Saturday, August 26, 2023

Eye candy

We need to start today with some eye candy, aka The Carrot:

Considering the glacial pace of my knitting lately it was a shock to discover

I'm almost out of caked sock yarn! 

Two pairs of socks left and then I have to get out my ball winder and set up with some more. Also I think I might finally be running out of Vesper Sock Yarn, which has been my go-to for fifteen years, give or take. Not sure when it will ever ship to Canada again. Not panicking... but I also heard this week that Kleenex will no longer be sold in Canada starting soon, so, stability breached

Anyway I gotta cake that sock yarn, but I've been writing so hard the last few months all our horizontal surfaces kind of piled up. You know how you put stuff onto a table so your hands are free and you can put it all away where it's supposed to go? It's a lot like that here, except more like when it's three weeks before you have time to do the putting away part. Or in my case.... h'mmm. I've lost count of how many weeks. 

So this weekend, I am CLEANING. Or at least, tidying. Yep, all weekend. 

Gulp. We need more eye candy.

Also I might have had another Paris Breakfast today to cope with the whole concept. As usual on such a day, it's sunny and gorgeous out. There are so many things I'd rather do, but I figure if I don't try to write or play or read or knit for two tiny days, the house can run on autopilot again for ages. And I can cake sock yarn while watching a movie on TCM, always a favourite pastime.


Traditionally, Labour Day Weekend is when we do projects around here, so I could have saved this job for that. I don't know why we're not always off barbecuing with friends like other people on such weekends, except that Pete and I are both pretty driven with this sort of thing and any long weekend automatically pings as three days to get through something big, rather than three days to sleep in (though, let's face it, in my case the sleeping in usually happens too.)

To that end, I have set out my must-do-on-Labour-Day project gear out in a decorative way, hoping to recapture the magic of my sock darning pile. And when I say 'recapture' I'm talking about the moment when I thought, if I just put it all out there in plain view, I will actually pick up a sock and darn it randomly through the day, and before I know it, all these socks will be completely free of holes and weak spots. 

Do I know how to make paint stripper and sanding paper
look glam or what? I should totally get a hardware store stylist job.


The reality of my darning design was several bowls of dusty socks, because I didn't factor in how busy I was going to be with writing (slammed, in fact) or messy the living room was getting as a result, and how not thrilling it was to curl up there with a darning needle and an audiobook. I'm hoping once I finally start stripping the paint off our mini nightstand from the cottage, the way I expected to do back in July, I'll be excited to finish and ready to paint it up in some fun way. 

Meanwhile, here's something I'm already excited about. A big wooly dust mop! It is true. And it is something I never, ever expected to say. But check this out:

And now for the closeup:

the STRIPES!! and also, the colours!
Seriously, they match our decor. It was meant to be.


This is the Big Wooly from Sladust, who I really wish was paying me in kind (the dry dust mop kind) for this product endorsement. Actually I can't speak to whether it works. But it's washable, biodegradeable, and much prettier to look at than popular landfill-clogging alternatives so I want both the mop and duster. Maybe more than one of each even. Maybe for Christmas? 

(that was not scarcasm, btw. I may hate cleaning, but I love wool. And I'm pretty sure I could come to love shaking out a dusty mop from the back deck, if I got to look at stripy wooly bits flapping in the breeze.)


Okay I had better get moving. Fingers crossed that next week I am sharing all sorts of elegant photographs of dust-free shelves, attractively staged with yarny treats. For now let's just hope you're having a funner weekend than me!



Saturday, August 19, 2023

Paris breakfast

Spoiler alert: I am not actually in Paris, but still contentedly here at Hugs, enjoying a sunny summer morning that for once is not too hot, with a tray of happiness all ready to go.

Over the last few years I've realized that while I love looking at old buildings and learning about other ways of life, what I really like about travel boils down to walking a long way, and then eating, or eating and then walking a long way. Either of which I can do at home if travel isn't viable. 

I am not a coffee drinker but I do enjoy a latte or cafe au lait now and then, so I acquired a metal tube with a coffee grinder on top for fresh beans, and rediscovered my tiny flat whisk for foaming milk in a pan. With the addition of a chocolate croissant from our excellent local bakery, Paris Breakfast was born.

I indulge myself with a Paris Breakfast on a day I particularly want to enjoy, which means today. I mean, it is so beautiful out.

The summer is just zipping away now and I fear I have not used it well. There are so many outdoor things I haven't touched, like paint-stripping the ridiculously small bedside table from the cottage which I hope to repurpose as an end table for the tiny home. Or sanding and restaining, again, the deck railings. Or even lying in the hammock and doing crossword puzzles, though that's definitely on the schedule for this week. Priorities, people. 

Even my sock project is barely limping along, which is just sad. 

I can knit a pair of socks in a week without thinking twice, and here I am spinning these out for months. I fear there will be a very sad Jan come Christmas if I don't get my act together and finish these, so I can knit her annual pair in time.

But let's turn to good news. I have a birdbath update for you: I found a bug in the water! 

That's the first time I've seen ANYthing enjoying our gift to our garden dwellers. I think it's a stink bug. I've seen another on our bedroom window screen too, looking like it might want in, but cute as they are  I've learned from three other stink bugs not to be deceived by their enormous size. They can still push through the gap in the frame of the screens. It was like it knew, too, because it was on the one window I'd forgotten to tape off to prevent such an incursion.

A few hours later I came back and found the bug still there, looking like it was more than ready to get out of the bath but couldn't get traction on the bottom of the bowl.

It was swimming so. hard. without getting anywhere. So I very carefully tipped out the water and freed it, and that was the end of our bird bath's usefulness. 

Still, I'm going to set it out again today. Pete really likes the water feature and I swear, we are going to have some outside fun today even if it's just Audiobook And Knitting. Or, you know, paint stripping.

(pretty sure it's not going to be paint stripping.) 


Okay - off I go. But I'll leave you with a quick look at my favourite thing in the garden, my tiny pot of lemon thyme. It's not summer without those pretty leaves and that intoxicating scent. Hope you have a lovely day and I'll see you next Saturday!

Saturday, August 12, 2023

A summer Saturday with gnomes

Someone we know picked up two dollar store gnomes this spring and has been surprising people with them ever since. This week they ended up at our house and I'm embarrassed to say it took me half the day to notice. I mean, how could I have missed them?

No idea how long they'll be here before they surprise the next friend, but they're welcome to stay for a bit.


I have had a tech-heavy week. I'd been invited to write an essay about how I approached the first two pages of my short story, 'The Canadians', in the anthology launching at the end of this month, and it was exciting to see that post go up. You can read it here, if you're interested in that sort of thing and/or want a sneak peek.

The next day I attended a seminar about website design, and realized it was time to update mine. Nothing too fussy, just a quick do-over.


Turns out the software I use has gone glitchy, severely limiting what one can do, but I didn't realize that till the original site was gone. Took me three days (not exaggerating - it was pretty much full on from the time I got up till I fell into bed again) to trick the program into letting me include images in the replacement. Even then, the final result isn't exactly a dreamboat. But it'll do. You can check that out too if you like - the link for that is here.


Before I became one with my keyboard and mouse and a persistent migraine, earlier in the week when there was time for a midday walk outing, I saw a turkey! That's normal in the countryside but not so much here in Toronto. 

It happened in our lush ravine system... this friendly turkey strolled out from the foliage at the edge of the path and then carried on alongside me, companionably keeping pace as it foraged for berries. 


Now I am in recovery mode from all website chaos, which is how Saturdays should be spent and seldom are, at least by me. I am treating myself to a big read of Lockwood & Co. books - these are middle grade / YA stories with ghosts, meaning I don't fall remotely into the target market, but Jonathan Stroud's writing is pure luxury and I am grateful to have enough free time to indulge myself properly. 

Weirdly, Netflix picked up this series and then cancelled the show after the first season. Which is maddening because they'd done an excellent job with it and I was excited to see more. More fools them is all I can say, pulling my nose briefly away from my kobo screen to do so. Hopefully they keep that first season up long enough to lure more out-of-target-market readers into the books.


Turkeys and reading jags and gnomes aside, I know it is officially summer here at Hugs, because Pete has harvested his first tomato, a tiny Roma:

He is amazing with our garden, out there all the time weeding and watering. Puts me to shame and I definitely want to get out there and start helping him, or at least painting the deck railings again... but later, after I've read a little more. Maybe that's a scenario where I should be using audiobooks?


A few weeks ago when I noticed I was still drinking tea from Christmas mugs because both of my summertime favourites lost patches of enamel last fall, I treated myself to two new ones, including this cutie:

Gotta have a good cuppa tea when you're reading a book set in London.

The other mug has fun illustrations of landmark sites in Paris, London, and other aspirational travel destinations. I wasn't feeling the travel bug today so stayathome flowers it is.

Recently, New York Times Cooking featured a radish sandwich. You may or may not know about my great love of sandwiches. Since the comments section was full of people describing this as the best thing to happen to sandwiches since they first sprang into being, naturally I had to give it a try. 

My review: basically a butter vehicle. So I found myself eating the rest of the bag of radishes for snacks and found them beyond ideal. No peeling required, as with carrots, and no incentive to overindulge, as with everything else. They're crunchy and the heat puts you off snacking for a good while afterward.

So, once again, New York Times Cooking to the rescue! 

Okay I say this but I think I've only cooked maybe three things from that section since I started subscribing. I love reading the comments and get a ton of tips from them, which is worth it to me. What I really love is the educational videos on Bon Appetit. I don't actually cook fancy, and this summer I've been able to avoid cooking almost entirely thanks to the miracle of Salad (and also, Sandwiches) but I do enjoy learning, and food often looks so beautiful.

And now I think that is quite enough from me - you have fun things to do with your day too I hope. See you next Saturday, and thanks for checking in!

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Books and a birdbath

Even though I haven't designed a new pattern in ages, I still keep my beautiful collection of reference books on a shelf beside my favourite armchair. Let's look at some! And then I will tell you about our recent birdbath adventures.

The Field Guide to Knitting by Jackie Pawlowski is tops because it is compact enough to take to Knit Night, for instant perusal when somebody in the group is struggling to identify a stitch or come up with an alternative. I've never been called upon to do this, but it's nice to know it's possible. I used it a ton when I was looking up interesting patterns to fit into a set stitch count and pair nicely with something else.

I am frequently indebted to the hard work of Clara Parkes, both for The Knitter's Book of Yarn and The Knitter's Book of Wool. You don't always need to know how particular fibers behave, but it is useful if you are substituting something new for what a pattern recommends, or if you are designing something you want to function in a certain way. For example, acrylic yarn is essentially plastic and will have a tiny amount of give if you do ribbing, but otherwise, Not. Cotton has no elasticity so in theory it will behave like acrylic, but in practice, it will sag out. Neither is an ideal substitute for wool, unless you're very attentive to pattern size. (but don't get me started, heh)

Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor is the only thing I ever received free in exchange for a promotion here at Hugs, and if I am never offered another, I would be well content. It is a must-have, in my opinion, and so thoughtfully produced with excellent photography and a spiral binding. 

One more book I especially enjoy is The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, by Carol Ekarius and Deborah Robson.

This chunky book makes a great weight for straightening out bent pages or pressing flowers! But obviously its main value is as an excellent reference to everything one might use to knit or spin. For me, it was always a companion to Clara Parkes' books - the three are equally valuable - but it definitely stands alone, too.

Books have been on my mind lately, as I've finally sorted out a kind of life on Instagram - click through if you want to see how I'm curating photos between jaunts to other people's feeds. I'm settling into it as a place for my non-knitting interests, and have discovered soooo many great books to read, even as I am faintly astonished by the bookcases of people who read a lot. I mean, I feel like I read a lot, but it turns out I have nothing on true fans. If I was pressed to take a photo of a stack of hard copy novels with coordinating spines, I'm not sure I could come up with it, especially since I volunteered to switch to e-books so the other readers in my family would have shelf space. Meanwhile, there are reading people who have entire (full) bookshelves organized by colours that shift gradually to the next shade in the rainbow. 

(for the record: that would drive me crazy, because I want all my Jane Austens in one place and I my collection is not exclusively from Penguin. also, what happens when you buy a new book and it doesn't fit in its colour spread?)

Okay, let's talk bird baths! As in, we bought one. I had read a news article about how important it is to provide birds with water during heatwaves, which of course sent me down the rabbit hole of what was available and practical for our local bird community. We ended up with a glass bowl we can bring inside in winter, perched on a folding stand we can tuck away neatly when not in use. The fact that they're not attached makes it easy to dump out the water at the end of the day, so there's less risk of mosquitoes. 


But on this point, Pete and I have had some Discussion. He felt we could dump the water in the mornings, right before we refilled. I felt if we left a water bath out overnight, we'd attract the raccoons to our yard again after a few years without any denning in our garage. But Pete had a point about the birds getting up a lot earlier than we do, so we went with his preference.

We also put a couple of stones into the water. I'd read that smaller birds appreciate a perch, and also that cordoning off the solar-powered fountain accessory Pete really wanted to include would keep it from drifting to the side and spraying all the water out of the bowl. 

Well, it's been a couple of weeks now, and we haven't seen one single bird in our birdbath, whether we put in the fountain accessory or take it out. No squirrels either, and no insects lingering. It's like having a party and having nobody show up. Then one morning we came out to find one of the two stones hurled out onto the ground (you can see both of them there in the back, against one of our big grey planters). 


And that is why we dump the water at night. Because Pete doesn't want raccoons any more than I do. 

We have them now anyway, though. These three cubs were following their mom around the perimeter one evening last week. It's a terrible picture because I've been writing instead of washing the glass at our side door, but they're still pretty cute.

Especially when they're on top of, rather than inside, the sheds we bought to keep garbage secure from them.

Anyway, we may not have birds in our birdbath, but we do have a cute water feature in our garden, so that is something. And now I am heading out to enjoy it, because it's a lovely day and I am ready for a little break.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you next Saturday!