Wednesday, February 21, 2018

normal? spinning & audio books and life

I recently set myself a little challenge.  I would try out a new kind of wool--a sheep breed I'd never spun before- and spin it two ways.  Lumpy-ish worsted/aran singles, and a skinny little, relatively smooth two ply yarn. I set up my wheel over the long weekend.  (It was Louis Riel Day here)  We did go to Festival du Voyageur on Monday, but we also spent a lot of time playing inside.  This picture of the lumpy Clun Forest that I bought from Custom Woolen Mills in Alberta this past summer.

True confessions:  I haven't been spinning much these days.  Our house has been taken over by toys, art projects, and other busy things.  When I have a spare moment (hah!), I try to knit when I can.  It takes up less space...and we're always needing some new hand knits for winter here.

However, the other problem is that I'm still lacking stamina from having pneumonia.  It seems like I can do one thing a day, and after that?  I need to have a break.  Spinning was actually a sort of "active" thing for me, and I ended up very tired out.  I haven't plied the skinny smooth singles yet, nor have I washed the finished skein of lumpy yarn.  Both are destined to be mitts, I expect, as this wool doesn't felt easily, according to what I've heard.

I also discovered recently that my local library had changed its electronic subscriptions--and that I could no longer access audio books on Hoopla.  This was a big bummer.  They also have a limited subscription to Overdrive.  I only know this because I secretly cruise my parents' libraries in Northern Virginia, and they have much better subscription packages than Winnipeg's library...more access to audio books and ebooks for free.  I have even figured out, by the way, how to read an ebook on my iPad while I spin... (but only if it is a boring, skinny, plain vanilla kind of yarn.)

Where does this come from?  Well, in the old days, before twins, I used to listen to a lot of audio books while I sat spinning.  Now I listen to a lot of audio books while I do housework--and frankly, it helps me keep my sanity.  I can continue thinking about something (anything!) bigger than meal planning, cutting up vegetables or cleaning pots, etc.  In this case, multi-tasking may keep me from a sole minded focus on, say, salad, but then, who needs that amount of focus on cucumbers and carrots?  (Yeah, not me, sorry!)

To supplement what I could get from the library, which can be spotty, to say the least, I have treated myself to an Audible subscription.  The first year or two it was a birthday gift, for which I was grateful.  Then nobody wanted to give me gifts anymore--but I felt I could not give up this luxury.  I use coupons at the grocery store and cook more so we skip eating  meals out to read/listen to more books this way.

I found out recently that there is some sort of deal going on with Audible.  You can get two free audio books if you try a free Audible subscription.  That seemed like a gift I should pass along.  If you're in the US,Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks.

If you're in Canada, here is a link to the Audible membership thingee--I hope it works.  (As a dual citizen, my internet access sort of goes back and forth and I can see sales in one country but not the other, etc.  So, I hope this is the right link!)

I'm still not up to my normal pace of life and miss my walks with Sally the dog, but I'm working on it.  In the meanwhile, my brain can race with ideas while my body catches up.  I also found this gorgeous BBC clip about commuting-- ice skating to work in Sweden, and it almost made me feel like I was skating again.  (but I am definitely not well enough for that yet, either!)
(I had to edit this post to fix the Audible sale links, I hope they work now!)

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Cute as a button

 When I finished this hat, I was sitting on the couch, holding it in my hands, and the first thing that came to mind was... "Well now, ain't you cute as a button?"
And that's how I named Button, my new pattern. 


This is a simple and fast knit, and reminds me a lot of a design I did a long time ago, the Icelandic winter capI used a Canadian lopi-style yarn from Custom Woolen Mills (purchased on our family's adventure to Alberta last summer) but Istex Alafoss Lopi from Iceland, is a great choice, if you can get some.  If not, any bulky yarn will do!

This winter, most photos have been taken indoors.  It seems like every time the weather warms up enough so that someone wants to pose outside, or the camera won't freeze?  Well, that's when everyone's too sick for a photo shoot.

I must have had a premonition when I wrote that last blog post. I stayed indoors with one (or two) sick kids from February 10 through 15, and today is the first time they've both gone back to school.  I'm worried--somebody might keel over...but I was a bit desperate to go grocery shopping, and do some work uninterrupted.  (Writing columns to a deadline while trying to tune out PBS kids' shows can be hard.)  And well...frankly, I could not wait to be alone again for a few moments!

For now, Button's available for sale exclusively on Ravelry.  It should be available on Loveknitting.com in a day or two.  If you're keen to knit a hat quickly, while watching the Olympics, for instance, maybe you could download it now...and if you have yarn on hand? Be done by the end of the weekend.  To do that, you do not have to be a speedy Olympic knitter or anything, either...no luge, skeleton, bobsled or curling necessary.  (Well, the brim does a little curling at the end, but you don't need any brooms at all, it does it on its own!)

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Friday, February 09, 2018

the spirit of the thing

I have a habit of attempting to publish a pattern around Valentine's Day.  Some years, this works out.  Other years, well, something gets in the way, and what was intended to be a Valentine's Day release (or before Valentine's...) doesn't work out.  Some years I run a big sale.  Sometimes nothing happens at all.  I am working ahead this time, because, well, it turns out that when everyone has been sick, you cannot predict what things will look like a day or two away.  I've been trying to rest a lot, but in the meanwhile, things still seem to be happening online, with or without me--patterns and articles I wrote a long time ago are finding their way in the world, without my help, and that is heartening.
 Last year, I published the Thump Thump Mittens, (Be still my heart). Another year, I did the Hole Inside Mitts, which is really more a story about heartbreak...but relevant to Valentine's.  Long ago, I designed the Heart's Ease Socks, while pondering things that cause heart ache.  Distal was first published long before Valentine's, but I knit the red version out of handspun for myself...and it became my go to shawl/scarf for this cold time of year.
A long (long) time ago, I came up with the Turkish Lace Camisole, but I'd have to say that unless I'm wearing the dark green linen version of these, as a layer, it doesn't get much use these days...and definitely not over a bathing suit :)  The post-twin figure doesn't lend itself to this item, but surely someone out there needs something fetching for a cruise or mid-winter trip to somewhere warm....?
This is a circuitous way of saying that I've got a new pattern coming, and I'm working on it.  If I feel up to it, it might be published by Valentine's Day...?! Or not.
In the meanwhile, I'm showing you lots of happy red items to knit,(Just look away from all that winter weather if it gets you down and knit--it is cheering!) and all these patterns are also available on Loveknitting.com, which is selling a lot of patterns these days...complete with the yarn to make them.
I got my own little present today--The Jewish Independent, a Vancouver publication, posted an article that I wrote that I'm especially fond of.  It combines two of my great loves: Talmud and working with wool (knitting/spinning, etc.).  It's called In the spirit of Jewish law.
Stay warm!  Knit (and wear) wool!
PS: This weekend, we've got a project--I'm lining up little boys with lots of Valentines this year for their school classmates!  It will be the first time they can write their names on every card.  Very exciting. :)

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Monday, February 05, 2018

A little story about health care

As a dual citizen, (and my husband and I have each lived abroad in a third country--so, experience with 4 countries' health care systems between the 2 of us) I am often asked to compare our health care system in Manitoba with US health care.  This is an impossibility; it's like comparing anchovies with oranges.  If someone asked you to do this, you'd say, HUH?  Why?
In the US, health care is different in every state. Even more complicated, it varies enormously from one city or region to another.  (Health care in Northern Virginia, near DC, as compared to, say, the stats from Appalachian Virginia)  Health care in upstate New York or Durham, North Carolina was vastly different than when I lived in Kentucky...it varies so much in the US from one place to another and is so uneven that if you've lived in a variety of places, you know these generalizations are useless.
The same can be said about Canada--although health care is "free" here, it's actually paid for by our taxes, and there are fees on top of "free" that vary from province to province.  It's also different in each province, and again different, when comparing regions: a city, for instance, as compared to a rural area.
Just a couple days after I got diagnosed with pneumonia, one of my kids woke up in the middle of the night with something that looked a lot like mumps.  (and yes, we are fully vaccinated at our house.)

Here's my most recent CBC-Manitoba opinion piece about our experience, which ran on Saturday:
How would Manitoba handle an epidemic?

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Thursday, February 01, 2018

Some rewards where I can find them

Here is a quick post with some fun stuff.  We're having some very cold weather, but it comes with benefits.  The sun is shining bright.  I made some strawberry sorbet from freezer strawberries-- picked last summer--and set the container outside to refreeze.  (faster than the freezer!) And, apparently some folks saw moon dogs...as well as sun dogs.  Whoa.
I linked this to the CBC article, and the moon dog is that double circle you see around the white thingee (the moon)--the shiny building to the right is the Manitoba Legislature.

I also discovered that the Winnipeg Public Library Local History blog  wrote up a short,positive review of my book, From the Outside In, back in July.  Whoops.  I missed that entirely!  (If you click on this, scroll down.  They reviewed several books there at once.)

Finally, I got a note, out of the blue, saying that my blog made Feedspot's Top 40 Canadian Knitting Blogs.    Full disclosure, the top blogs are from big names like the Yarn Harlot, yarn shops and yarn companies...and I'm something like 34th.  However, it's nice to be included with the bigwigs--especially because actual knitting is going very slowly here.

I'm still recovering from pneumonia and last night I mended little boys' jeans, as they keep busting out the knees of every pair...but I do write about knitting--and design, too--sometimes...

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A normal snow day

Scene from the back door, 8:15 AM today

Growing up in Virginia, any day that looked like this would be a day off school.  Hah.  The truth is that in a northern climate, winter snow is a way of life--and nothing is cancelled unless it's dire.  In fact, we need the precipitation, it has been a 'dry' winter so far without much snow. We have a blowing snow advisory, and maybe it could be called a blizzard, if the wind picks up.  It's messy, and I have a medical appointment later on today.  I haven't even seen any plows.  And yeah, the school bus came by as usual at 7:50 or so.  There were some half-hearted attempts by twins--at play-shoveling while waiting for the bus.  (We'll do real shoveling after the wind dies down.  Right now, there is just no point.)
I had a brief exchange recently with someone about how to clean a throw rug.  Note: I do not do this while recovering from pneumonia...  I recommended the "clean in the snow technique."  
Take it outside, put it on a patch of clean snow.  Stomp on it. Flip it over, and stomp again.  Hang it up on a porch railing.  Beat it with the stick end of a snow shovel or broom.  Let it air out--outdoors.  Bring in, hang to dry.  Put on floor.
"What an interesting use for snow!" She responded.  (I'm paraphrasing here.)  ...Uhh, when the snow is around from November to April?  We manage to find things to do with it... although both boys seemed chatty and excited about the prospect of a possible indoor recess rather than sledding today, given the windy, snowy weather.  (Yes, we have outdoor recess until the windchill is -28C.  That's about -18F.)
In the meanwhile, I'm passing a long a link to an article I wrote that went live online and in the Vancouver Jewish Independent last Friday:
If you like to read these occasional links, you may be interested in downloading a copy of From the Outside In. It's a collection of some of the older essays in this vein...You can also buy it online in hard copy.  (These are the Canadian links, if you want to check it out in the US, it's right here.)
Is it snowing where you are? If so...Stay warm!  Wear your tuque!  :)

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Oh well

I had a lot of plans in mind for January. Somehow, the month has escaped.  Here is a photo of some handspun that I dyed while I was sick.  I shouldn't have been doing it, but I've had several days when I felt sort of better and wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment.  This was some grayish/oatmeal Border Leicester/Romney wool, blended with a small amount of mohair.  I spun enough for a kid's sweater.  I started spinning this in July, when Wolseley Wool, my local yarn store, hosted a few spinning nights.  (It gave me a great excuse to leave home and spin.)

Naturally colored wool makes a great palette for dyeing because the colors come out with depth--textured and rich in the end.  This quick snapshot doesn't show the depth of color, it was cloudy, but I dyed the yarns to order for my kid, blue and green, and left it out in the dining room for all of us to admire and enjoy a shot of color.

Both my twins were home with me for a week due to illness--today is their first day back at school, I hope they make it through the day.  (More on that another time, when I am more energetic.)

A couple of details in the meanwhile.  I left home to teaching my spinning class, which was well-attended and went very smoothly, considering all the illness and antibiotics at home. There are 11 new spindle spinners in the world!  Hurray!  (I hope they keep up the good work!)

Whenever I am really sick, I enjoy a good wallow in bed with a book when it is possible.  Since I had two little kids home with me, that wasn't always an option, but I did discover something. Rosamunde Pilcher's books are now available as ebooks, and you can download them from Amazon or check them out from the library.  I have been a fan of her books since I was a teenager.  Everything is sort of ok at the beginning of every book, but in the middle, there are hot baths, cups of tea, bracing whiskies, dogs, cats, warm farmhouse kitchens, and eventually, at the end, it is always "happy ever after."  There is something to be said for this kind of reading while sick.  I own some of these books, and I prefer real books to ebooks...but these were written long ago and some are out of print.  Here are a couple links through Amazon to the ones I have read (again) so far.  I'm now in the midst of Voices in Summer.

If you're not sick and up for an exciting spy series, I've been really enjoying Susan Elia MacNeal's Maggie Hope mystery series, but only when I wasn't sick and thinking straight!

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