Friday, January 29, 2010

Goodbye Small Apartment

Just a quick blog post before the big day tomorrow. We will be without home internet service until Tuesday...sniff, sniff. Everything is in boxes and bags. It looks like one of the hoarders from TV lives here now with all the stuff piled up everywhere! Every closet and cupboard is empty and scrubbed. All the appliances, bathrooms, and countertops have been cleaned.

The plan is for the menfolk to do all the donkey work with the furniture and boxes while I do the last bit of cleaning...wiping marks off walls, vacuuming, washing the floors, etc. The girls get to look after the pets and generally "help" out while really staying out of the way, LOL. We had a bit of panic today when the realtor phoned to tell us that the occupants of our new place haven't even started moving yet. We are supposed to get the keys at noon tomorrow and, according to our plan, our moving truck will be all packed up and ready to go. But, thankfully, he called back a while later to let us know that they were, in fact, moving and that we will get the keys on schedule. Whew! Its been such a roller coaster ride with all the lawyer meetings and document signing and co-ordinating of all the different things. Now I know why people get really settled into a place even if they could do better. It is such an overwhelming mountain of tasks that you need to accomplish when you are an owner. Life was so much simpler as a lowly renter....

I'm sure everything will work out ok in the end. I am so happy to be moving that I refuse to be sucked down into negative thoughts at this point. And, once we are safely moved, we will have a bit of spare cash to get new appliances (we did really well on our sale) and other fun stuff to personalize the place...especially shelves and whatever else I will need to set up my new craft room!

Anyways, its late, I'm tired, and tomorrow is going to be a busy, busy day! See you on the other side...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thoughts on Socks

BBB is finished at last! I sewed in the last ends just before lunch time. I have posted all the details on Ravelry here and I will add photos to the blog once the recipient has tried it on. It was a bit challenging in that I had to learn some new techniques (intarsia and duplicate stitch) but I must say it exceeded my expectations and was a great way to start off the new year.

Finally..onto socks! Socks are my go-to project whenever I need a quick pick-me-up or I'm feeling anxious and stressed. They're great for grab and go knitting and never fail to entertain me. I make a lot of socks in a year...usually around 12 - 15 adult-sized pairs. When I first started making socks, I was seduced by all the fancy patterns out there. A quick search on Ravelry will net you hundreds of sock designs, most of which are free. But, after a few fancy-pants pairs, I settled into making exclusively simple, basic socks and let the yarn do all the work. I use commercial sock yarns like Regia, ONline, Trekking, etc. that self-stripe and do funky colorwork and I use the basic sock pattern from Ann Budd's Handy Book of Patterns. I have used this pattern so much that I have it memorized and can happily knit away without thought, except to change the numbers depending on what size I'm making. The only variation I use is to continue ribbing down the back of the leg (over the back 14 stitches) until the top of the heel. This keeps the leg and ankle snug and non-saggy.

I love the predictability of knitting basic socks..I know exactly how they will turn out, I know that they will fit the recipient perfectly, I know exactly how much yarn I will have left over. For some reason, I never get bored of making them. I stray away into sweater territory for a while but I always come back for more.

This time I have cast on a pair of ONline socks for me in stripes of teals and bright lime green. When I first started making socks, I only used very conservative and co-ordinating colors. But now I find that I really like looking down at my feet and seeing bright, happy socks on them. A little bit of colorful cheer on gloomy, depressing days. K. is the same way. The first socks I knit for him had to be manly colors like dark blue, grey, or forest green. Now he is choosing yarns in interesting mixes of deep reds, oranges, greens, and even occasionally purple!

I'm sure I will knit socks in beautiful, complicated patterns from time to time. But, by far, my sock drawer is going to be full of these simple, happy pretties!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Out of the Bedroom

Provocative title, no? Well get your mind out of the gutter! What I mean is that I have finally moved the laptop out of the bedroom. A bit of a back story: Since we moved into this apartment 6 years ago the computer has always been in the bedroom due to lack of space. At first I used the desktop exclusively. Then the laptop came to live with us. Slowly, over time, I stopped using the desktop and graduated to using the laptop while lounging on the bed. Eventually I started to realize that I have been spending a lot of time on the internet and with stupid computer games, like Spider Solitaire. This translated into spending a lot of time in the bedroom during the day and evening. Now, most people say they spend to much time on the internet in a sort of joking way...but I'm not kidding. I estimate that I spend probably 65% or more of my waking time dialed in. A serious addiction for sure. And I don't even do anything really that important..just lots of repetitive surfing and game playing. Besides the obvious..too much computer = bad..staying in my bedroom most of the day is just not healthy for me or the family. Besides becoming quite antisocial, I am not spending enough time interacting with the kids and I'm definately not getting nearly enough done around the house each day.

Well, since this is the year for dramatic change, yesterday I moved the laptop downstairs to the dining room table. I won't was painful. Gone are my days of leisurely surfing when I first wake up, constantly checking for updates on different sites, winding down in the evening playing my games. Not to say that I still won't be doing all those things, but having to actually sit in an upright position in a busy area of the house is really lessening the attraction. I think I only spent about half as long as usual on the computer yesterday. But, on the positive side, the lingering pain in my neck and shoulder is finally starting to ease up. I am embarrassed to admit that I would practically lay in the bed with the laptop propped up, rather than actually sit up straight. What is particularly pathetic is that I knew it was a problem for a long time, but I just couldn't break the habit of taking the easy way out and escaping reality whenever possible. When we move the computer will not be going into the new bedroom, thats for sure!

Speaking of moving, K. and the girls are packing boxes as I sit here typing. I had a rather stressful time dealing with the cable/internet/phone connection guys for the change over this morning. All is good now, but the residual stress is still tweaking me so I am blogging rather than packing for now. Later I will knit a bit on BBB...I should be able to finish up the last sleeve today and then it is just some duplicate stitching and lots of sewing...hurrah! Then I can start my pretty, pretty socks.

Lastly, Tango says:

"Why wouldn't you want to sit on the bed all day? Blankets are soooo much fun!!!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Catching Up

Whoops..I can't believe its been over a week since my last blog entry! Well, no time like the present to catch up, I guess. Not much exciting has been happening here, just lots of pre-moving stuff like contacting utilities, cleaning, and sorting. We are going to be doing a lot of packing this weekend so I am mentally getting ready for that. I had originally planned to do some work this week, but I severely strained a muscle in my neck which prevented me from doing just about anything except laying around, cursing. Add that to the migraine I've had for the last 5 days due to lack of sleep (wonderful noisy neighbors) and its been just peachy! But all is better now and I'm raring to go. Only just over a week left, after all!

Big, black, and boring has been slowly chugging along. I finished the back and am on the final sleeve. I must confess that I let it lie fallow for several days and read books instead. It was just too..well..boring. My goal is to have it finished before moving day and I'm pretty sure I'll make it. Of course I could have had it completely finished by now if I hadn't been dilly-dallying, but then I would have had to gouge out my eyeballs from boredom... Anyways, here's a teaser:

I can't wait for the big reveal once the recipient has gotten it!

In other news, the weather has been absolutely incredible this last week. Balmy high temperatures and lots of rain. It feels like spring almost and bulbs are starting to poke up everywhere. I know that its just a trick, though. Every year we get the same thing in January and every year, before the end of February, winter returns with a vengeance for a final hurrah of cold, snowy weather before true spring arrives. I am just hoping the cold snap holds off until we are safely moved.

And, just because, here's a recipe! Every Sunday morning I haul out my cast iron pan and make pancakes for the family. I don't really want to sometimes, but they drive me crazy with their whiny complaints if I don't! I started with a basic cookbook recipe and have been tweaking it for quite some time until I believe it has now reached perfection and is ready to share..

Mix together:

1 cup white flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tbs sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
cinnamon to taste

Warm up, then beat until just combined:

1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs
2 tbs veggie oil (safflower, not olive)

Add the liquid to the dry and stir until most of the lumps are out. Carefully stir in up to 1 cup frozen blueberries. Ladle into preheated, greased pan, cook and enjoy!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Weekend

Just a quick catch up after the weekend. Sorry, no pics is very dark and rainy and this apartment is severely lacking in natural light (another thing that will be fixed upon moving).

On the knitting front, I managed to overcome the dreaded intarsia with the help of a couple online tutorials. I only had to rip it out once and now it looks pretty good, if I do say so! I completely finished the rest of the sleeve, so now half the sweater is done. I am remaining faithful so far and not casting on any socks...yet....

I actually had a horrible migraine on Sunday, so I didn't really get much accomplished but we did make it to a local yarn store, Three Bags Full, who was having their annual after Christmas sale. This sale is so popular that people actually line up outside the store for over an hour just to get inside! Once you are finished shopping, the lineup to pay is long as well. I usually avoid this kind of craziness because I hate crowds but I had a gift certificate from Christmas burning a hole in my purse. We got there just as it opened on Sunday so it actually wasn't so bad. I scored a sweater's worth of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in a nice rusty red and ended up only paying a couple of dollars out of my own pocket. There was lots of really good deals, but I decided to be conservative for once.

On the cooking front, I made a really good discovery when I was making lamb stew on Friday. Instead of just throwing the raw vegetables in the pot to cook, I cut them up and seared them in a hot pan on the stove with some oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I fried them until they were nicely browned and almost cooked, then threw them in the pot with the almost finished meat and gravy. It added a really nice richness to the flavor of the whole dish and the vinegar was not overpowering at all. I used onions, garlic, carrots, celery, parsnip and squash. I served the stew over a nutty brown/wild rice mix but it would have went equally well over mashed potatoes. Everyone in the family agreed that it was delicious!

And that's about it. I'm in countdown mode for the move now. I'm trying to do a little bit of preparation every day so that I don't get all stressed and panicky at the last minute. This whole moving thing feels so much like the right thing to do, though, that I'm sure there will be no problems. So far, at least, everything is falling into place rather handily!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mystery Project

So I decided to be a good little knitter and return to one of the gift projects I had lurking around since before the holidays rather than start something new and exciting. This particular project must remain nameless for now because I'm not sure if the recipient reads my blog but I will tell you that I have nick-named it "BBB" for Big, Black, and Boring. It is a full-sized large sweater in mostly black with a bit of colour accent. I originally started it back in November but when I pulled it out I was not happy with either the gauge or the size so I ripped it out and started fresh. Now I have the front completed and have started the sleeve. All was going well until I hit the colorwork portion on the sleeve...Intarsia!! It defeats me how a technique that looks so simple can be so damn fussy and such a pain in the rear! But one must carry on and learning new things is always I've heard.

In the meantime, while I was slogging away on the boring black front piece, I was really tempted to cast on a pair of colorful socks to take the edge off. Unfortunately, though, I have discovered that if I have more than one active project going at a time things don't progress very quickly..go figure! Once I discovered the dubious pleasures of monogamous knitting I couldn't believe how quickly sweaters were finished...weeks rather than months! Amazing! As an added bonus, by the end of the project I'm usually so sick of it that I hurry even faster so that I can move on to something new...

But the siren call of pretty socks is calling pretty loud. And these pretties that I received today are the icing on the cake:

10 skeins of Lorna's Laces sock from Little Knits that I ordered online as a Christmas treat. Only a few pairs are actually intended for me, the rest are for gifts, but I still love knitting them up. So soft, so pretty...sigh...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Good Eats

During the big stuff shuffle, we got into the bad habit of eating alot of take-out and instant crap. In an effort to regain control of my family's health, I've been making more of an effort to cook good, nutritious meals at home. In addition to being better for you, home cooking is also considerably cheaper. We are not big meat eaters, so I try to come up with at least a couple of vegetarian meals each week using things like lentils and beans creatively. The kids are somewhat picky about seasonings so it makes it a challenge to come up with something that everyone will eat without too many complaints.

One of the great recipes I found this week is here. The best thing about this recipe is how many different ways you can make it, depending on what ingredients you have. I altered it by using brown lentils and mung beans instead of split peas. I also cooked the carrot in the pot with the onion (frying them in vegie oil with a bit of ghee) and added potato and garlic to the other vegies. I added about 1/2 cup of water during cooking and forgot about the sesame oil. As far as seasoning goes, I added some allspice and K. and I dressed up our portions with some red chili sambal sauce. If you aren't cooking for kids, go ahead and add the chili during cooking. I served it with basmati rice and pappadums. Really, you could make this with any combination of beans/lentils and just about any vegies. It made a huge amount and was so good for dinner and also the next day for lunch.

On the meat side of things, last night I made the most awesome honey garlic chicken legs. I used this sauce recipe and about 10 skinless drumsticks. I tossed the chicken with a mix of 1/4 cup flour, salt, pepper, ginger powder, and paprika and baked at 350 until brown. Then I mixed the warm chicken with the warm sauce freakin' good! The only thing I did differently with the sauce was to use just water instead of broth. This makes alot of sauce..enough for probably 15 pieces of chicken. But it was so good that I wanted to just pour it into a bowl and drink it like soup! I served it with cheese tortellini, grilled zucchini, and fresh baked biscuits, but it would be excellent with fried rice or home-made chow mein. I can also see this working for pork. The girls loved it so much that they wanted to put the sauce on everything!

Tonight I am going back to vegetarian with a recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook for polenta pizza. Its basically sliced tomatoes and grilled vegies on top of a crispy cornmeal crust and topped with cheese. Yum.

The pictures, by the way, are some of the artwork from my youngest. You might notice that she is very detail-oriented, LOL.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Stash In, Stash Out

Yesterday was a great day for stash maintenance. Not only did I finish a project, but I also managed to get out to the first local yarn sale of the new year. Obviously, I don't really need more yarn and I surely can't knit it up as fast as I can buy it..but oh how I do love a good bargain!

Black Sheep Yarns in Port Moody, BC is currently having their annual New Year's sale. Many great deals are there for the plucking..ranging from yummy yarns to a good selection of patterns. I elbowed through the crowd and managed to snag a full bag of Rowan 4 Ply Soft in "Teak" for 50% off, a skein of DIC Baby in "Chinatown Apple" for 30% off, and a Nashua pattern booklet for 50% off. Good times.

After the sale, we came home and I managed to finish up Tango's new sweater. It ended up being a little bit snug on him, even after blocking. He seems to love it, though and wears it with no protesting. Mr. cat, on the other hand, was not amused..even if it does look quite good on him, as evidenced by the top photo.

This afternoon we will be de-constructing the Christmas tree and decorations. I really love to put it all up, but once the holiday is over I just can't wait to box it all up again! After that, I have to decide what to work on next. I have a few projects in progress that were intended as gifts, but didn't quite make it so I may work on those. Although...that new Dream in Color laceweight is looking pretty tempting...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year to all that are reading this! 2010 has finally arrived and, with it, heaps of optimism and hopes for a better, happier life in the days to come.

I remember, as a child, watching my parents get ready for their big New Year's bashes. Then waking up the next morning to find all the discarded remains that they would bring home from the party for us kids: funny hats and crowns, shiny decorations, a bunch of crazy noise-makers. When I was a bit older, I would babysit on New Year's Eve and sit up until midnight watching tv, then ringing in the new year with the local news team. I was always amazed at the big celebrations in cities around the world. As an adult I've never really done the party thing, much preferring to stay at home with my partner and have a quiet hurrah rather than be surrounded by a bunch of drunken revelers.

New Year's has always been a special time for me, though. Time to sweep away all those disappointments and broken promises from the past year and start over with fresh resolve and hopefully more attainable goals. Until this year, I have always made carefully detailed lists of my New Year's resolutions. I would pull out the previous year's goals and think about what I succeeded with and what was thrown overboard and what would be carried forward. I would get out another sheet of paper and itemize 8-10 areas of my life that I felt needed some shoring up. There would always be the typical "get more excercise" and "eat properly", along with the practical "save money" and "stop buying so damn much yarn!". The most ironic of all was the year that I wrote down "stop making so many lists"...

This year I am done with the whole procedure. No more New Year's Resolutions lists for me. I only have one personal goal: be a happier person. Sure, I could go nuts and nitpick every aspect of my life to find all the things that need fixing so that I can become a perfect person. But I'm not going to do that. For one thing, I'm starting to suspect that making a list of goals accomplishes nothing except creating a sense of failure when life changes unexpectedly. And, really, what in my life won't be fixed if I am a happier person? I don't need a piece of paper to remind me of my flaws. I already know what they all are. What I really need is to learn how to accept them and move on.

With that in mind, I'm starting over this year with a breath of fresh air and a bunch of positive changes. And no lists.