Thursday, July 19, 2018

I have been away on a holiday and now I am home

Ugh, how many weeks is it since I wrote you a Hug? Too many.  First I was researching and plotting and planning, then I was packing, then I was trying to clean out the fridge so I wouldn't come home to something truly awful in there (mission only partially accomplished) and then I was away on a huge vacation we've waited years to pull off...

Sunset lighting up the gold statue in front of a certain Palace

... followed by some hard-hitting jet lag which is finally lifting.  Whew!!

I have a pair of Emma Bridgewater fold-away shopper bags on my desk, alongside a bag of Marks and Spencer cookie boxes, and my teacup is resting on a coaster that says 'm' in the official London Transit font in use since 1916.

Guess where I was for 16 days!

Okay, we weren't in London the whole time.  We also got up to York...

medieval city gate

gorgeous blue doors
  to stay inside the medieval walls at a charming old rectory converted to a hotel,

maximum cosyness at the end of the day

 and took a minicoach tour of the North Yorkshire moors because it was just easier than renting a car and making Pete drive hither and yon. 

(Edited to add: the name of the cute village below is Helmsley - thank you Kathy!)

I wish I could remember the name of this beautiful village inside the Yorkshire Moors National Park
but at least I can copy the gorgeous white planters right??

Ruin visible from same village

Also in North Yorkshire, no idea where but I had to share these trees

Same village as before.  SO CUTE.

We had perfect weather, apart from the heat.  I could not take a bad photograph with those gorgeous skies as the backdrop.

From York we nipped south to France, getting off the Eurostar at Lille to take a regional train to Arras

I love the monochromatic architecture here, it makes every detail jump out!

so we could meet our amazing guide (Living Memory Tours, highly recommended) for a full day at Vimy Ridge and other WWI memorials.

I was standing almost at the middle of the big circle of metal wall here...
it extended all the way around from a small entrance.

This is the metal wall up close, an accordian effect with names printed on both sides. 
Names of all the dead soldiers from battles in the area, listed alphabetically as equals. 
And I thought the Viet Nam memorial in Washington D.C. was moving.
We also saw several WWI cemeteries, of which this is one.


All the cemeteries are different depending on whether they are French, German, or Commonwealth.  This was a Commonwealth cemetery with roses planted between every few headstones, and huge lavender bushes at the ends.  I spotted bees and butterflies in the lavender; it was very strange to think of summer life carrying on over the bodies of all those lost boys and men.

The battle at Vimy Ridge just had its centennial and every Canadian knows about it, but when we mentioned it to English and American people who asked about our trip plans, quite often they didn't have a clue what we were talking about.  So in case you don't know either, it was both a tough and important battle for Canadian soldiers, and also: a victory.  France dedicated the site to Canada, and our government financed an incredibly beautiful memorial there which Pete wanted very much to visit.


The chosen stone is absolutely ethereal.

For me, having read about it and seen many photographs of the memorial and the preserved trenches, what was astonishing was the landscape, still hilly and pockmarked from shells and mines.  And the very small distance between the two sets of trenches where the soldiers on both sides were fighting so hard.  This is not something you can appreciate easily from another continent.

We went straight back to London from France and had almost a week to explore museums, eat, and find cool places to spend the hottest hours of the heatwave there (mostly that was mostly our hotel, which thankfully had a/c... I didn't think to check before I booked it so we were lucky!)

I have two Canadian cousins living just outside of central London and thanks to excellent train and tube service we got to see them both, which was wonderful. We had ice cream and coffee-walnut cake and a proper Sunday Roast with Yorkshire pudding.  I finally got to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, which I didn't get to the whole year I lived in London, and have always wanted to see, though for some reason I didn't take even one picture of the dress exhibit which was the reason I wanted to go.  (however, it was excellent.)  I did however take this photograph.


The Victoria and Albert museum is not air conditioned.

I also discovered that the only proper cup of tea is made with a bag of, I am not kidding, 'Yorkshire Tea.'  For years I've been drinking fancy Taylor's teas and I could not believe it when I realized Taylor's is also responsible for this very strong, delicious, sturdy, reviving tea.  I brought home two big boxes but thankfully our regular grocery stores all import it.  Had I but known, I could have been living on it all these years!  Oh well, I still have time to thoroughly enjoy it.

Even without being able to travel to the classic estate gardens out in the countryside, we saw SO many lovely garden spaces.  This one was at Hampton Court Palace:


This one was once a private garden and sits right in the old part of York :


I so wish we could build tall brick walls here, they are just dripping with character.  Here is another walled garden from a National Trust property in Hampstead, a village in north London:


The cute North Yorkshire village had a communal garden with a wilder look:


And then there's St. James' Park in London, for the wildest of the wild.  I wonder if you can enjoy this view from the windows of Buckingham Palace?


Even walking along the street in London (okay, Hampstead, which is basically the most beautiful urban space on earth) you see gardening inspiration.  Emphasis on GREEN.


I particularly liked the planter boxes outside our hotel.


We saw lots of ivy-as-garland in fact.  I absolutely want to copy this sort of thing for our back yard, which is almost ready to become something more than a post-construction dirt heap.


Well, that was a lot of pictures.  I wonder if I have any more?


Oh yes!  The Royal Air Force Flyover (of Buckingham Palace) which marked the RAF Centenary.  We were in London for so many great events and this was the last, complete with this colourful finale. 


Anyway: I was away, and now I am home, and I have no further distractions (apart from the Tom Bihn luggage addiction I developed while trying to figure out how to pack properly for this trip) to keep me from unpacking from our move home last August, and writing regular Hugs, and getting back to work on novels now that I am not project managing in my spare time.

But first I think I really need a very long nap and a day or two on the sofa watching movies.

Hope all is well, and has been well, with you!





Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fun with pruners

Today we'll be reporting on the newest crafty venue here at Hugs: the back yard deck!


This is the classic North American house thing, isn't it?  A private open-air space elevated, if only by a step, from the rest of the back yard.  It used to be that houses were built with front porches big enough to let you sit and enjoy a cool drink in the shade and chat with your neighbours as they passed (which is why we put a front porch on the house almost as soon as we got it, because we like old style stuff.)  Decks on the other hand are better suited to tranquil communing with nature and a book, or cooking on a barbecue, or drinking beer on a hot summer night with friends.  And, since the slats of a deck tend to have gaps between them, for losing your knitting needles down into the abyss below.

(it is for this reason that I especially love a porch, and also, why I am probably buying some sort of outdoor carpet for the deck.)

Now that we have a deck, even though it's not actually finished, we can finally reach with ease the canopy of this odd shrubby tree that was old when we bought the house more than 20 years ago and is still limping along the same as ever.


This thing produces a ton of new shoots and foliage every spring, and then the most gorgeous blossoms, and then without warning a huge chunk of branches just wither and the whole thing looks terrible till early fall when it pulls itself together for one last burst of energy and presents us with unattractive, squishy orange berries.

However, much as I harbor resentment for these longstanding disappointments, I do appreciate the tree for

a/staying alive in spite of age plus endless onslaughts by raccoons and squirrels, and

b/providing much-needed privacy screening.


If only it didn't have so very many dead bits.

I mentioned, I think, the fact that raccoons moved into our garage and made it their personal toilet, but perhaps not that Pete was able to rescue from it the really good pruners I bought him a few years back.   I am SO glad he did that and also, that he told me where he put them afterward, because I love pruning off the dead stuff from a tree, or the stickie-outie bits that always catch you in the eye as you pass.  Pete also loves pruning and we actually tussled over who got to use them the other day, so probably we need two.  But!  how thrilling, even when thwarted by a competitive spouse, to be able to prune 20 years of dry crusty branchlets off our ugly tree!


It's probably worth mentioning that Ray and I designed the deck around our original lilac tree, which I might regret at some point in the future, or just next week.


Already, birds sitting in the lilac's branches have made the new decking their toilet, and as soon as the flowers bloom we'll have bees visiting as well, none of which you want happening directly over and around your head as you recline with a book and a cup of tea.  But if you regard this particular deck as a clean space to step out onto for lighting a barbecue and snipping off some herbs, then having the lilac tree scenting it is exactly what you want.


In other garden news:  yesterday, after a heavy rain, I noticed that the interesting droopy evergreen tree in our front yard had orange gunk all over it:


Close up, this stuff is uglier:


I may never eat dried apricots again.

It seems this is 'cedar apple rust', a two-stage disease that produces spores from these big orange casings on infected cedars after a heavy rain, then sends them on the wind to infect nearby apple trees.  Or to mountain ash trees, of which we have a rather large specimen looming over the back of the house and roof.  (in fact, though it is a messy tree with more squishy orange berries that get all over the back yard, that particular tree is the primary view from my office, so I don't want anything to happen to it.)

I don't know whether this was the right thing to do, but I used the pruners to snip off every affected branch above the fungus zone right over an open bag so the spores would have no chance to catch the wind, and then I tied the bag tight and binned it.  Next up, I think we are supposed to spray our tree with copper to try to control the problem and prevent further spore events.

Yuck, huh?


Back to the deck: as I type, Al is sanding cedar strips that he and Ray will use to custom build trellis inserts wherever we don't have pressure-treated planks mostly butted together, apart from slim air vents in between.


The use of cedar for the trellis - he deemed other woods too flimsy for the amount of ripping required for the design we came up with, and/or too short-lived for railing use - is causing Ray physical pain because we are going to use a solid stain on the deck.

It's one thing to solid stain pressure treated wood, but you just don't do that to cedar! If anything, you use a clear stain, but normally, around here at least, you just let it weather to a silvery grey and then let moss grow on it and when it falls down after 25 years you replace it with new cedar if you can afford it. And you might not be able to, because cedar is the most expensive wood you can use for outdoor projects.


It really is gorgeous, isn't it?

And Al is sanding every piece so it's smooth on the sides with slightly broken edge.



Pretty much every day Ray asks me if we really, REALLY want a white trellis and I say Yep, and I know he's chalking up another church visit to pray for forgiveness for putting solid stain on cedar.  I should probably be praying for forgiveness too but I am pushing forward with solid stain because I want a more formal garden there and after 20 years in this house I think I've earned the back yard of my dreams.

He had to use cedar on the front porch railings too, and tried hard to persuade me to at least consider a black stain that lets the grain show through, to the point of bringing me a sample of cedar with a black stain that lets the grain show through.  Suffice it to say that when it comes to staying true to the house's 1940s urban architecture I have no heart, and still said Nope.

(actually, I laughed and said nope.  I did say I have no heart!)

And that's me summed up for the recent past and the forseeable future: all deck all the time with a bit of springtime gardening around the edges.

desperately want to reach that dead branch at the top!!

How have you been enjoying the change in seasons?



Thursday, April 26, 2018

Scrambled eggs

Lately I've been craving (and then making) scrambled eggs, because I watched Doris Day's character order them in My Dream Is Yours while she sat in a nightclubby booth with Jack Carson.  "Just something light," she said, and he asked, "Scrambled eggs?" And that's what they had.   In a nightclub!  Or maybe an after hours club?  It was a pretty fancy place, anyway, to have eggs on the menu.  Ah, it was a different time.

This is something you read about in 1920s English crime novels too, characters coming back to somebody's flat after a long night of crime solving to eat a couple of eggs quickly fried or scrambled or omeleted in a pan on a tiny hob.  Eggs are so simple and tiny and fast to eat, though of course, the cleanup is not always the funnest.


I don't order them in a restaurant (they'd be stiff and cold by the time they hit the table in the places I frequent) and can't imagine them appearing late at night in a really fancy place today, but I love the cosy familiarity of a plate of freshly cooked eggs, don't you?  On toast, preferably, made from really amazing bakery bread.  I could eat that every day for the rest of my life and when it comes the dueling studies about whether or not they raise cholesterol, I always side with the Nope, they don't argument, out of love for them.

More cosy familiar things that I've been up to since the last time we visited:

Socks, of course.  I have three pairs on the go.  They're cast on in pairs, and divided into six little knitting bags, and each one is at some wildly different stage than the other because I find I am clunking down into my chair to watch a bit of something, grab a bag and pull out its contents, and if I'm feeling benevolent toward that yarn/colour/sock stage then I work on it.  And if not, I reach for a different bag.


TV watching.  I caught the British costume drama Tutankhamun recently, which I enjoyed enormously having been of an age to have the whole King Tut thing become wildly important while still in elementary school because the artifacts were touring to the Royal Ontario Museum.  My school, an hour away, bused us all in to see it.  Pete's school, just barely outside the city limits, did not.  Weird, huh?  I don't remember feeling anything about what I doubtless saw.  But I do remember eating the chocolate from a King Tut sarcophagus tin afterward. It was delicious and seemed very golden-shiny.

Also: watching Monty Don's 'Big Dreams Small Spaces' gardening program on Netflix.  Ray is back at our house, finishing off the front porch (and feeling distressed about the fact that we are putting solid stain on CEDAR.  I agree.  It is terrible... but it's the only wood that will stand up to the elements and comes in proper handrails and isn't full of knotholes, and our house style isn't really wood grain friendly.)  When the porch is done he will begin to transform our back yard with a deck and a long narrow pergola, which will give us hard landscaping to work from.  Pete and I are considering various decorative, functional bin sheds for garbage, recycling, and bike storage.  When all that's done: PLANTS! None of which we've chosen yet.  Monty is so knowledgeable, encouraging, and enthusiastic, and our need is great, so I feel sure the sitting time is justified.


Also: reading about how bad sitting is for you - brain function, circulatory system, mood, and so on.

Reminding myself to knit standing up while watching TV.

Standing up at regular intervals between wonderful sitting sessions.

Honestly, I love sitting.  It's what I aspire to whenever I'm doing anything exhausting which is most of the time I spend not sitting or lying down.  I mean, I love walking too, but there is something so wonderful about curling up in a comfy chair!  And you can't eat eggs standing up really.  Not without dropping bits on the floor.

I should wrap this up now but can we just take a moment to think how wonderful Jack Carson was?  He died so young - just 52 - and he was so talented and sweet on screen, I still feel it like a personal loss though we weren't even alive at the same time.  I would definitely order restaurant eggs if I could listen to Jack Carson be charming while I ate them.


Take care and I'll see you again soon!  Might even have a finished pair of chair socks by then.



Monday, April 2, 2018

Easter Socks

Though I'd take a break from cake consumption (I am testing out vanilla versions, with white icing) to show you my new Easter Socks!


Okay, clearly they aren't done yet.  But I did get to spend Easter Weekend knitting away on them and getting purple alpaca fluff on my shirt whenever TCM was running something arresting enough to lure me away from the oven to my beloved armchair.

I can't remember now, even though I just finished them a couple of weeks ago, which socks I was knitting before these - I think they might have been a sort of dusty rose wool/mohair blend striped with another wool/mohair blend to eke them out to a generous length?  but I was SO annoyed with myself for choosing that sock set to knit instead of this one.  I had really wanted to be feeling alpaca in my hands.  I was well onto this second sock (disclaimer: the first one is only just at the heel also - I try to get all the stripey leg bits out of the way so I can enjoy the sprint to the end with the single yarn I use for the rest of the foot) before I realized:

PURPLE AND GREEN ARE EASTERY.


So, really it's good that I saved these ones to knit later, even if Easter has passed and I am still working on them.


I can tell looking outside now, and walking around outside too even if I am still wearing my big parka, that it is well and truly spring.  Clues:

there is some sun most days
there is no snow on the grass
the grass still looks dead and flat, unlike in fall when it is green and shivery
there are tiny buds on some trees
birds are going crazypants with the singing

Actually here is an odd bird thing.  Mostly what we hear at the house is barking, so I was surprised the other day to take the garbage out from the non-dog side and hear a cheery spring birdsong.  I was like, WOW!  I forgot that sound even exists!  At the condo it's mostly birds and churchbells but six months of bark bark bark can override a lot of your memory.

Renovation tip: when your heating and ventilation installers ask where you'd like the ugly air vents on the outside of your house, and reinforce the fact that they are ugly and should probably pop out of your house somewhere that nobody will be looking at them because MAN are they ugly, think past aesthetics all the way down the list to function.  At the condo, birds wake us at 6am and at the house, it's barks, because the sound-magnifying air vents scattered all through the inside of our house lead to one spot on the outside where nobody will be looking at them except some hugely excitable and chatty dogs. 

WHAT WAS I THINKING.
 
Anyhoo, that's how I found out spring was here - by taking out the garbage. 


Of course in spring you are not thinking about wearing alpaca socks unless there is yet another freak snowstorm where you live.  And if you are me you are thinking Uh Oh, even at the thought of that snow melting away because hello view of the back yard:


Especially if your contractor is coming back as soon as the weather is warm and dry enough to run a chop saw effectively, the better to build your deck and other back yard landscaping bits.  And hopefully remove the raccoon gate from the broken garage door and fix same and find a home for a stack of old bricks too.

Yep: I am running out of time to figure out how to resolve the mess that is our back yard and add in some good screening structures to block out the less fortunate aspects of our view.  Thank goodness
this week is looking too chilly still for that job to start, so I can sit down with Denial and some more sock!


You know what, and I'm not just saying this because of purple alpaca - I think the answer is lavender plants.  Loads and loads of lavender planted in elevated boxes along the back of a pergola, blocking both the view above the fence line, and also, the mosquitoes. 

What do you think?



Saturday, March 17, 2018

Adjusting the recipe

This morning I read an oatmeal tip: add unsweetened cocoa.

Just a little shift in colour and/or texture has a lot of impact,
even on a fingerless mitt

I made a paste with some cocoa and boiling water in the bowl, then added a little honey and stirred it all up before I added the instant oatmeal and more water.  It was okay, but to really shine it would have needed more honey and since I'm trying to cut back on sugar, it's back to plain old oatmeal for this girl.

Eh, I tried.  Sometimes just trying something new is the important thing.



After breakfast I put out a stick of butter to warm to room temperature because lately, instead of writing Hugs, I've been trying to work out the perfect recipe for chocolate cake.

And then it hit me - I'm adjusting the recipe for EVERYthing right now.

Even my endlessly beloved socks are getting a few extra rounds at the toe because you know what?  It turns out I like the wiggle room, even if it's more than is strictly necessary.

My friend Wrona has been nudging me toward more writing, and at the moment we are revising short stories together.  It's been so long since I had a writing buddy, though I was always lucky to partner with very strong writers whose insights were hugely helpful.  Now, with Wrona, it's different.  She can read the same piece endlessly and still have a fresh enough eye to pick out the subtle changes to determine whether they help or hinder the overall story.  And I can look at her feedback and register it not only as a suggestion for change, but as a red flag that says This Part Doesn't Flow.  It's a small difference in perspective, but a critical one, and I find my writing is improving enormously just by acknowledging it.


When I walk anywhere these days I am constantly taking pictures of bare branches against the sky.  I always admired the contrast as I strolled along but now I have no concerns stopping to get the perfect framing; I want the images in my phone to look at when I'm stressed, or thinking about watercolour painting.


I've been reassessing my wardrobe and paring it down too.  Our closet is small and honestly, though I am always swayed toward a sense of public pressure to wear something different every day, the truth is I'm a uniform fan.  Lately I decided to accept that and now my half of our very small closet is centred on simple black T shirts and things sewn from linen.  I love linen so much... you can wear it in every season and it breathes so effortlessly!  And you can just wash it in the machine and hang it to dry.  I don't worry about ironing it, because it reacts to your shape and movement as you wear it anyway.  You can dress it up or dress it down, it lasts for years, and it's compact to boot.  What's not to love?


And time - how I use my time is getting a big overhaul right now.  I had WAY too much on my plate, working and health-caring and managing the house renovation and condo rental.  It bothered me so much that I wasn't writing a Hug every weekday because I did it for - what, five years? - before the reno started and I had to scale back.

Now that I am getting some breathing room, I find I don't want to sit and knit for every break from work.  I'm more comfortable allowing myself to write fiction before a Hug, and accepting that there might not be any Hug time left afterward.  There is a jigsaw puzzle on my dining room table and I put a few pieces in place as I pass it.  I am learning to play with crosswords now that I have access to the New York Times puzzles on my screen (I know, more screen time, but still).


I like that onscreen crossword puzzling is so tidy, with no paper strewn over the table... living in a condo/storage locker for over two years seems to have taught me to hate mindless clutter.  Go figure!  Now, I find I want everything I have - apart from a random jigsaw puzzle - to be necessary, effective, compact, and multi-purpose, so our living space can be as barren as possible while still being homey.



You know what is a good cleaning cloth?  Linen. With water and a linen teacloth or napkin you can clean mirrors, shine chrome, and get rid of water spots.  After you've gotten the gunk off a glass-topped stove, a linen cloth takes away all the streaks.  And nothing dries glassware and plates better either.  I have a tidy little stack of them now, vintage from eBay and not expensive, scattered into the bathrooms and the kitchen drawer.  They get washed together and they don't bleed colour onto each other either. My beloved cotton teatowel collection, many years in the making, is headed for a new career in cushion-covering.  My bulky polyester dust grabber cloths are getting donated.

And cooking!  There was a time when I wanted to try cooking everything and I had particular pots for different jobs.  Now, there is one square drawer to the left of our oven that contains:
a pasta pot with strainer and lid
a big pot with steamer and lid
a covered casserole stovetop pot
and three saucepans, which I could pare down to two or even one.

Those things, plus some frying pans in another drawer and a cluster of cookie sheets, are all I use for cooking meals now.  If you can't make it in one of those things, I am having it in a restaurant.

A different look to replace our formerly casual porch seating
(temporary safety rails just out of the picture):
Emphasis on the seat rather than the frame, so include more people in the space

For desserts, I am making good use of the cookie sheets (cookies), a square cake pan (brownies) and two round 9" pans (CAKE.) And now that I've said that magical word, it's time to talk cake I think, don't you?

I make a fabulous vanilla icing (okay, it's the recipe on the back of the bag of Redpath Icing Sugar - 4 cups of sugar, 1 cup of butter, 2 tbsp of milk, 2 tsp vanilla - or is it 1?). 

It's kinda embarrassing to spoon butter and sugar out of a bowl for dessert, so I have been wanting to make a cake that lives up to it.

Everybody seems to have that same goal.  You can look online and find a zillion chocolate cake recipes with an intro that says "I have spent years looking for the perfect chocolate cake recipe and this is it."  Then when I make one of them I'm kinda Meh.

But now I think I too have the perfect chocolate cake recipe, and here is why:

If you are using cocoa in a cake, you will get a richer flavour from pouring boiling water over it to let the it bloom before you add it to the batter. 

If the recipe calls for white sugar only, you can sneak in brown sugar to take some of the white sugar's place.  You can even reduce (slightly) the overall sugar count if you do this because brown sugar is heavier and has a deeper flavour.

You can get an airier cake if you add an extra egg yolk (assuming the recipe writer didn't already think of that.)  It'll help the rise without adding any more baking-soda flavour.

DON'T OVERBAKE THE CAKE.  Yeesh.  How many dry cakes did I complain over before I realized it was the oven time, not the recipe?

And finally: fold in the dry ingredients rather than beat them to death, because you don't want a lot of gluten in a cake.

And with that, I must leave you.  There is a laundry room I must overhaul and some boxes I'm hoping to shed things from.  Have a wonderful day and I'll see you again soon!



ps: I am writing and publishing this post on a Saturday!  I almost never do that.  Might try it more often, while I'm making adjustments.



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Beating your smartphone addiction with socks

A shocking thing happened here recently, and it wasn't the fact that I finally finished the socks I was knitting myself for Christmas:


Nope.  Here's what is stranger than that: I was reading a magazine article and, glancing at an accompanying photograph that was a bit too small to make out properly, I reached out with my thumb and forefinger and attempted to enlarge it.  ON PAPER.

All joking aside, that scares me, and in spite of trying to be mindful of the format I am using when reading, it's happened twice more.  I can't pretend now that my brain hasn't been rewired to think that I can alter print reality with a touch.  Because it has.


Digression for boring science stuff:

The scary things you read about smartphones are much more scary than that, but they come down to the same thing - our brains are being rewired by the screens we use.  Teenagers whose brains are still developing, and who use social media, are getting a rush from Likes, and it's affecting their moods and the choices they make about what to post online.  Well, I can relate to that, because even at Ravelry or on my humble blog here, a friendly comment or a heart gives you a nice feeling, not unlike getting a piece of physical mail from an actual person in the mailbox attached to your street address.  It's not compelling enough to make me push myself beyond my abilities to post constantly (obviously!  I am so dropping the ball on my plan to post every weekday again.)  But I can absolutely attest to the power of it.

Becoming hooked on the rush you get from likes, and dreading the negative feelings you get from the reverse, means you are staring at a screen for a long time every day, and apart from anything else, that can't be good for a person's eyes.  It's also different from the neurological benefits of human touch and face to face socializing.

And obviously: if you're reading this, you already know all that because you're crafty!  Even if you use Facebook and Instagram, you probably knit in a group once in a while, and you're touching fiber and fabrics.  Like me you probably feel pretty safe from the changes smartphones are creating in our fellow humans, assuming you have a smartphone (and I have lots of friends who don't, so I make no assumptions here.)

But think about it.  I swore off Facebook years ago and never got around to making an Instagram account, and can't even be bothered with Twitter because what do I have to say that's so interesting, and also brief? and yet: I am still trying to make a photograph bigger while reading print media.



And now, back to the practical:

Pete gave me a Smartphone just before we started our home renovation project, and I learned to use it constantly because there was so much happening that needed to be dealt with immediately.  It was such a help to be able to search online, take photographs, send photographs, text, and whip off an email.

Then I discovered the fun things:

Reading books on a Kindle, even on my tiny phone, meant I could knit at the same time!

Subscriptions to the digital editions of The Washington Post and The New York Times mean I get to read well-written nonfiction all day long.  And access fabulous recipes too (thank you New York Times, especially for the lemon linguine.)

On the subway, I get to choose between knitting, reading on my Kindle app, or playing spider solitaire.

I can effortlessly check the weather forecast for outside my door, at my cottage, and where all my far-flung friends live.

I can play music and audiobooks, saving shelf space for our stereo system which we haven't even unpacked yet.  In fact I think it might still be in storage and will probably stay there, at this rate.

Watching a movie, I can look up online the name of the actor who I totally recognize but can't quite place.

Now that I can store my patterns as .pdfs on it, I don't need to print or carry paper.

When traveling, I don't need to pack a map.  Or a guidebook.

and so on.  It all adds up, and so does my pile of New Yorkers, which I used to devour along with every meal at my table.  (we are probably the only family I know who always eats together but saves all the chats for every minute we are away from it.  Mealtime is reading time!)

Can you imagine how many more things I'd use it for, if I did social media??


Since we've been back in our house and the last of the renovations have paused till the weather warms up again, I have been struggling to get back into my routines - posting here regularly, photographing finished knits and posting them to Ravelry, sewing the drapes I still need to hang - and over the weekend it hit me:

it's my smartphone. 

I am on that thing so much, my hands and eyes and mind are never free for anything else. 

So now, I'm trying to separate myself from my darling device.  It's not just a question of plugging it in to charge in a different room from where I am, though that does seem to help.  I am trying to allocate more time for watercolour painting.  More time out walking (but not texting at every stop light.)  More time cooking from a recipe I wrote out by hand on a card - I have enough pens I love to write with, after all. More time with my first love, sitting on the sofa and knitting while watching some fabulous old movie.

And more time for writing fiction, which this post is keeping me from doing, so I'll end here.  Except to ask:

Do you think you're on a smart device too much?  And if so, what do you do to stay off it?

(also: the socks are mostly hand-dyed, fingering weight alpaca.  CRAZY supersoft.  the blue stripes are a DK weight superwash wool I thought looked nice with it.  isn't it great to figure out ways to combine totally different weights of yarn without throwing off the fit?)