for Dipped Infinity

and Judith F will be picking her colours and getting that bit of prettiness in the mail.

Jenny in the UK has some very pretty locally dyed sparkle yarn from her stash that she'd like to send along.

It's Fivemoons laceweight, and she'll be sending that to live with the very lucky Linda L.

Kathy A's stash offered up something lovely. 

A skein of Henry's Attic Lace - 100% silk that she'll mail to Marguerite M.

Laura of Knitfacts has two sets of her amazing ringlets to send away.

Lori S  and Jen H can each choose their favourite colourway.

The delightful Aubrey over at Goodies Unlimited (I personally recommend her Everything Balm. I have it slathered all over my bike gouged leg at the moment, although to be fair, her Stress-free Green Tea soap is a favourite too.) has four $25 gift certificates going out to lucky knitters...

Janene R, Cindy W, Jacqueline F and Lindsey TG are going to be her newest fans.

That's it for now, thanks for your support! Remember that everyone who donates to anybody on our family team is eligible to randomly receive a Karmic Balancing gift, and because someone will ask if I don't post them, here's the link to all our pages.


(PS. It doesn't matter how much you give - everyone has the same chance.  We know that everyone does their best with what they have, and we're grateful for it all.) 

Posted by Stephanie at 3:50 PM

July 6, 2012


Like a big chunk of North America, Toronto is roasting in a heat wave, and like a lot of Torontonians, we've got no air conditioning.  Mostly I don't mind the heat, but when it's this muggy and hot- even the most die-hard summer lovers get a little weepy around the edges, and that's where I'm at.  The sustained heat has soaked into the house, and last night I slept downstairs because the upstairs felt a lot like Satan's armpit.   (Or so I've been told.  It's not like Satan's actual armpit and I are well acquainted.) 

It's so hot that this morning I didn't even consider going on a training ride (and I'm pretty nervous about the back-to-back long rides over this weekend) and just now I thought about going out to run an errand - then opened the front door, and the second the blast of heat and sun hit me I thought "You know, there's nothing I want out there" and went back in, and decided to give up and do what you're supposed to do when it's hot like this.  I'm going to crack open a frosty beer,  sit myself down in front of a fan in the living room and relax until it's cooler.  (I don't know what exactly I'll do if that means I'm sitting here until September, but I'm going to worry about that in the morning.)

Spinning has been slow, since I've discovered a basic incompatibility between roving and a fan, not to mention sticky, sweaty hands,  but in the evenings when it's cooler I can manage - and even with just that little bit of time I've got the grey North Ronaldsay done.

I spun it to match the brown, and I'm going to do the white the same way - just the minute it cools down enough to make it all reasonable.  That tiny accomplishment brings my meagre Tour do Fleece production to about only 600 metres and about 300g- but I'm not worrying about it.

Until I'm emotionally ready to think about turning off the fan, I'll be knitting. I've got the back all done, and the bottom front wrapped up too.  Last night I did the provisional cast on that begins the top front, and with that...

I feel like it can't be long now before I have a new summer sweater,  which will be ironic, since I can't imagine putting it on right now. 
Is it hot where you are?

Posted by Stephanie at 1:20 PM

July 4, 2012


I swear to you that I wasn't going to do the Tour de Fleece.  I swear it. I'd considered the idea carefully and weighed the pros and cons, and then, after careful deliberation I came to my conclusion, which was essentially "Screw that."  This month is killing me.  I've got a ton of stuff to do, the family's busy, I'm away for a week, the Rally is at the end of the month, hours a day are going to training rides that are starting to hurt, and frankly I need another goal this month like I need a hole in the head.   (Also, I thought that if I did one more bike related thing I would probably barf.)

The hardest thing about the commitment to the Rally has been the time.  I guess I don't mind riding my bike this much (sort of. I'm pretty tired) but the time it takes to do it is crazy.  Now that we're in the home stretch, this week I'll do "quick rides" which are 90 minutes every morning, and then the whole weekend is taken up by back to back whole day rides- and that doesn't even get into going to the meetings, going to the bike shop, managing fundraising... I'm the one who made the commitment, so I don't mind, but it doesn't leave a lot of free time. Just the idea of adding another thing made me flinch, and I'm pretty jumpy these days anyway.  I don't know if you've thought about this- but you can't knit on a bike.  The basic minimum amount of knitting I need to do - the little that it takes to keep me from being a horrible person with no patience is already endangered. Why would I want even less time to knit by setting a spinning challenge?  No. No way.  I wasn't going to do it, and I decided not to. It was final.

Then the night before the Tour started, I had a complete change of heart.  I realized that I've got no issues with spinning, I love spinning, and it's almost as good for your personality as knitting, and it would be great to get a bunch of spinning done... and all of a sudden it came to me.  I had no problem with the Tour de Fleece, I just needed a reasonable goal. I just couldn't let it get crazy.

Now, I've met me, and I realized pretty quick that I was going to have to be careful here.  I'm forever setting "reasonable goals" that then kick the snot out of me. I'm reasonable about most everything else, but when it comes to goals I just take all leave of my senses.  This mostly works out and just means I experience some stress for a bit, but I'm good with stress - so no problem.  Now though? I'm already under stress and I don't see any reason to pump it so totally over the top that I take an emotional blowtorch to the whole month of July.  This is uncharacteristically clever and mature of me, and so I really gave it some thought.

Someone suggested that I think of a reasonable goal - and then cut it in half.  Someone else suggested that then I cut it in half again.  There were lots of good suggestions, and then it came to me.   Instead of doing what I've done before - which was setting a goal of a certain number of grams spun (1500 or 1400 to be precise) I would make a vague goal.  I'd make a goal that was more about effort than it was about amount, and I'd let myself off the hook on days that spinning happened in huge quantities on the bike, rather than at the wheel. Once I thought about it like that, the Tour started to sound like fun again.

I made my goal that I was going to try and make the spinning stash retreat back into its bins.  There's lots of ways to do that too- I can tidy up, I can give some away - or I can spin it.  It's a nice vague goal that should stay reasonable, and so far, so good.  I've had this beautiful North Ronaldsay roving in the stash for a few years, and it's the first thing up. 

North Ronaldsay sheep are an endangered sheep breed.  They live in Scotland on the northernmost island of the Orkney Islands, on the beach.  They mostly eat seaweed (they're totally odd) and they're not found anywhere else. Just one  three mile long island in the whole world.

I've got a total of 500 grams of nice soft roving in three colours (I'm pretty sure it came from Scottish Fibres) and it's so nice it almost spun itself up while I sat in the backyard.

All told, 200g of the brown became about 440m of a fingering weight yarn- and it's pretty as all get out. 

I've traditionally given away everything I spin during the Tour, but this?
It makes me a little greeedy.

PS: It's day one of my little vacation alone.  So far, I'm planning pizza for dinner, and feeling proud that they've been gone for three hours and I'm not totally feral yet.

PPS: Happy July the 4th to my American friends.  Have a great holiday.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:26 PM

July 3, 2012

I might hear myself think

Tomorrow Joe and Sam leave for a week on the rock, to hang out with her grandparents and hike Signal Hill and go sailing and eat jam-jams. I'm not going with them because I have work commitments here, and because, frankly - an 18 year old like Sam, who will never be stronger or more beautiful than she is now can miss a training ride, but a 44 year old woman who's barely limping through this thing has to stay on track.  If I went with them on holiday, I'd miss a week of training - and then another week when I go to Vancouver and San Francisco to speak and teach next week. Trust me. That's not the kind of slacking you can do if you're thinking of surviving a 660km ride.  I already spend every minute that I'm off my bike feeling like I should be doing something to keep this Rally from being the biggest mistake I've ever made, and I know I'd just panic if I spent two of the last three weeks not riding, so - here I stay.

I'm a little bummed about missing the fun, I love Newfoundland, and it's been a few years since I was there, but I know the decision to stay here is the mature, proper thing to do. I am spending a little time reflecting on how consistently I find that the mature good decisions are the ones that are less fun, but it's not like that's a new idea I have to adjust to.  If I'm staying though, I'm going to make the most of it.  Today I'm cleaning the house, doing the laundry, hitting the grocery store, making everything as nice as I can, because other than the weekday morning rides (and the whole day rides on Saturday and Sunday)  once I'm done my work everyday for the next week, I'm on a mum-vacation. I'm going to be alone in the house for a week.  Just think about it.  Think about what I could do!

Okay. I can't actually think of what I might do that's really that different, but I'll do it all alone, and that's a pretty crazy thing.  For one whole week, dinner can be whatever I say it is, and there's going to be nobody here to judge it. For a whole week I can go into the bathroom anytime I want -  heck, I can even read in the bathtub for an hour or two, and nobody's going to knock on the door and ask me when I'm going to be done, or if I think it's been a little long, or if my book is good because they're out of books and did I really want to finish that one? I can write until 3am and nobody will say I should go to bed earlier.  For a whole week, I can just use the phone whenever I want. I can even watch the movies that Sam and Joe think are stupid, like Deep Impact or The Day After Tomorrow or Ice Twisters (that one was particularly contentious)  and nobody can say anything like "MUM. The comet is going to hit the earth just like it did last time, can we please just watch Glee?"

For one week I'm going to do exactly as I please (except for the work and the riding, but no plan is perfect) and I'm actually a little excited about that. If by excited you understand that I'm going to miss them dreadfully. So much. I'll actually probably just sit here and cry the whole time.

Wanna do karmic balancing gifts to cheer me up?

From the generous hearts at Hearthside Fibers, two skeins of their BaaBoo fingering weight yarn, one for Krystal R.

and the other for Sarah T.

Christian over at Radioactive Rabbit has two beautiful bags to give away (and she's doing a half marathon for charity - have a look! )  One beautiful bag for Kate K,

and one pretty one for Laura W.

Melanie at Black Trillium Fibre Studio has generously donated ten skeins of her pebble yarn - and five (that go together so beautifully) are going to Amy S.

and the other coordinating five are going to live with Kalita B.

(All I see when I look at those is Color Affection.  I might not be quite over that.)

Max over at Max's world has this great gift.

Max makes knitted sculptures - and Linda P is going to receive a brooch, earrings and necklace, as well as the Knitting Octopus greeting card. 

Tamara is giving away this beautiful handspun she made.

She'll pop that in the mail for Hilary J. 

As proof that the planet's really into the karmic balancing thing, Tamara is the winner of the next gift! (I swear. Random selection.  Bizarre, right?)  Elizabeth will be mailing her a fractal roving (have you seen this yet? Pretty cool)

It's shown here in Grey's Analogy Antique, but Tamara will be choosing her favourite from The Hilltop Fibre Worker. (I also think it worked out rather nicely that I know a spinning gift is going to a spinner!)

Kim (who I know in actual real life and is really nice) at Indigodragonfly has a fabulous contribution.

Two $30 gift certificates will be going out, one each to Suzzanne R and Lynne W.   Thanks Kim!

Dani (who I also know in actual real life and is also very nice) who is KSC Designs, would like Vicki K to have a box bag - just like this one, except that she can pick the fabric:

and a sweet roll like this one for Barbara LW except again - Choices!

Whew! 13 gifts - and there's way more to come.  Next week there's some lovely things, and a surprise from Sam later in the week, as always, everyone who donates to anyone on our family team is eligible to get a karmic balancing gift, and I'll be giving away stuff up to (and probably after) the ride- I'm going to keep going until there's nothing more to give. (I'm starting to feel like that's the theme of the whole rally.) Our departure date is 3 weeks and 4 days away,  and as always - the links for our little team are below.  Thanks to everyone who's helping us make it possible.


(PS. It doesn't matter how much you give - everyone has the same chance.  We know that everyone does their best with what they have, and we're grateful for it all.) 

Posted by Stephanie at 4:32 PM

July 2, 2012

Randomly on what I think is a Monday

That weekend blew by me faster than a teenager thirty minutes past curfew with beer on her breath - but let's try to sum up, shall we?

1. Happy Canada Day!  I swear I was going to put a post up, but yesterday got seriously out of hand, and instead of arriving home in the early afternoon to finish it up and hit post - I arrived home at 11pm and lay helplessly wilted on the chesterfield instead.  Still, don't take the lack of a post for a lack of enthusiasm.  The post I was going to put up listed so many of the things that make this country great, and then I realized that it's Luis' first Canada Day, and thought of what I like best about what growing up Canadian will mean to him.

This country is safe. 
Unbelievably safe.  Our crime rate fell another 5% last year, our homicide rate declined by 10%, the severity index said crimes in general were 6% less nasty. In a country of just over 34 000 000 people, only 554 of them were victims of homicide in 2010.  It's not just that, we've got no really deadly animals, no really nasty insects, and a stunning lack of natural disasters.  We're politically stable, more educated than any other nation, we have a social safety net that- while it's far from perfect, provides a great deal of security.  Our health care system covers everybody, and it must work, because only 5 countries have better life expectancies than Canadians do. We enjoy a terrific degree of freedom,  our economy is remarkably stable,  we have no major infectious disease like yellow fever or malaria - and most Canadians enjoy the luxury of flushing the toilet with potable water. We have few enemies,  only share a border with the US, and they haven't invaded since 1812 - in short, it's a fabulous place to live, and Lou will be very safe growing up here, and what could you want more than that?

2.  I decided to do the Tour de Fleece.  My goal is to get all the spinning stash to fit back into the bins. I'm afraid to weigh what I have to move out of here, but I spun a chunk on Saturday.  I'll show you tomorrow.

3.  Yesterday my sister and I (and her charming friend Nina) decided to ride our bikes from Toronto to Port Hope.  That's about 110 km, and we thought it wouldn't be that hard. 

(We are seen here smiling before it got too hard.)

4. Then I suggested that we take the waterfront trail. It's sort of zig-zaggy, which I didn't think of, but it's close to the lake, which we all agreed would be cooler.

5. Then we got lost.

6. Then the destination was about 5 km further into Port Hope than we hoped for.

7. When it was all said and done, this is what my odometer said.

That's right. 141.2 km. (That's about 88 miles, for anybody who's wondering.)  That's so far.  That's ridiculously far.  That's so far that when we were about 10 km from the end, I remember thinking, in all seriousness, that it was a shame I was going to die so close to finishing.

We are seen here smiling because we thought we were done - and seconds after a kindly passer-by stopped us from posing right by that sign, and in a large stand of poison ivy, which would have really just been the icing on the cake. (Thanks dude.) If we'd have known then what we know now, which is that the sign was 20km from our destination, we wouldn't have smiled. We would have called someone to come get us.

8. I am currently not in a civil speaking relationship with my thighs or any part of my body that touched the seat.

9. Wait until they find out we're riding again this evening. 

10. I didn't spin yesterday, because I figure that since yesterdays stage of the actual Tour de France was 198 km, and I rode 141 km, that maybe I could let myself off the hook.  I did a lot of spinning.  It just wasn't at the wheel.

11. If nobody minds, I'm going to do the Karmic Balancing gifts tomorrow. I know I said Monday, but my drivers license expired and I really need to do something about it.

12. I can't believe I have to ride my bike to get there.

Posted by Stephanie at 12:21 PM