Grad school

It occurred to me this past weekend, I’m kind of going to a type of grad school. I was looking through my personal email folders and realized I have taken a lot of courses over the past few years. Most of what I’ve read also has something to do with my education. I know a few things about these subjects I’ve been lucky enough to study. Maybe, I can even say I’m a bit of an expert. OK, maybe that stretches it too far. But I feel more knowledgable, for sure.

My husband and son went camping and my daughter and I had the house to ourselves. The weekend stretched in front of me like a blank slate. Uninterrupted time to go wherever my mind wanted to take me. When my husband came home, he commented how cluttered the bed was with all my learning materials. Books, computer, art supplies, iPad, journal, pens, coloured pencils, day-timer, etc. I was in heaven. He shook his head.

Saturday kind of evaporated. We had stuff to do, chores to finish, groceries to buy, my daughter wanted to bake. But Sunday, oh lovely, blessed day, we had all to ourselves. Since I was in bed so early Saturday night, I was up early. Weather looked poor, so I was going to read….

Rainy Day Books_web

Then I was inspired to complete an exercise from last week for my “Thrive” course being taught by Arianna Huffington. I have been wanting to do something like this for a long time, was even on my list of goals for this year. Now a third chart needs to be completed, what do I wish the chart could look like?

Time Pie Chart_web

My daughter finally woke up and we had to be at the White Rock Farmer’s Market. Even though a chorizo hot dog is NOT on anyone’s diet, it had to be done.

Market Chorizo_web

Later in the afternoon, I just had to take this photo of our cat – snoozing in the boat. How cute is that?

Cat in boat_web

My next phase in education arrived today. “Zen Habits” by Leo Babauta, a project I helped fund through kickstarter. What a wonderful world!

Zen Habits_web

Yarnitis a.k.a. too much yarn?

Just over a week ago, I received a pretty healthy sized box of yarn in the mail. 4 new projects worth, to be exact. A vest, a shawl, a sleeveless sweater and a loose knit summer sweater. This yarn is meant for patterns I found online marked easy. I don’t want to attempt anymore projects marked intermediate.

While I adore my newly finished shawl, the pattern was mistakenly marked “easy”. However, I knew from the onset there would be problems. First issue was that I evidently can’t read or count very well because the whole thing had to be ripped back after I was already 400 meters into it. So that set me back. Then, I managed to finish the knitting, blocking and sewing, but the crochet was left. I think there is a condition of reduced cognitive ability whereby a person can read the words and they should flow into a set of actions, but for a select few of us, they do not. That is crochet instructions, seriously. I am fine, if someone knowledgeable sits beside me and corrects me each time I veer off.

I guess knitting and crochet are related. They both require a stick like device to create patterns of knots, but that is where the similarity ends. While I covet the projects that can only be completed with crochet, I have to reign in the craziness. I do not need a queue of more unfinished projects that belong to the criteria, “things I don’t know how to do, yet.” Now that would just be crazy.

No, I’m not there yet. I’m only slightly ill. Like a low-grade fever, I’m acting a bit strange, not quite my normal, logical, practical self. I get it into my head to research yarn for a new project and there she goes….of on a tangent.

What’s 4 new projects? Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, it wouldn’t be except for 2 other reasons. First is that I have started 7 other projects on needles and have yarn at the ready for 2 more. I have recently abandoned at least 2 projects, rolled the yarn back up or given it away. Oh, that totals 13, unlucky. So fine, I don’t like one of the yarn colors anyway – so that goes too. Now I’m back to 12. But I digress. The other reason that 12 projects might be a tad too many is I am a very slow knitter. Added to the fact, (or maybe the reason for it), I don’t have very much time to knit.

These are labels you can actually buy to sew into your hand made goods. Funny, yes,  in a sad but strange sort of way.

this took forever

This morning, I made sense of all the projects because there was knitting covering almost every surface of the living room. My daughter was having some friends over and there was no where for them to be without disrupting my delicate placement of projects. The other reason organization was in order is because, I have another new project in mind. But 12 is my new limit. Nothing else can start before something is finished. (Does anyone know where I can find a good deal on cashmere?)

I have to be strict with myself here. Because every time I finish something, or give up a pattern, the yarn goes into my stash. And that is taking up more and more space. But we are renovating and I get a whole new “creative” space where my knitting supplies and my formidable fabric collection can be arranged. I never thought I would need to buy furniture to house all this stuff.

Knitting project side board

Knitting project side board

So this entire shelf is really just temporary. We can’t have friends over for dinner like this. Next Saturday morning, this will have to move to the floor of my room. When will the renovation be done again? Maybe I can get one sock and a dish cloth done this weekend, which would remove the bottom 2 bags from this photo. I know, not thinking big enough, but the rest of these are garments, not measly accessories.

The next bag up is a sweater I started in Mexico 3 months ago. I just booked tickets for the same trip in 9 months time….I would really like for that sweater to be done by then.

Maybe my illness is more related to balancing  my ambition with my skill at completion? I’m not the only one with this condition:

One thing leads to another

It has been an extremely busy week. Getting ready for Christmas when I don’t have any presents to buy should have been easy, but somehow it wasn’t. Just when I thought my work could not have been busier, more was added to my schedule.

Thankfully, as we headed back into the city on Friday night for a corporate Christmas party, it didn’t feel so overwhelming anymore. Just another thing on the list for the week that never wanted to end.

Needless to say, I made no progress on my knitting projects. Which kind of leaves me a bit restless. So what should I do in a case like that? Start another project? I know, it is a sickness.

We arrived early to the city on Friday night. I suggested we run by the yarn store, so I could shop for another project I have rolling around in the back of my mind. My husband joked that I might start it when we arrived home from the party. And I did. It is starting to look so nice already!

baby blanket_web

But as I walk around the house, packing, sorting and making mental notes, I notice 2 other projects on the go. In the time it took to start the baby blanket, I could have had my sweater finished.

sweater_web

Then there is the trepidation I feel for winding the merino into balls. The first one took several nights of work because it got tangled up about a third of the way through. Not to mention, I had no idea of what I was doing. I think I have it figured out, but who can say? It is so nice to touch and I can imagine how fantastic it will be to work with.

hanks_web

There is a super bulky scarf started, the matching hat is already done. I don’t even count all the unfinished projects tucked away on the shelf. There is crochet, I have not begun to learn.

And on it goes.

Re-purpose coffee bags

Because of the lining that is required to keep coffee beans fresh, the whole bag is not recyclable. At least not in our municipal recycling program. But, there are a number of crafty ways to re-purpose them. The one I most often use is an idea I learned in a book called, “Eco Craft” by  Susan Wasinger. This book has a number of other interesting ideas I have yet to try. I prefer to focus on the projects that create something from materials that we already have a good supply of. And a market bag that is a useful item is perfect. I’m not keen on decorating my house with a lamp shade made from six-pack rings, for example.

If your house consumes an average amount of coffee by grinding fresh beans, then it will not be too long before quite a pile of bags start to accumulate. Over time we have fine tuned our coffee selections so that we are now buying shade

grown, organic and fair trade brands. We even prefer that the roasting is done here on the West Coast, which is also widely available. And the bags tend to have great graphic design.

The only other thing you need, beyond the patience required to actually “craft”, is duct tape. Amazingly you can buy it in a full spectrum of colors now. So these bags could start to look very interesting. A word of caution about this kind of tape, it is incredibly sticky. There is a reason that men in my family have a roll of this at hand and can perform any number of vehicle repairs with it.

Because the tape is so strong, the finished product can hold as much weight as you want to carry. I never hesitate to load up these gift bags with bottles of wine, jars of canned goodies, local cookbooks, etc.

This market bag holds 3 bottles, so it is nice and tall. I took it over to my parents-in-law yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner, yum.

Satisfaction of accomplishment

My husband has been wrestling with the best way to let my son become involved in his projects. At any given time, there are many on the go, and most are not so easy to let a 10-year-old “help” with.

But if you don’t teach a child these things, how will they ever know? However, teaching means a great deal of extra work. The whole project can take twice as long and everyone can end up frustrated with the experience.

The other day my husband had a perfect project for my son to help with. Re-build an outboard boat motor. Since we live on the West Coast and boats are a part of our lives, this is a good skill to have. Plus it is one of the “repair” projects that my husband never tires of. Changing oil in my car, on the other hand, not on his to do list anymore.

More than the actual project though is the time spent together. Chatting, learning and listening. Precious and fleeting.

My son remarked, when the motor rebuild was complete, how good it would feel to use it next summer. That sense of accomplishment was hard earned and he may carry this positive experience with him for some time.

Putting up tomatoes

It is that time of year. When my favourite fruit is perfectly ready to be canned. Technically a tomato is a fruit, but since it is used primarily in savoury dishes, it is more often referred to as a vegetable. Whatever you call it, tomatoes are a staple in my kitchen and I like to make sure they taste great all winter long.

My mother-in-law and I process 60 pounds. It takes a full day of hard work. It is usually a hot day, and it will be again this weekend. Tomato bits fly all around her kitchen, it’s a messy job taking skins off in a boiling water bath. There are many other steps, sterilizing the jars and so on. Then the part that makes sure we don’t poison ourselves, the magic pressure canner. It takes a long time to get it up to temperature, not so much time to process and then a long time to cool off enough to remove the jars. Then repeat.

Sometime this winter, on a school night when I have not had time to shop, I will pull out one of these beautiful jars and create a quick sauce for some pasta. Throw on a few other tidbits from the fridge, maybe some olives, a little parmesan cheese and a taste of summer will be served.

Or, my husband will feel like a snack, and I can go to the cupboard for the most amazing salsa and serve with some local organic tortilla chips that I always keep on hand.

Salsa and tomatoes