Saturday, December 30, 2023

Happy new year to be

I'm a little early on this, but I'm wishing you well for 2024 and wouldn't it be nice if there was slightly less of the bad even if we don't get more good? Though I must show you one tiny bit of good: I made progress on the sock I started years ago and had to rip back to the cuff. I might actually be able to wear these ones come April!


2023 was jam-packed for me personally with loads of positive change, big and small. I am definitely happier and less stressed than I was at this time last year. And I accomplished some dream goals, ranging from decluttering the house to winning an award from Crime Writers of Canada for my unpublished crime novel. 

And I have hopes for 2024. I want to do a little landscaping at the rural property we look after - something that's nice to look at and smell, but also useful to local insects and wildlife. I have a manuscript to revise, another to write, and a third to finish. I'm hoping to do even more decluttering, but at a more relaxed pace to match our evolving use of the house. I have some books to read in a group next year thanks to my having finally joined Instagram, and I'm adapting my planner system to make it easy to keep track of that.

Of course the most important first step in planner setup is to make little art pieces to post over the sticky adhesive marks on the Filofax cover page, and to buffer the damage inevitably caused by the zipper pull that's part of the Malden binder design. 

Because frankly, when things get messy, it's nice to step back and look at a part of the plan that's untouched since the start, when everything was potential and not at the 'worse before it gets better' stage.

I hope your 2024 is great but also that your lead-in to 2024, your New Year's Eve and Day, are exactly the balance of fun and peaceful that's right for you.

Any resemblance to
a baby new year or aged old year
is purely coincidental and socky

Thanks again for coming to see me today and I look forward to meeting up next Saturday!

Saturday, December 23, 2023

at last holiday

 I say 'at last', but I know that for many of us it's 'at last minute', and all about the things that still aren't done!

For me this year the unfinished is not just the long-suffering knits I'd hoped to clear from my side table, but also baking, so I will keep this brief and dig into the flour.

I hope you all have a wonderful season, however you celebrate the closing days of the year, and that you get enough sleep going in (and not just in the form of collapse, after!)

Thanks for taking a moment to spend with me here and I'll see you again next Saturday with a new Hug.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Out for a walk

It's been years since I've been able to visit the property we maintain but I got out there this week, and I have pictures!

I didn't take any of the interior of the shed we spent all year setting up there because it's serving as a shelter with bathroom, accessorized with muddy work boots lined up on a shelf. Anyway the outside is plenty beautiful enough for this week.

Pete has been hard at work all summer dragging fallen trees out of the forest and rounding up bits of fence, but he took breaks to cut a walking path into the meadow and up the hill so I could climb it. Above, I have a photo of where we started, on the west side near the driveway. Note the logs on the right he pulled out of the woods while I did some other fussing. He's trying to do as much cleanup as he can before the snow flies.

And now, the walk. Here we've gotten to the end of that section and turned right, into another trail that crosses the last of the flattish area, past the ponds to the foresty bit.

Behold: a frosty pond!

Apparently it's full of frogs and turtles in the summer. 

I overshot the path to the hill to get that pic. Let's go back a few feet to the land bridge between the pond and the marshy patch that is likely to be more pondy now that Pete's fixed its leak. The hill doesn't look too bad from here, does it.

Appearances: once again misleading. It's got some very steep sections. But even I, with lingering breathing issues post-Covid plus fierce determination, made it up there in a little over seven minutes. 

At the top, Pete cut another trail so you can catch the view from more angles. This one looks east.

Looking north, we get to see our neighbours' beautiful cornfield.

It's like something out of a novel set in rural 19th century England, don't you think?

Okay: time to head back down. Pond on the right, foresty bit on the left.

I want to enjoy this path while I can, because doing it in spring may only be possible in gumboots! and in winter, snowshoes. 

Back at the bottom. The pond is surrounded by fuzzy seedy plants and blown cattails. Once you've reached the south side, there's a path into the trees.

Wish I'd seen Pete puttering the tractor along to make these routes. We're trying to leave as much meadow as possible, to help give insects and animals maximum shelter, but hopefully they don't grudge us sharing. 

Apart from the chipmunk who was very offended by our entering his forest and made a lot of noise at us before fleeing into some fallen logs.

Pete did cut a lot of grass down at the entrance to the property. I thought the shadows were just beautiful.

Then I turned and saw the shed, perched high atop the gravel we brought in for a level surface, and wondered if bright white siding was quite the right idea! 


Oh well... when somebody needs the bathroom or a place to warm their extremities, they won't have any trouble finding it. And that ain't nothin'.

Meanwhile, I don't know about you, but looking at these pictures all together I can't help thinking what a gorgeous yoke these colours would make on an Icelandic sweater. YUM

Hope you'll join me again next week, and that you enjoying this little vicarious stroll. Have a great weekend!

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Winter knits

Hello, basket of warm winter accessories! Some of these are quick enough for last minute presents if you're in need of some, but I'm mostly showing them for fun.

The weather is still mildish here but I am definitely reaching for fingerless mitts at minimum before I go outside. And since I am finally at the finishing stages of my 12-month decluttering odyssey (read: making the jumble of hats and scarves pretty) I thought you'd like to check out what's in my regular rotation.

These mitts didn't see much action last winter, mostly because I couldn't find them, but they are my prized possession, the knit I would take with me if I could only have one project.


They are twined with sock-weight yarn, using a pattern from Linda Ligon's Homespun, Handknit (a must have book, incidentally) by the brilliant Carol Rhoades - Two End Mittens. They came out perfectly. Check out this beautiful cuff:

The yarn was harvested from goats and sheep living on neighbouring farms, and hand-dyed by my very talented friend Sylvia who no longer sells yarn. Like I said: a treasure. They are warm, but not for really frigid days. In that scenario I wear the second mitts I made from this pattern using my own heavier handspun yarn.

I'm also keeping this shawl out for use when I'm wearing a dressier coat. You may recognize it from my earlier blog banner... the pattern is Sugared Violets by Rose Beck, available at Ravelry and worth every penny of the pattern cost.

I don't always want a hat so my Hatcowl is my other option for a black coat. My design for this, free on the linked pattern page, is so handy. Tie the drawstring tight and you have a great slouchy hat. Loose, it's a perfect neckwarmer. I'm making another now in a different stripe to wear with my red puffer coat, but we know what I'm like these days... slow enough to be debuting it two years out.

Despite being active on Instagram now, for books, I sometimes stumble across my name linked to my various knitting patterns. It can feel a bit weird! But the other day I spotted pictures of a very lovely version of my Shelter Valley Cowl and that was just nice. I knit this one with a silk blend Trish picked up for me as a special gift, taking it as many rounds as I could get before the skein ran out. It's warm and soft and I often wear it around the house if I'm a little chilly.

Okay here's a super quick beanie - my Slice of Life hat. Make it longer than the pattern calls for if you want some flop on top. This one is succinct if you pull it down tight. I like it with a coat that zips up high and warm so I don't need a scarf, for a trim look.

I never published the pattern for my fingerless mitts, but I love all the variations I made of them and wear them a ton. This one in light grey yarn from Viola has a lace panel I didn't get quite right in relation to the thumb opening, oops:

And these are my blue pairs, for less dressy days when I'm out in jeans.

If it's really cold I wear the handspun-by-me pair on the left, using the excellent Ferryboat Mitts pattern from Churchmouse Yarns and Teas. Otherwise I wear my own design on the right, without the lace panel and again in sock yarn from Viola. Isn't Emily brilliant with colours?

My favourite fun pair in my unpublished design is this one in leftover Vesper sock yarn from Knitterly Things. If you've been here a while, you know how much I love stripes!

And that is enough from me. My apologies for posting so late in the day. Hey, it's still Saturday, right? I'll leave you with the basket looking a lot less tidy than when we started, and look forward to seeing you next week. As always I'm so pleased you chose to spend a little time with me.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

The tree is up

Last year I was overwhelmed in the run-up to Christmas and it felt like one more chore to do. This year: BRING IT. I am so ready for the break, and I am all about the nostalgia.

This is a mini mitt I made in a class on twined knitting. I think I made a full-sized pair to give away, but that might be dreaming on my part because we all know what a selfish knitter I am, making things mostly for my own use because I can't bear to part with whatever it is. 

The thing about twined knitting is that you have to twist two strands of yarn around each other with every stitch. The natural and comfortable direction in which do this, for me, is the same direction in which yarn is plied, which results in impossibly twisted-up balls of feeder yarn you have to constantly stop and address. The solution to this problem is to spin your own yarn, then ply it in the opposite direction such that twining is simple and straightforward. 

So, yeah. If I take up twined knitting again, it means taking up spinning again, and that honestly is not a bad outcome for me if I can just clear enough of my calendar. I loved both those things a lot. 

Another thing I loved back in the day: Magic Cookie Bars. And I made some last night, for the first time since I was a teen, probably.

In my shift away from processed foods I forgot how completely decadent and delicious these things are. Just the aroma coming off the pot where I melted butter and then stirred graham cracker crumbs into it was Wow. And once you have that pressed neatly into a pan, you pour sweetened condensed milk over, then top that with chocolate chips and coconut? I mean... how can you not eat the whole thing? Thankfully you can freeze the squares and they keep for three months, so there is some reprieve from overdoing the sugar load.

One of my big jobs for 2023, apart from organizing a tiny home (which was not on the agenda in January when I developed this year's life goals) was decluttering our house. Technically I started that job in November but there are so many cupboards and cubbyholes to address I clearly needed the extra time. I'm STILL not done! But this week, going through a junk drawer, I found two more of the precious felted wool Christmas pins I made years ago. 

I loved these too and now that the tree is up and I have Official Festive Lighting, I am going to reexamine some decluttered craft nooks and see if I can't find the gear for these projects. I know I have more tiny bells and felt pieces and embroidery thread somewhere. 

If you'd like to give them a go with your own scraps and backing pins, my mini tutorial is here

One thing that isn't nostalgic here is this year's wreath, a departure from our usual plain green boxwood over the living room fireplace mantel:

The florist didn't have our usual size in anything but this version with glossy red faux berries, so we agreed to be spontaneous and break tradition. Normally the wreath lives on the wall all year, fading to sage for Easter and gold for Canadian Thanksgiving (October) before being renewed in December. Not sure how the red berries will play for all that, but they're only wired on, so if I get to it fast enough in January before the boxwood is too dry and brittle, I might be able to remove them.

I should just be sure not to indulge in too many sweets first because I will need a steady hand, heh.

I hope your holiday plans are coming along nicely and feel more like an indulgence than a responsibility. Pretty sure we could all use whatever break we can manage. Thanks again for spending this time with me, and I'll see you here next Saturday!

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Office Party

As promised, pictures of my completed IKEA build from last Saturday! Here's the view from my office door, looking at the work area as opposed to the Zoom Background area I showed a few weeks ago.

Side note before we talk IKEA: the lighting! There is a ridiculous amount in this room. Three bulbs in the ceiling, two serious wall sconces, the matching table lamp, and now a second table lamp. The room is only 5.5' x 8.5' - you can see the corner of my IKEA standing desk on the right, to give you an idea of how small it really is - but I had hoped to sew in here and do other crafty things, so when we were renovating we had it majorly wired. And you know what? I really do use all these lights at different times. It was totally worth it.

The new addition is a Hemnes shelf unit - intended really for a bathroom but perfect for my office needs.


To the left of it I have a Hemnes bookcase (not pictured because you can only contort so much in a doorway.) I really wanted a second one for symmetry but it was too tall for the wall sconce I have no intention of taking down. I was sad about that, because the solid sides make it easier to hide clutter from my work area. 

As it turns out though, the open structure has its own perks. Specifically, access from the sides. I hadn't planned this but once the unit was in place I realized I could have a designated planner area and get my gel pens and markers off the desk entirely.

Bonus: I finally have a place to display the Group of Seven and David Milne prints I was gifted last year and love to look at. Probably I should get around to taking them out of their plastic wrap but in the meantime, they do a great job of inspiring me while hiding messy things I need to get at every so often. Because let's be honest. The two white bins I bought for this purpose were not enough for that job!

Another innovation I had with this makeover was my 'whiteboard'. A lot of writers will use a wall as planning space, sticking up Post-It notes to work out scenes and make sure their narrative arcs work well. I didn't have wall space for that when I was working in our front window, but in the office I have these two sconces... and in the basement, a long piece of leftover baseboard trim already primed white. 


It only took about half an hour to put them together with some bristolboard, washi tape, and blue and white scrapbooking string. No holes in the wall either. I just set the baseboard trim over the sconce plates and I was done. I'll probably start using it next week, when I dig into the second draft of my most recent project.

The desks are unstained rubberwood, sourced from Wayfair, and they are so great. The primary one is four feet wide, which feels generous in such a small space, and 18" deep. The one running under the window is just 16" deep, but it's five feet wide which allows me to have the table lamp plus loads of space for spreading out pages and notes when I'm reviewing a printed manuscript. I sure didn't have that luxury in the dining room, unless I took everything off my desk and shoved it onto the dining table.

I'm still not quite there with this office. I'd like to get rid of more cluttery bits from the boxes, for one thing, and streamline my art supplies, for another. But I'm enjoying the space and grateful for it.

Overseeing it all, and guarding the boxes with my notes and pages for other projects, is my wooden monkey:

He was a gift from my older brother, who died when I was a teenager - he was great at gifts and I still treasure the things he chose for me. I was probably eight or ten when he picked up this little guy. His curved hands and feet mean he can hang off things and it's fun to pose him!

Okay the sun is shining and it's time for us to get on with our days, so I will leave you with this picture of how cosy and cute my planner area looks at night.

Thanks again for spending this time with me and I'll see you next Saturday!

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Project day

It's Saturday and once again I am finding things while looking for something else. Specifically, my missing sock needles. 

This is the cuff of a fingerless mitt I was making from sock yarn scraps. And when I say scraps, let's just acknowledge that the whole project looks like it's *been* scrapped.

I do intend to get back to this because I've made two other pairs in this mitt design and I wear them a ton. But it's been so long since I worked on it, you better believe there was a huge sigh of relief when I saw my pattern notes tucked into the same bag. 

There was also a huge gasp when I realized I pilfered the second set of needles for socks when they still had a job to do:

I bet you're gasping too. I don't know what I was thinking! But I can tell you what I'm thinking now - the stitches seem to be holding all right, and I don't have any other sock needles handy to slip through them, and I had something else in mind for today. So I'm just going to leave them be and hope for the best.

About the 'something else'...

Every time I see somebody posting online about their makeover projects, I think of sunny Saturdays and pushing everything aside to tackle a mess and make a room beautiful again. With coffee and good music and possibly paint and/or a friend. I don't really drink coffee, but do you know what I mean? It's so appealing. And with the major office redo here, that's spilling into a whole-house extravaganza, I needed to make changes in my workspace storage.

Long story short: I shopped at IKEA again - this time for an open sided shelf from the Hemnes line. It's meant for a bathroom but too bad! It's gonna line up with my Hemnes bookshelf, which is now gonna be a linen closet, and pretend to be office decor. I'd show you the finished look but it's almost three and I haven't actually started assembly yet. Maybe next week. 

Right now I'm just excited that IKEA has changed the way you order online, such that I was able to make the purchase before midnight and pick up from a 24/7 locker system as early as three hours later. I woke up to a sunny day and a giant box in the hallway all ready to build, because Pete is a morning person and picked it up for me.

Meanwhile, I think the scrappy sock mitt will look cute when it's done, don't you? I like the way the colours are lining up.

Probably if I was smart I'd find a way to adapt my design for a full-on thumb, and then just keep knitting the top till I can do a nice angled tip. I'm content slipping them over a pair of gloves that would be inadequate on their own, but I still dream of waking to a day with time for tinkering in it. And I do love my stripes, don't I.

Okay I'd better go get assembling. Hope you have a fun day in progress - thanks for spending part of it with me! See you next week.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Making adjustments

It's getting to be that magical cold-weather time of year where I live, and that means two things.

I get to wear my beautiful handspun twined mittens, and I get to feel guilty about the matching hat. Yay!

Or rather, ugh. I had such good intentions with this hat, and way too much confidence in my abilities to knit a garter band and pick up stitches for the rest. Not sure if you can see the problem in this photo, so perhaps we'll try another angle:

There is a LOT of ease on top. I think the handspun was just too heavy to flop properly, because the crown decreases are perfectly flat, a critical element I did get right.

Ignoring the fact that wearing this hat makes me look like the stem on a mushroom, I even did this elaborate trim feature:

I still really like this element, even though it's wasted on this hat. I look awful with it on, and it keeps sinking and shifting as I walk, too. It's way too big. If I had one of those gazelle necks I could tuck my long hair into it and stride out of the house looking like I have an attractive hat on. Sadly I was not so blessed. So I'm going to have to find a way to make the hat smaller. I see two routes to this destination.

Option A: tuck the excess inside the band, and stitch it down.


Option B: fold the excess over the band, and stitch it down.

And at this crossroads, I have stopped. I'm not sure which is better, and also, I need to dig out my leftover handspun so the stitches don't show. Otherwise I'll have to do decorative stitches that look like they were done on purpose, and that's another area where I'm more confident than adept, heh.

I do think it's worth it though, don't you? I mean this hat is WARM. The halo on it is incredible. The colours are beautiful. And, you know, I handspun this yarn and everything.

The good news is, we're doing a whole-house overhaul at the moment to accommodate home offices. I'm sure to find the leftover yarn in my travels, and when the work is done, I'll have a few more cosy nest options for actually doing the alterations. If I'm really careful and lucky, I'll be out in style in January. A girl can hope.

Another hope: that you are having a great weekend. Thanks for coming to see me, and let's do this again next Saturday!