Friday, July 31, 2015

Knitting at the movies

I am loving all the movies I get to see now that I live above a theatre and don't have to factor in travel time.  Now, instead of racing to get a ticket before they're sold out, I stroll downstairs early and knit for fifteen minutes before the lights go out.  And then I knit on autopilot for as long as I can without dropping a stitch or otherwise messing up.

It's surprising how much progress you can make that way, isn't it?  I can't say my ability to knit in the dark is improving - I don't think I've ever made it past the first hour of a film before I truly have to stop - but it's fun all the same.

The trouble is that you can only do it in patches. I knit 82 rounds plain from cuff to heel flap, so that's enough to get me through a few movies, but when I took this picture I was just about out of anything to knit in the dark.  The horror! and I had a date to see Ant-Man coming up, too.

As it was, I knit the middle sock leg about six rounds past where the heel flap should have started, while watching Mr. Holmes.

I couldn't help it! I was on such a roll, and I was sure I wasn't that far along.

Anyway: I worked hard this week to get through the heel and gusset and back to the plain knitting of the foot, or over the cuff at the top for another 82 rounds of auto-knit.

Ahhhh, much better. 

Now I just have to get these orange, brown, and blue socks over the complicated bits so I can see more films... but since I'm spending the next week at the cottage that's probably going to be less urgent.

Or not, if we get all the rain that's been forecast and opt to slip into the nearest town with a theatre for a change of scenery...

Hope you have a fabulous long weekend.  I'll pop back in on Monday and maybe I'll see you then!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fun with renovation: prioritizing projects

We're now at this stage of renovation excitement:

Framing in the second floor!  Apparently there's a lot of framing happening inside too, but I didn't venture beyond the sidewalk last time I was there. Tomorrow, I get a tour.

Our job of the moment, while all of the hard work is being one by other more important people, is to finalize our window selection so all that can be ordered, and choose what colour we want for our siding (the house will be mostly brick, with siding accents), and commit to a particular type of roof (metal faux shingle, or asphalt actual shingle?).

Making these choices is not easy even if you're doing it exclusively from a design perspective, without considering expense.  There are tradeoffs everywhere.  For example, triple glazed windows are fabulous for cutting down on noise and temperature variations, but if you want the look of a traditional multi-pane window, you will have to settle for something that looks like the faux that it is.  Not to mention what the prettiest things cost.  By which I mean, OWIE.

Thankfully I realized something this week that makes our decisions easier, or at least, less painful.  You can prioritize where the money is going based not on appearance or function or cost, but by Mess.

A roof can be replaced at any time without causing any disruption inside the house whatsoever, beyond noise.  And it's fast.

Siding can be replaced too, and though it's probably expensive and messy, it's also outside.  Or you could just repaint it.

Windows can be replaced with a small amount of disruption around the perimeter walls, but inside the house, not outside.

A bathroom can be upgraded but tile removal is extraordinarily dusty and noisy and messy, and cleaning up after drywall isn't fun either.

A kitchen can be replaced only with weeks of disruption and mess and tears, when the counter you ordered isn't what arrives for installation (this happened in the old version of the house and I hope it doesn't happen again with this one.)

Hardwood flooring can be refinished or replaced, but you have to move ALL the furniture off of it.  On a main floor you can plan ahead and put something different into your kitchen, allowing you to pile everything up in there for the duration.  Either way: you may have to stay away for a few days because Odor.

Now that I've worked this out, I feel pretty confident that pursuing a really good kitchen takes priority over paying for a fancy shingle-style metal roof, which can be be installed any old time, even over an existing asphalt shingle roof.  And it would be smart to get really, really good floors, and choose timeless bathroom tile.  Yaaaaay.

And now I can knit.  See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cookies, of the non-crunchy variety

Yesterday I found out that the EU has a law about cookies (not the delicious kind) which requires anybody with a website to advise any of its citizens if said website has them, and to allow them to opt out of cookies if they wish.

Cookies courtesy Dooher's Bakery, not Google

So: today I am letting everybody know that this site uses cookies, from which you can opt out by changing your browser settings. 

These small data files are placed on whatever device you're using to visit them, and the website that left them uses them to remember your actions and preferences - your login, your language, your font size, and other display preferences - so you don't have to keep re-entering all that stuff the next time you come back, or when you click on another page.

I don't want to invade anybody's personal privacy ever - believe me, there are some cookie-setting analysis programs that tell people way more than anybody ever should get to know about we internet users - but I did set up Google Analytics.

Without identifying you personally, Google Analytics tracks basic information like what country you came from, the type of web browser you're using, and what pages you visit within the Hugs site.  Then it shares those details with me.  A lot of other websites use it too, for a lot of different reasons.

In my case, the information helps me to see what kinds of knitting patterns and blog posts are really popular, so I don't post more of what nobody particularly liked.  It helps me ensure that the template I choose for the site looks good on the browsers and devices that people are actually using.

It also keeps me going.  I get a lot of e-mail from people who read Hugs, so I know the patterns I post here make a genuine difference, but the volume of visitors from all over the world is hugely out of proportion to the ones who reach out to me personally. When life gets crazy busy and I think the Hugs blog is something I could set aside to make time for the rest, the numbers I see on Google Analytics remind me how many other people care about this place as much as I do.

Truth be told, after a note from a knitter who is knitting a chemo hat for a loved one - and I get those heartbreakingly often - and tied with my own stubborn tenacity and love for routine, Google Analytics is a big part of why Hugs still exists after all these years.

Some people don't want cookies on their devices, and almost every variety of browser software includes a feature that lets you block them.  For some sites, that would make it tough for you to enjoy your visit at all, but it shouldn't change your experience on Hugs.  If you don't want Google knowing about visit here or anywhere else, you can change your browser settings to block those cookies.  Or, if your browser is a rare breed that doesn't include that feature, you can change browsers too. 

As I mentioned up top, visitors from the EU are now required by law to be informed of the use of cookies and given the opportunity to turn them off.  Blogger, which powers Hugs For Your Head, kindly posts a message with Yes and No buttons to readers from EU countries, but because I have a custom domain name for this site it won't display.  So, given that I am not much good at coding, I sourced some code online that should post such a message to my friends from the EU.  If you should have seen it and didn't, please let me know!  

Either way - have a great day and thanks, as always, for visiting.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Expo 67

I've already told you about the handkerchief collection I found at a flea market, so you already know the Antique Market a couple of Sundays ago was a bad idea.  I really can't risk collecting more vintage things!  I did do well at the flea market at first - I did not succumb to the adorable deep red plaid sandwich plates that extend a collection I started a few years ago (they weren't in pristine condition) but then, well.  I found the handkerchiefs.  And this pristine, brightly coloured tea towel.

Maybe you've never heard of  Expo 67, a World's Fair type of centennial celebration here in Canada, but it looms large in my imagination.  Pete is pretty sure he actually attended Expo 67 as a tiny child, and I sort of feel vaguely that I might have as well, but I don't want to ask anybody and be disappointed if it isn't true. 

When we bought my uncle's cottage we found some Expo 67 references - not super surprising given that they bought the place in the early 70s, around the time that promotional items would have started to get stale at home and get shifted up north.  There is the 45 of the theme music for the Ontario Pavilion - A Place To Stand - that I wrote about a couple of summers ago, and also, The Travellers 'This Land' LP that includes a folk song ('Man And His World') promoting the event.

So now, in the summertime, I think a lot about the promise of that time and the amazing architecture assembled for it, some of which still stands in Montreal, its host city, today.

I was really surprised to find this tea towel, though.  Given how big a deal Expo 67 seems to have been, and how much tourist swag must surely have been sold there, it is just weird that the only things I've ever come across from it are at the cottage and in that flea market. 

The tea towel has images of several cool pavilions but I am most excited by this one because Ontario!

I guess you really had to cross a bridge and go out onto the water for it?  And there is such a lot of water here, it's so fitting.

I do love Ontario, I must say.  Pete and I have driven a lot of it together but we still haven't made it north of Sudbury and I'd like to.  Not this summer though, with the roof off our house and framing in progress as I type. 

This summer I am content to visit our time capsule cottage and float in the lake!

What's your favourite thing for this summer?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Casting on

I seem to have gone back to high speed knitting, with a lot less time between cast-ons than usual even though I am mostly knitting socks, which take me about 12 hours each (24 for a pair.)

In fact, cast-on is now a more or less critical activity, because the worst thing in the world would be not having something I can take with me to do in the car or on the bus or while waiting for a friend.

I do have my faithful Kindle app, of course, but I'm getting through one or two books a week on that, so it's not guaranteed that I'll have enough still unread when I need to kill time.

At 2am however - that's a different story.  Do you do this?  Reading to fall asleep I mean, and then getting all tangled up in the plot and trying to read just one more page, and then crawling out of bed at 7 thinking terrible things about your intelligence level?

I do that.  All the time.

I don't love casting on, especially in the round, and it takes me a while - for a sock, I really like to have time to do the first three or four rounds to be sure I didn't twist the needles the wrong way.  Moebius sock anybody?

But once it's done, and the cuff ribbing is over - that's four or more hours of mindless knit therapy.  Yum.

Did you have a fun weekend?  Hope so!

Friday, July 24, 2015

10 elegant ways to blow your nose

Last weekend I succumbed to a flea market where I found some cute textiles, including a tiny parcel of ten vintage handkerchiefs.

I love old handkerchiefs, don't you?  they are so elegant and colourful and soft, or some combination thereof.  Sometimes even embroidered!

Also: if you do have a cold, they are SO much easier on your nose than even the softest tissue.  And easier on the environment.  Even with the endless washing (which is less endless if you are buying them ten at a time.)  Of course, sometimes it's hard to get the stains out...

This one really looks like it's been used a few times, doesn't it?  Such an unfortunate colour choice.  Actually, it's in mint condition.

I can never bring myself to use a vintage handkerchief for its intended purpose, so I'm always looking for craft ideas.  This Pinterest link from Bumblebee Linens offers quite a few.

Mainly 'make a sachet', 'sew it on a cushion', 'wrap a gift in it', and so on - but still.  Craft ideas!  And Bumblebee Linens' own site offers more.

Good Housekeeping pulled together some cute ideas too - valance, bunting, table runner (I've seen that before, but it really is a good one.)

I was excited for this classic blue plaid one, which would make an awesome pocket square.  Pete is all about the pocket squares in his suits, as are some other guys I know. 

I know an Anne who might like this one with the big embroidered 'A' in pale pink, though it might be a bit bumpy for nose-blowing...

I can guarantee you one thing though: here's a hanky on which I would never blow my nose.  It is my absolute favourite.  I've never seen an autumn leaves print like this. So, so pretty.  And Canadian, with all these maple leaves!

Do you look for old handkerchiefs when you go to second hand shops?

It's Friday, isn't it - I think I missed my window for posting here yesterday, which is something of a pun because my down time was busy with Window Pondering.  We have to order ours soon for the house, and we are trying to balance energy efficiency, appearance, and cost.  It's much much harder to do that than it is to commit to blowing your nose on an incredibly beautiful and soft old cloth, I can tell you that for free, and I've had these things for a week while suffering from hayfever!

I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful weekend, and I'll see you here on Monday, okay?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Notes from ball winder central

So: I'm still winding yarn into cakes.

I did get all the skeins undone, so that was a bonus!  The only place I had to set up the swift and winder was near the TV though, which led to some problems.  For a start, I am pretty unpopular if somebody is absorbed in a movie or really good show, because the ball winder is not silent.  If it's just me - well, if you look away from a table swift for too long, the yarn ends up popping off without your noticing, and then you have a tangled mess to deal with.  That happened a few times during the skein stage, and yet I kept on turning my head to the TV like a maroon.

(home renovation shows.  it's sick, all things considered, but I can't stop watching them.)

Eventually I got everything to the cake stage, but some of the cakes are a real mess from me not watching  them carefully, so the split cakes aren't going very fast either.

I think I may have mentioned before how I do this to ensure both socks start off on the same colour and I waste the least amount of yarn possible.  In case I didn't though, there are several steps.

First, I weigh the cake.  Technically these are 100g skeins, but they weigh in at anything from 104g to 106g.  I aim to wind two small cakes of equal weight.

Then I check to see what colour stripe falls at the very end of the cake, from the inside.  I will want to cut the yarn just after that colour, when each wound cake is exactly half of the whole.

Then I set the cake into a tall pitcher - that way it doesn't fly off under the couch or something, even if I am winding fast - and hook it up to the ball winder.  And start winding!

Periodically, when I hit the end of my target colour, I take the cake from the pitcher and set it onto my kitchen scale to see if it's at the halfway mark yet.  And if it is: snip.

Then I recake the second half, so I knit the stripes in the same order for both socks.


I have to be sure I never to let so much sock yarn back up ever again.  Because man,

this is taking a long time.

Worth it though!  Wait till you see the socks I started knitting as a reward for getting through the skeins, heh.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Something pretty that is not yarn

Last night some friends and I went for a walk over to City Hall to see the fireworks set off every evening for the duration of the Pan Am Games.  Well, every evening that isn't too windy for setting off fireworks directly over a massive crowd.  Translation: no fireworks last night.  But there was this:

I am sure that a giant size light-up sign so nobody forgets the name of your city for a few busy days costs a lot of money that would be better spent on affordable housing and expanded social services, but my first reaction when I saw it was MAN that is pretty!

Somebody was actually sitting inside the first O for a while... I saw his legs hanging over the side.

The water in front of it is a pool you can wade in over the summer, or skate on over the winter.  The curving towers of City Hall were lit up purple, and there were several huge screens hung around the square so everybody could see the faces of the live band, which was playing fantastic music, by the way.

Before we went over, we were all up on the top of our building at the pool, and I took this picture through a screen window of Toronto's skyline as seen from the east, with the building on the far left blocking the CN Tower:

I am looking at this view (from a lower floor) every night now, and I still can't get over it. It's like building blocks layered and grouped so that everything gets taller in the middle.  And it's right outside my window!

At home - at my house I mean - I look out at a fence with a raccoon train trundling over the top of it, so giant buildings are quite a change.  And being downtown now, seeing all the people who've traveled here for a holiday or to watch these games, makes me realize there is a lot of good stuff that goes on in this city that I normally don't even hear about.  I'm glad I'm seeing it now, and hugely appreciate that I can do so in such comfort.

Still working on the ball winding in my non-sightseeing moments - more on that tomorrow.  See you then!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Cloud watching

We had a wonderful weekend at the cottage running in and out of the lake and eating delicious foods grilled by Pete or purchased at our beloved Dooher's Bakery.  I even made progress on a new sock:

I think this colourway is called Monet's Garden but I have no way of knowing.  Except for, you know, getting up from my chair and looking into that blue rose bag for the ball band.  But if I did that I wouldn't be typing!  You can see my predicament.  Whatever its name is, I can tell you for certain it is the last yarn I had transformed into twin cakes for perfectly matched socks before Friday's ball-winding extravaganza.  And also, that I still have to cast on the other sock.

A thunderstorm rolled in on Sunday afternoon while I was blissfully bobbing around in the lake and I did not want to get out, but I also didn't want to find out how conductive water really is, on the off chance there was a side of lightning to go with the rumbling. 

After the rain came and went, the clouds over the lake were gorgeous - I just had to throw on wool socks and boots and run down to the dock to take these pictures.

The footwear wasn't to keep warm with, obviously.  It was to thwart the blackflies that linger at the top of our dock, where I had to stand to get this shot:

This year, the blackflies are as big as my thumb.  Are they always that big and there just weren't enough of them for me to notice before?  I don't know.  I am just grateful they are slow and I am fast and my feet were well protected, since they are the hardest part of my body to protect in a hurry.  As the bugs circled me, I ran back up into the cottage and kicked off my hot wool socks and boots.

Then the sun came out and I could see the clouds were even more spectacular, so I hurried back into the socks and boots and ran down the deck stairs to take more pictures.

The water had grown eerily still in spite of the wind that had ushered in the rain - it must have just stopped, suddenly, and because all the boaters had gone back to shore for the storm, the surface had turned into a mirror.

I love the lake when it's like this.

But I also really, really love the clouds that glide over the lake most days.  The sky is just so big there, and the clouds have so much texture.  I realized suddenly that there is no flight path through this area - no trails tracing a plane's progress through the air.  Just beautiful clouds moving fast overhead.

Some of those clouds are as white as can be, and some are blue-dark, and some are nearer than others so that you can see all their layers.

The very best, of course, is getting right out into the water and watching them pass over like a moving picture, but that is harder to capture on a camera.  Almost as hard as capturing the whole scale of the thing.

But I tried anyway.  My goodness, the clouds are awe-inspiring at the cottage, and I could watch them all day... but if I did, how would I be able to knit enough to keep myself in socks?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Round and round

Sometimes you just need to acknowledge a problem to be able to solve it.  Case in point:

I finally pulled together all the bits and pieces to wind some sock yarn into cakes!  And not a moment too soon, because this week I cast on the very last of the supply from my previous setup efforts.

That's ten skeins up there that have to be caked, and then I can add in the other two full cakes I wound before the move for a total of twelve colourways to divide into two socks' worth of yarn for portable knitting.

(time translation: if I knit a pair a week, which is top speed for me, I have enough yarn to keep me busy till November.  not counting all the other yarn I have stuck into nooks and crannies here.  or the new sock club I just joined.)

LOVE this colourway - Lions and Lambs, I think it's called - with its chambray blue and bright yellow and orangey shades.  I am really excited to get that one onto needles.

Sadly I only have one double set of needles coming free... I can knit two and a half pairs at a time with my current supply of square double-points, and the remaining one and a half sets are tied up.  So I am going to have to choose, and choosing is SO not my strong point.

Woodlands is the other colourway I can't resist - it's got chartreuse and two shades of blue in it, which just look fabulous together.  When the stripes build up on a Vesper sock project the colour combinations create strong moods, and I know this one is going to be a steady flow of Happy.

This one on the other hand, with the varied shades of purple and green:

This one is going to keep me calm.

Knitting a lot of socks back to back the way I have, so I can keep things simple here in Box Land, I am coming to a new understanding of colour therapy.  Aromatherapy gets quicker results I guess, but I love the sustained, tactile experience of knitting stripes.

If only I loved winding stripes as much.  But at least I have a good carrot to keep me going, right?

Hope you have a good carrot for any work you get stuck doing this weekend, and lots of fun times too.  We just got word that our cottage plumbing is all fixed and tested, so we'll be there this weekend... and one of the days will be super rainy, so I've got my work cut out for me finding special projects to take up there.  Maybe this is a good time to get back to my spinning wheel?

Either way, I'm sure to have lots to show you on Monday!  Take care and I'll see you then.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The hard choices, or what passes for them

How long since we moved into the condo?  And how many days did I take off from everything else just to unpack?  And yet: still no place for my swift and ball winder, and my sewing machine is still on a desk I can't get my knees under because the space is full of boxes.  In spite of doing a ton of pruning during the move!  For example:

Which cookbook to keep?  I don't cook a lot from recipes, and when I do, I mostly grab ideas from Epicurious or some other site online, so technically I don't need many cookbooks.  Smitten Kitchen and Domestic Goddess served me as aspirational reading, and omigosh, Domestic Goddess is a gorgeous experience, truly one that sweeps you away.  I loved England during the year I lived there and I so wish I could try it again without being practically destitute.  The cost of living was high there then, and higher still, now.

I kept the Smitten Kitchen.  My edition of Nigella's book was all about UK measurements and ingredients and though I tried to duplicate a few things, they were all total disasters.  At least I can tell myself I can replicate Deb's menus... plus, her ideas seem more achievable generally, knowing she is working on a very small patch of counter space compared to Nigella.

The other thing I am trying to prune now is poor eating habits.  I'm sure it's no secret that I live for chocolate, and I'm sure everybody else is quicker than I to accept that too much milk chocolate is a very bad thing.  Much better to go for very dark chocolate, which is so bitter you can't eat much anyway.  After much ingredients-reading and taste-testing I got my chocolate choices down to these two:

Green and Black Organic Dark 85%, and Lindt 85% Cacao.  Neither uses soy lecithin - you'd be surprised how many dark chocolates do - and they are both readily available to me in local grocery stores and other shops for about the same price.  Which would you choose?

(hint: Green and Black is crazy delicious.  dark or not, you can totally eat the whole bar in one sitting.  with the Lindt, it's like chewing cocoa powder and you can only handle two squares max. I buy the Lindt.)

Then there's energy in general.  I think I must be really burned out from all the planning and packing and moving because I'm noticing it's still an ordeal just to make it through the laundry piles.  Seriously: at this point I can't even bring myself to fold laundry the same day I wash and dry it.  At some point very soon I need to swap one sofa slipcover for another and the effort involved in even thinking about doing that is making me want to curl up on a chair with a good book and my eyes carefully averted.

So... when Pete isn't taking something up to the roof terrace to cook on the community barbeques while chatting with new neighbours, we are all about the takeout.  I especially love Pastizza, home of the cutest takeout food packaging ever. 

Also, the most delicious foods (short of Pete's efforts - the man in a genius with a barbeque, I am telling you.)  The reason you didn't get the whole image of this pizza is because it smelled too good just sitting there to put off devouring some. 

So glad I don't have to make really hard choices these days!  What about you?  Made any helpful changes yourself lately?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Retro knitting storage

Compensation for having to leave the cottage early: making it back to the city in time for the Sunday Antique Market.

St. Lawrence Market is a famous food market open from Tuesday to Saturday, but on Saturdays the North Market offers space for farmers, and on Sundays, for collectible dealers.  Technically the regular market is now the north market, because the actual North Market is slated for demolition and rebuilding and has moved temporarily to a marquis tent just south of the regular market but hey! we'll just refer to it as the Antique Market, shall we?

Technically I don't love the Antique Market - in the move, I had to give up a lot of stuff I'd collected in such places over the years, and I am not anxious to fall back off the no-clutter wagon - but I have a perpetual weakness for vintage bowls like this Pyrex one and as it was the end of the day, the vendor let me have it for $10.

If you know the primary colour nesting sets, you'll recognize this as the print counterpart of the small blue bowl, so handy for mixing up cake icing or serving fruit.  It's not quite the same shade of blue though, so I won't be pairing those two bowls together! I do think it will be beautiful with cookies in it at Christmas though.

When I'm not storing yarn in it.  Because you know what?  Small knitting projects look really nice in a decorative friendly bowl like this.  And they're safer that way than loose in a basket where the yarn might catch on a protruding bit of wood or straw.

When I was clearing out the house I had a lot of catching points like that, where I couldn't quite face letting go of something.  I thought of yarn again when I stumbled across these tins:

And really, I should have thought of them before.  They are probably too small for something knit with straight needles, but I am pretty sure tins are mothproof, and I know they are stackable, and your needles are not going to stick out the side as mine sometimes do from a little cloth bag.

That said: little cloth bags are still my favourite!  I love how you can squish the yarn inside them like a cuddly toy.  And mine, as you know, often have beautiful embroidery on the fun vintage fabrics.

What's your favourite spot to set down your knitting?

ps: rabbit hole alert.  The Pyrex Love site I linked to above is an amazing source of information on collectible glass bowls and casserole dishes!  I could read it all day (and might, ahem.)