Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sunny Skies in Portland . . .

 Wow! So many interesting responses to Monday's post, proving yet again the significance of quotidian domestic details. If you haven't yet pondered the place of electric kettles in your life or in the lives represented in this blogging community, you might enjoy checking out that post and the conversation that has built from it.
Since I spent many words responding to the comments at that post, though, I'll give you photos only for the rest of this one. You will notice my idiosyncratic magpie tendencies with the camera, and I hope you'll find something to enjoy in what has caught my eye. The sunshine, sadly, has been replaced by rain, and today I only ventured out for a bit of retail therapy, otherwise content to stay in the hotel room with my knitting and my reading and my writing . . .

That's all for now. . . Aren't those camellias glorious?!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cuppa Tea?

We're in Portland for a few days, staying in a hotel where my husband has full days of meetings scheduled. I've packed my writing, my reading, my knitting, a sketchbook, a mini-paintbox . . . a full slate of restful activities to enjoy when I'm not out wandering the city, window-shopping, enjoying the heritage architecture, or even indulging in some retail therapy at one of the most enticing book stores I know: Powell's Books.

And to accompany those restful activities, back in the hotel room, I also packed a beautiful fine bone china mug (made by Dunoon, the Scattered Flowers pattern by Claire Winteringham), just the (large) size I like for my tea breaks. I bought it last week at Murchie's after dropping a longtime favourite on our ceramic tile floor. . .

I made room for it in my case, and even filled a small jar with the Ceylon Extra Superior loose tea that I've been drinking lately, thinking that bringing my own tea fixings along would make the hotel room a bit more homey. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and tea-drinkers. . .

Because, as I should have remembered, I've bumped annoyingly yet again into the ubiquitous presence of horrid coffee-makers, the complete absence of electric tea kettles. This morning's cuppa was made by heating water to just-above-tepid in a plastic chamber that dripped its way through old coffee-oil trails into my mug, hopefully filled with its precious but doomed tea leaves. So different from the way I make it at home, first scalding the teapot so that the boiling water that opens the tightly furled tea stays as hot as possible.

I shouldn't be surprised not to find an electric kettle in my hotel room, but I did think I might have been able to request one -- often, this is a possibility, at least in Canada where tea-drinking is still part of the culture, if a quickly waning part. But nope, no such kettle to be found in the hotel.

Grumbling to myself this morning, I remembered this Instagram post by David Lebovitz a few months ago. David has lived in France since 2006, as far as I can glean from his blog, but only this past February has he added a bouilloire (electric kettle) to his kitchen. Doing so, he declares on IG, means that he's "finally European."

As a non-European who has had an electric kettle (which I tend to call a "tea kettle) since Uncle Bernie gave me one as a wedding gift -- so for almost 44 years, although that original one has been replaced a few times -- this was a surprising revelation. And since then, I've been a bit curious. How many of you have electric kettles in your kitchens? And I'd be curious also to know how this breaks down, nationality-wise, if you don't mind indicating? As well, if you have an electric kettle, do you primarily use it for making tea? or do you do a pour-over coffee? Or do you use your electric kettle, as does Anna Jones (do you know her wonderful cookbook, A Modern Way to Cook?), i.e. to speed up your cooking prep?

And if you know where I could buy an electric kettle -- preferably a small, travel one -- in downtown Portland, please tell me! (although I imagine I'll survive the week without one ;-) Seriously, though, we tea-drinkers need to start a movement: Bring back the Hotel-room Cuppa! (and a nice little packet of biscuits would not go amiss)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Quick Update -- Pretty Colours!

I wrote several hundred words of a post trying to explain why I'm having trouble blogging recently, but have left it uncompleted and in draft form for now, for fear of boring you. Instead, I'll just quickly share this photo of the Fair-Isle yoke, almost finished, of my second Birkin sweater. I'm very pleased with it, and so glad that I decided to allow the mossy-green and that cerulean blue into the neutrals-only palette I'd intended.

I did muster some words about some mystery novels, over on my Reading Blog.  And I'm feeling creative in other venues, enjoying writing by hand in my Garden Journal, but stuttering in my approach here, hoping to get my mojo back before too long. Meanwhile, thank you for your patience.

Off now to meet a friend for coffee, and the weather is near-spring perfection -- expected high of 10 degrees Celsius and sunny.  Hope you have some happiness ahead this Thursday as well. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Garden Journal, Interrupted. . .

 For today's post, let me just tell you that I've begun keeping a Garden Journal, trying to do a quick sketch and write a few words about what's happening out on the terrace. I began randomly, casually, on Saturday, March 3, with a simple catalogue of what was blooming on that date (Sarcococca humilis/sweet box, one snowdrop, Daphne odora/winter daphne, a wallflower that hasn't paid winter the slightest heed, and a cluster of velvety purple crocuses).

I posted again two days later, on March 5th, and then from the 6th to the 9th, I decided I should make this a daily habit.
And was doing very well until the reality of the weekend, the 3rd and 4th days caring for our Five and Nearly-Three while their mom and dad were enjoying their first Four-Days-As-A-Couple-On-Their-Own since parenthood struck. We had a good time together, but there was an entire night of vomiting and a Granddad who injured his foot trying to get someone to the toilet on time and just a flurry of feeding and clearing dishes and walking at a Two's Pace and then running to catch a Five. . . .getting out the crayons so they could draw (they love to draw, sitting next to each other, chatting away about what's what and what improvements could be made and why yellow, etc.) and encouraging the return of Lego to its bin and explaining the rules of Go Fish!

All of that transpired and it was good and we're glad we did it and we'd do it again.
It left not much time for journalling. . . .

And even on Monday morning, after they've all gone home and we've slept right through (turns out that as proud as you can be of a Two for getting up to pee in the middle of the night so that he doesn't wet his diapers, your sleep is nonetheless disrupted when someone approaches you shortly after midnight to say, "Nana, I need to go pee"). . . . our tanks are registering as nearly Empty.

So I will merely transcribe these two journal entries for you, add a photo of the maple leaves thinking, in their teeny buds, about sunshine and stretches, and we'll call it a Monday, okay?

Transcription for March 7th entry:
So far only one snowdrop has bloomed in the pot Paul filled with bulbs last fall, before we left for Italy. There are at least a dozen set of leaves pushing through the soil, though -- I'm not at all sure that they will produce flowers this year, but I'm hopeful they will in future years, hopeful that one year, there will be enough of them blooming that I'll dare to scoop up a spadeful or two, post-bloom, and plant them in another pot. We talk sometimes of moving to a condo with more indoor space, but secretly, I want to keep this terrace garden as long as I can.
You can see that I've used paper to "redact"/block a few words, but if you'd like to know what I've written in the bottom left corner: Looking around this morning and thinking of all the pots I'd like to add underfill plants to. Some winter aconites and pulmonaria, a hellebore or two. Time to wander 'round a garden centre, I think...

March 9, 2018: The corylopsis racemes are beginning to shake out.
And the hydrangea leaves, on the bare branches we're watching carefully for evidence the scale insects are back . . . 'cause if they're back, we're going to chase 'em. . . and squish 'em. . . 

That's all I've got for you this Monday morning. Comments always welcome, as you know. . . 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday's Five. . .

1. It's sunny today, with that brisk wind that often comes along to sweep the gloom out of the way. Very welcome as yesterday the skies poured and poured and poured out buckets, and I was walking with a Five to pick up her Nine-Year-Old Cousin from after-school care, and she was a trooper and so was the Nine, but my, we were all glad to get back inside at the end of those four or five kilometres (roundtrip for the Five and me; the Nine only did half of that, thank goodness, as she hadn't worn her rubber boots).  I must admit that I'm the Nana that tries to encourage walking whenever it's a possible choice. Especially when we've got the Littles overnight (as we do for the Five and her Almost-Three brother right now) -- everyone sleeps much better after a good walk, don't you find?

2. Besides that walk yesterday, I shared a Personal Training session with Pater to get us both energised again in our fitness programs. Jenna's so encouraging, and she keeps our workouts fun and just tough enough. Yesterday gave her the chance to see how much she can push us in the next programs she develops for each of us -- we'll book our next sessions individually, and she'll use those to take us through the new circuits. Then, as she's done with past programs, she'll give us a week or two to work through the exercises on our own in the gym here, after which we'll book one more session (individually, again) to see what needs to be fine-tuned. And then we'll work independently on these Circuits (she usually gives us three days' worth, for variety) until we're bored with them, which usually takes a month or so.

It's not clear I'll ever be able to get back to running the distances I loved running for so many years. After all, I'm 65 this May, and while many women are able to keep running into their 80s, even 90s, it's probably reasonable to think that many of us won't. I'm not giving it up completely, for now at least, but I'm so glad I committed to working with a trainer to develop other ways of maintaining fitness. Adaptation and variety and keeping it fun . . . .Biking season is almost upon us, and that will give me back some of the distance, at least. . .

3. Those Mason Bees -- I mentioned these earlier this week, and I posted a photo of the little box they arrived in -- it's currently in the fridge where the bees are hibernating until we get a consistent 13 or 14 degrees Celsius, at which point they can go outside to forage for blossoms. I've long wanted to keep bees, and while these won't make honey for me, they will pollinate the blossoms on our apple tree, and they will do it with minimal risk of stinging (and should they sting, it's more mosquito-like, apparently; the males don't even have stingers).
and yes, the sharp-eyed among you will notice that I went out in my housecoat to take this photo for you. You're welcome ;-)

The ten-bees-in-a-box complete the gift Paul gave me for my birthday last year -- a sweet little house for the bees to nest in, to provision its little cylinders with food for each egg, sealing the units with the mud that gives them their reputation for masonry. . . .

4. My second Birkin sweater proceeds apace -- I'm very pleased with the colour combination for the Fair-Isle yoke. I'd thought to keep the sweater neutral this time and chose the oatmeal and the cream colours for a simple, two-tone iteration. But when I got to the leaves, I couldn't resist knitting them again in the green leftover from the first version. And then that sweet blue just kept insisting it would look good in the mix as well. I surrendered. . . .

5. I could go on, with 6, 7, probably 8 and 9, for that matter, but Five is enough on a Friday. . . So if I have to make a choice, I will take you that I've finished booking trains and flights and the accommodation for four of our stopping places this upcoming trip.  We still have ten or so unscheduled days which we'll spend in Croatia, but we're going to leave those a bit loose for now.  I might write a bit more in a future post about how I research a route, explore the different ways of getting from Point A to Point B by train, how I decide where we want to stop along the way, and what are some sites I've found useful in making those decisions and in booking train tickets. Would you find that useful at all? For now, though, I'll just tell you that I've managed to work a Night Train into our journey. It's been a few years since we've been rocked to sleep in our little bunk beds, woken periodically by other travellers getting on or off at stops along the way, or by passport checks at borders. It's not a particularly good night's sleep, I'll admit, but I do think it's such a romantic one (and when I told the Nine, she was instantly envious and has suggested we plan such a train journey together, a "someday" plan. . . ).

That's it for the Friday Five. Now I welcome any comments you have about the post or about your weekend plans. We will be in the care of a Lively Pair, a Five and an Almost-Three, so I expect we'll be rather busy, but I'll pop in when I can and read what you've written. Or just grab your waves out of the air, if that's all you have time for. Ta-ra for now, as my Yorkshire rellies would say. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Garden Walking -- the Cure for What Ails Me. . .

 Besides having my mother's birthday, and the anniversary of her death, on the March calendar, I realized today that it's also the month we listed our much-loved island home for sale two years ago. Overall, we've weathered the change well, I think, and I love being so close to some of the grandchildren; I thrive on so much of what the city has to offer. I decided from the outset that I couldn't invest energy in looking back; may have invested some, instead, in keeping the door to memory lane firmly closed, at least for the short term.

Occasionally, though, something like grief creeps in and settles for a bit.  I had a deep relationship with the piece of land we perched on for those twenty-some years, and I miss "my" beach, "my" huge cedar and fir trees, and I miss, especially, observing the seasonal changes in my garden so intimately.

So it's good to have antidotes at the ready.

 On Sunday, we popped over to the Van Dusen Botanical Garden to renew our memberships and enjoy the horticultural delights of late winter on the West Coast.
 Hellebores were the star, no question, but I was also cheered by the jaunty yellow aconites with their lacy green ruffs and the velvety purple spears of crocuses thrust up among them.

 And winter witchhazel

 The bark peeling on the Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) -- because there are many more delights to a late winter garden than its blooms . . .
 And also, perhaps, because peeling bark is such a good metaphor for renewal, for change, for shedding the old, for adjusting to the new. . . .
 Already this week, three dental or medical appointments, and then beginning this afternoon, we have our favourite Five and Two (he's almost Three though! -- and yes, they're our only Five and Two, so I can pick favourites ;-)) until Sunday afternoon. We'll have to see whether I manage my usual Friday post -- Nana might be exhausted. . .

But if I do, I have at least Five Things to tell you about -- ranging from train tickets in Europe to Mason Bees in the fridge. Really.

Until then, I'll be happy to read any comments you leave. About winter blooms, or antidotes to Temporary Sadness, or about Moving or Change or whatever resonates this morning. . .

Monday, March 5, 2018

What I Wore: The HandKnit Version

 Some more views of my completed Birkin sweater (Ravelry link is here for knitters who want to know yarn, size, needles, etc. details).

 I'm immensely pleased with how this sweater turned out, especially considering I didn't knit up a gauge swatch first. For non-knitters: a swatch is a piece of knitting made up in the same yarn and recommended needles, and it's intended to test the knitter's tension or "gauge." If, instead of the recommended 26 stitches per four-inch swatch one gets 24 or 28, the overall size of the sweater can be predicted to be bigger or smaller, and changes -- to number of stitches, to needle size, to thickness of yarn, etc -- need to be made accordingly. It's considered dangerous or foolish to proceed without knitting a swatch first, but luck prevailed for me. I chose to knit the size Small, and as you can see, neither the sweater size nor the yoke placement could have been any better suited to my frame.

 I haven't yet worn the sweater with my black leather skirt, as recommended by A. in London, but I'm definitely going to try that combo soon (probably with my black Vince sneakers).
 I will probably wear it most often with jeans, both skinnies (as shown here with my Madewells) and my wider-legged, cropped, frayed-hem Vinces.

But I did wear it with a skirt the other day, a simple black knit pencil skirt, merino. I happened to have a dark brown pair of tights and slipped them on before sliding my feet into these low-heeled Think! shoes, all but the sweater being wardrobe staples From Way Back.  Scarcely wear heels at all these days, but since we were heading out to our first Ballroom Dance class, I thought they might be the ticket.
 I'll tell you more about the class as it goes along. For now, I'll just say that the first hour was challenging, our poor novice-dancer brains working constantly to figure out the sequence of rhumba steps. Besides us and the teacher, there was only one other dancer, and she obviously had much more experience than we did -- which was good, because she could partner up with Pater while the teacher led me through the routine. By the end of the hour, I could move through the sequence of figures with much room for improvement but considerable satisfaction. I suspect I'll have to relearn it all next class, but it's Process as much as Product, all over again, right?

I like this sweater so much, I've already cast on for a new one and I'm almost halfway through a yoke in a considerably different palette. You'll be able to check that out soon on Instagram, if you're curious.

 I've been sorting a few personal issues this last little while. All is manageable-to-good, but the blog may suffer a bit as other priorities assert themselves.  I suspect I'll post almost as often, but for a while there may be more photos than words, more observation than considered analysis or thinking. . . I know you'll understand. Thank you.

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