Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon
Mr. Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Saturday, December 31, 2011

I'm not ignoring my friends

I'm sitting here in the living room at backyard feast while our good friends from Stellar Coffee are here visiting. We are curled up on comfy furniture, knitting and beverages to hand, having had sushi and pound cake for dinner. It's been an awesome New Year's Eve party.


So when I say I'm not ignoring my friends, I mean my friends in the room. I'll rejoin them shortly. But you know me, I'm a bit of an Internet junkie so I just had to come see what you are all doing. Go see Amanda - she has completed her goal of knitting/sewing/crocheting a scarf/cowl/neck thing for every single day of 2011. Stop by and congratulate her for getting there! And while you're out visiting my friends, go tell Ellie you're glad she's finally joined Twitter.

Right, not to partying like it's 1999 (but I admit I'm having way more fun tonight).

Friday, December 30, 2011

Matroyshka themed Christmas

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a sudden and intense interest in researching my Russian heritage. I don't actually know if I have Russian heritage or if my relatives were true Volga Deutsch - was my great grandmother a Russian who married a German? Or were they both German?

I have big-ish rather unfeminine hands, and I have always referred to them as my "Russian working woman's hands". This is not a slight to myself, because they are also strong and competent hands (if I do say so myself).

At any rate, each year when I'm thinking about what to do for the family for Christmas, I have quite a few creative stages. In the first few years I did one really big thing for one family member (as in knit a super-involved thing). Then it got to two, I think, unintentionally. This year, as mentioned in a previous post, I didn't think I would have time/money to knit something for everyone. What could I do to channel my creativity that wouldn't cost very much, that I could put together quickly, that the whole family would appreciate?

Once I figured out what everyone was getting, I hit upon an idea: I would wrap the presents matroyshka style and I would draw each family member to indicate who would get the next present. 

 Sketches of the family - early version


These, I might add, are very accurate depictions of my family members. 


Younger niece


Dan's older sister


Dan's step-sister


Dan's youngest sister


Dan's older sister's husband


Dan's stepbrother (a story about the monkey that says OVERDUE on the tail: one morning while I was staying at the Stately, Thor came downstairs after having had a dream where he had borrowed a monkey from the library and it was overdue, woke up in distress because he didn't know where the monkey was). 


Dan's stepfather. Now remember that everyone in the family has a 'thing', and John's thing is toast. 


Oldest niece turned 16 a few days before Christmas and got her 'L'. For those of you not in British Columbia, this is the first step in a graduated-licensing program for people who want to drive. You get your L for a while, and you have to put this big magnet on the back of the vehicle you are driving to tell the world that you are LEARNING to drive. After a determined amount of time (a year? I don't actually know) then you can take the road test and get your N, which is a different magnet, to tell the world that you are NEW at driving. There are certain restrictions around this, like you can't drive after dark, there have to be people in the car who also have valid driver's licenses, etc. It's dumb, and I'm glad I grew up in a time where I didn't have to go through this rigamarole. But there it is. 


My mother in law.  Her thing is chickens. This drawing of a chicken here is from the kitchen table which she painted, and the model she uses is of a chicken sculpture somewhere in the Stately.


Wrapping begins. I didn't (remember to) take photos of every step, but you get the idea.




Getting bigger and bigger


By the very last wrap I had run out of paper. I had this done four full days before Christmas, which is unheard of for me.

On Christmas morning, I walked into the house with just the one big present. Everyone wanted to know what the one big thing was and who it was for. Dan's mum saw the drawing on the big one (for her) and knew that all the others were nested inside. It was great and appreciated. And tons of fun for me! I've had a few bursts of creativity lately so I already have the next two Christmases planned out for the family. It's a good thing because each year someone tells me "you've outdone yourself". (Just what my ego needs, more praise. I mean thank you!)

The reason I go to so much effort is because it's fun. Christmas with my family of origin was never really fun, not even as a kid. We held the German tradition of opening gifts on Christmas eve. I think Santa brought presents for Christmas morning, but we were pretty young when we figured Santa out and after that I don't think we even had stockings. Christmas was just about seeing family, eating, and just being together. With Dan's family it is so much more. We each of us exchange gifts, and with nine other people that can seem a daunting task. But this family specializes and revels in things handmade. It's wonderful. I found a recipe for some Spice Almonds on the Internet, gave that to Thor in a food storage container, and they were gone within two days. That's what Christmas is about - fun, thoughtful gifts and having fun with each other. I love it. I fit right in and I have a great time every year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

stay tuned

Hi there readers.


Lots has happened and I have big things planned for my blog in the coming months. This week with all the Christmasing has been very busy and we've had a bit of news immigration-wise (nothing really big yet). However, I haven't had a good night's sleep in days and I always get nailed pretty hard with cramps on the first day of my period (sorry, TMI, but I'm being honest with you), so haven't really been in the mood to write.

So please stay tuned.

Monday, December 26, 2011

post Christmas post

I have so much to tell you.

I won't be able to do it all justice in one post, so I'll see if I can just throw a few photos in here and maybe that will tell part of a story.

 My tender cargo. The present was the only one I brought with me, but little did everyone know, the presents for everyone were nested in here, matroyshka style.

 Does anyone know the answer to this?

What I didn't get a photo of is the three raptors (or are they T-rexes?) above this. It was hard to get a good shot of this with my iPhone - no flash and the room wasn't very well lit. But if you look closely, you should see a bicycle rim with a bunch of wood cutouts in the shape of insects, painted green, among the Christmas decorations. 


Dan's mom was the first to open the big present. With the drawings I did (accurate depictions, I may say) of each family member, she figured out right away that the whole gift was a nested present. 

 Again, my poor 3GS iPhone, not great at capturing action shots.


Slipper socks!

 Turns out, we had a bit of a theme going on here. I had been talking about matroyshkas and I guess the family heard me. These beautiful earrings are from Zola.

 Matroyshka measuring spoons! How awesome is that! Later, Zola's boyfriend came by with a gift for the family, turns out this same company also makes matroyshka measuring cups. Too awesome.

This here isn't any old Scrabble, it's Super Scrabble. Extra board, twice the number of tiles. Dan gave this to me as a New Year's present our first year together. It makes for a long game but it is something we all look forward to every Christmas! (No, I didn't win).

 The salad rolls make their final appearance for the season. I plan to do an entire post about this (I have photos of each ingredient) so please hang tight and all this delicioiusness can be yours.

 This here is what Thor called "Iranian Sunrise". As we near the end of this year's inaugural Alcohol Advent Calendar, the beverage was rum, grenadine and grapefruit juice. And it was good.

When I got home after having been out for 14 hours, Sam didn't care if I was tired, she was ready to play String. This is ribbon that would ordinarily go around gifts, but it gets much better use as crunchy string. You know, the best cat toy ever.

I went to bed, extremely full of food and love, for it was a great day. Hadn't much of a chance to communicate with Dan very much, as we were both pretty busy but we did pass each other a few text messages. I had moments of sad throughout the day, wishing he was there. At some point the fellow that hosted the party Dan was at Tweeted me and said "we have decided that next Christmas you and @flounderguts are hosting". I'd like to know how that came about. We'll see where we'll be a year from now, for the family would rather we were in Victoria for Christmas, I'm sure!

Lots more to tell you but I'm really just too knackered from all the activity and food.

DISCLAIMER: I know that "deliciousness" isn't a word. As the author, I am taking poetic license, as is my right.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Knitting considerations

This post may seem a little incongruous, given that it's just before Christmas and I have all my Christmas knitting done and wrapped. I have been thinking about a post like this for more than a week now, have even made notes! So here we go:

I listen to a lot of knitting podcasts and communicate with hundreds of knitters on the Internet. Lots of people have large yarn stashes to knit from and still seem to acquire more yarn. When the hot new pattern comes out, many people will simply go to their stash and find the right yarn for the sweater.

Knitting isn't really a cheap hobby. It can be if you choose to use acrylic yarn or yarn found at garage sales or thrift store yarns. Just over a year ago I came into a huge amount of yarn, which was mostly natural fibers but much of it was so old or had an acrylic content that I was not happy knitting with any of it, so I gave it all away. While working at Knits by the Sea in Tofino, I came to really appreciate knitting with good yarn and good fiber. So, here is my list of things to consider when knitting something:

1. How much money to spend on yarn?

While working at the yarn shop, I was given a generous discount on my purchases, which is mighty dangerous. I wasn't making a lot of money overall so I had to be mindful of how much I could actually spend. Depending on the pattern and the yarn, a sweater's worth of yarn can run anywhere from $50 for cheap yarn and averaging about $120 for anything I would want to knit. So that wasn't going to happen. They say it takes the same amount of time to knit a pair of socks as it does a sweater, and since one skein of sock yarn is much cheaper (ranging $18-30, most landing in the $22 range), that seemed a more economical way to go. Lace weight yarn makes your yarn dollar go even further, as lace is slower to knit and you get way more yardage per dollar.

Many new knitters opt for big yarns and big needles, but what they don't realize is that is the fastest way to burn through your yarn budget. If you give me a skein of bulky weight yarn, I can knit that into a hat in about three hours. (I know this for certain because it happened last Christmas). If you give me a skein of sock yarn, it will take me 40-60 hours to knit that up, which leads me to my next consideration:

2. How long will this take to knit?

I was at the Moss Street Market Christmas Fair recently and saw a number of hand knit garments. I don't think there is ever a way to make money selling hand knits, unless you think you are worth 10 cents an hour. As I looked at the garments and the prices, I thought - those handknit socks that have a $45 tag on them would take me 40 hours to knit, but a faster knitter could get them done in 30. Subtract the probable cost of the yarn and that knitter probably earns $1.25 an hour. While $45 seems expensive for a pair of socks, it's cheap compared to the labour that went into it. At another stall I saw a knitter selling hats made with bulky Lopi yarn. The yarn cost $6.00/skein (I know because Lopi is a favourite of mine), the hats probably took 5-8 hours, she was selling them for $20 per hat.

I was commissioned to knit a hat for a woman's baby while working at the yarn shop in Tofino, but when she heard the price of the hat, she decided not to pay for it after all. (I still have the hat). That made me realize that I will never make money from knitting so there is no point in even trying. The only way I would accept a commission is if it were for an art piece and I would be paid for my artistry.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have had rather a lot of time to knit in the past few years. I love knitting, so this is no real hardship for me. When I was planning my knitting before the Cookie A retreat last April, I figured I could bang out one sock per week, even working almost full time (I knit during every coffee and lunch break). That turned out to be optimistic, and instead of the planned eight socks, I got through four and a half. So now I am getting a sense of how long things take to knit and planning accordingly. How much time do I need to knit X amount of things before Christmas, for example?

Also, as mentioned in a previous post, I hadn't planned on knitting gifts. And then I ended up knitting ten gifts. Some of them were small, completed in just a few hours, some of them took a few days. I'm getting the hang of estimating how long it will take and I planned well; I finished everything yesterday. (What will I do with myself on Christmas eve if I'm not finishing last-minute projects?)

3. Knitting from Stash

As a part of my Great Migration and in an attempt to pare down my possessions to only what will fit in my truck, I have been knitting from my stash. In a #knitchat earlier this year, we had a conversation about knitting from stash as a way of coping with these rough economic times - that having a sizable stash insulates us from the brunt of less money to spend on our hobby. If I look at my stash as it is right now, I have enough yarn to get me through about six months, assuming I'll be working full time from February onward. That's pretty good. My informal goal was to not have more yarn than I could knit up in a year - partly for ease of transport but also because it felt insensible to me just have yarn laying around, yarn that I would have to keep track of, move, keep from getting dusty, organize, and think about. (Other people are way better at keeping track of their yarn, so I am not suggesting *you* are insensible, I just know my own habits). I am trying to be methodical about my knitting plans and goals, so I would rather buy yarn with a project in mind rather than just buy yarn because it's pretty. There will always be more yarn. I repeat: there will always be more yarn. I don't need to buy this bag of yarn because it's a screaming good deal - I've done that and then that bag sits and collects dust. No thanks.

4. Knitting for others: will the person actually wear and care for the thing?

This can be tricky, especially if you have never given a person your hand knits before. I lucked out with the family I married - everyone loves and appreciates my knits, which always encourages me to knit more for them. (I'm planning to do a post about some of the more creative knit projects I have done as gifts over the years, as a sort of recap). My own family needed a bit of training about my knitting - washing instructions, the mending of things, and how long it will take things to knit. My niece (my sister's daughter) asked me for yellow mittens, so I knit some and sent them off. She *loves* them, then asked for a scarf, some slippers and a pair of socks. All in good time, kiddo, but it is a tall order. I have fifteen other people to knit for too.

5. Searching for patterns versus being captivated by patterns

Okay now here I get a bit stuck. We all have our own pattern-searching methods. Ravelry makes it so easy to find just the pattern for the yarn, skill level, technique, and yardage that you want to knit from. It is the best database I have ever encountered.  For example, when Zola asked me to knit her a turban, I went to Ravelry and typed in "turban". A bunch of stuff came up. Some of the patterns were patterns that you pay for, so I rule them out. I clicked on the "free" search criteria and the list of turban patterns was significantly diminished. So if you are in a position to pay for a pattern, especially a popular one, then go for it. But I'm limited to free just now, so sometimes I just have to make something up. (I really do need to start writing down my one-off designs. I will have some time after Christmas, I think). When you find the pattern you want on Ravelry, you can either "cast on" right away or put it in your queue. Then you can organize your queue into categories (hats, neck, mitts, sweaters, etc.). If there are enough things in your queue, and you feel like you need to knit a hat, you can go to your hat folder in your queue and maybe find the yarn in your stash to knit it with. This all sounds very organized, right? These kinds of plans get derailed when the new knitting magazine comes out. It happened to me last week. I had to knit Escargot, it was haunting me. So is the Bandana Cowl, but I don't think I have the right yarn in my stash (and I can't buy yarn until I have a job) so it will have to wait.

Sigh. At the moment, given my dwindling stash, I'll be knitting mostly socks for the next few months, but that's good. I like knitting socks. In fact, through the knitting of the Christmas gifts, my hands were missing sock knitting. So, sock patterns? The only knitting book I have with me in Cowichan Bay is Sock Innovation. I do also have the Internet at my disposal, so we'll see how many socks I can knit between now and when I leave.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

an enriching experience

I just had a really good experience tonight and wanted to share it with you.

I have mentioned here before how much I love Twitter and the Thursday night #knitchat that has been running every week for more than a year now. #knitchat began with Natalie from the Cloudy with a Chance of Fiber podcast, and her co-host Rachel (who recently gave birth to a son) is often an active participant.

During this year of being a part of the #knitchat community, I have made some pretty great Twitter friends, I feel like if/when I actually meet these people in person that it will be just like old times, like no time had past, as if we've been friends forever.

Natalie is a self-proclaimed tech geek (you did say that once, right?). She works in tech, so is always in the know about cutting edge technologies, especially when it comes to social media. A few days ago when I suggested that we have a "weaving in ends" party (note for non-knitters: when you are finished knitting a project, there are always tails of yarn that need to be woven into the fabric) for all our Christmas gifts. Natalie made it happen. She opened up a discussion thread in Ravelry, gave us the link with information on how to set it up, and announced to Twitter when it would be.

It was my first time with using Google Hangout, and I think you have to be logged into Google+ for it to work. I haven't been using Google+ very much (though I signed up for it a few months ago on Natalie's advice) but Google Hangout is a very powerful tool. It's like Skyping with nine of your best friends. Or up to nine - I guess there is a limit of 10 people, but tonight there were only three of us.

Natalie beckoned me on Twitter to come a bit earlier, to make sure it worked. After some fussing with my computer, I was able to hear Natalie and she could hear me! We talked about our knitting (and I confessed I had no ends to weave in because I was compelled to wrap all my Christmas gifts today, hence the ends were done already). I am very familiar with Natalie's voice because I listen to her podcast - but none of my Internet friends had heard the voice of yarnsalad until tonight. :-) 

It was great. I blog, Tweet, and post on Ravelry and Facebook, but of course what you read here is the cleaned up version. I have to be politic about what I write so as not to offend anyone or air any dirty laundry. With Google Hangout I was able to have a fairly intimate conversation with someone I have long considered my friend, but with whom I had never had a discussion with until tonight.

Maia joined us after about half an hour, and there was some interesting conversation about yarn shops (in Portland, Northern California, and Victoria), some TV shows I will have to see when Dan and I get Netflix (he doesn't know we're doing this yet, but we are). We talked about the #knitchat KAL (knit-a-long). By the way - if you want to participate and haven't voted, you should TOTALLY go vote for Nathan's Scale Mitts. They would be a quick easy knit to do, in a worsted or aran yarn. Another pattern is leading the polls right now, but it has a dumb name and even though it's pretty, I feel a special allegiance to Nathan, who has long been a participant on #knitchat and is also a dear friend I've never met.

Sam got to participate in this hangout too. She was sleeping, but I got her up, held her in front of my webcam, then put her back on the bed. She wasn't really interested.

courtesy: a dying breed

Okay okay, I'll admit the title of this post is cynical. I don't know if lack of courtesy is just something I have become accustomed to because it is no longer around or if it is unique to the particular geographic location I currently inhabit. I could go off on a long rant about the sense of entitlement that a few demographics (in my opinion) seem to feel, like they should be the first in line or that things should just come for free.

Something happened to me while in a shop yesterday that I feel compelled to write about. I was in a grocery store, and was only buying one thing. As it is the week before Christmas, of course every checkout at the store had a long lineup, and especially the express lineup. If I have time, I don't mind waiting, so I went to a regular checkout, behind an older woman who had a cart full of groceries. As she was unloading, I saw her look at me, look at my one thing, saw that I was paying in cash, and then she said it:


You have only one thing, why don't you go ahead of me?

Thank you, I said. I wanted to say "that kind of courtesy is so rare these days!" but I didn't want to spread my cynicism. I was perfectly willing to wait until her transaction would have been completed, it would have taken ten or fifteen minutes out of my life. I expect to stand in lines at any store at this time of the year. It was nice to know that it is still possible to people to be considerate of others.

Monday, December 19, 2011

movement on the immigration front

Right now they are just words. But this morning Dan sent me a text message saying that we have received our second Notice of Action. My application has gone to visa processing. It should hang out there for ten days (though the office closes Dec 23 - Jan 2) and after the issuing of the third Notice of Action, I will receive the package with my instructions on setting up the immigration interview and health check. That's the last step before the green card is granted.

It could happen that I get to cross the border in January!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

new hair, new hat

I got tired of having to bleach my hair blonde every six weeks, and my poor hair was also ready to back to dark I was a bit scared of what might happen, so the woman who cut my hair a few weeks ago recommended an intermediary color before going back to brown. I chose chocolate cherry.

I have been doing this a long time and have been pretty lucky as far as mishaps go. Sigh. Until yesterday. It wasn't a complete disaster, but there is a band of yellow (only noticeable in some light) on the back of my head where the darker color didn't saturate entirely.

 Well, it *is* an intermediary color. And Dan likes it, so how can I complain? At any rate, this gave me the impetus to knit like a woman possessed and get my first Escargot done. Yes, you heard me, my first. I fell in love with this pattern as soon as it came out last week and have been thinking about little else until I could get to knit this hat. So here it is.




I'm not one of those people who normally knits the new "it" thing as soon as it comes out. In fact, I seldom pay attention to those things. But someone on Twitter mentioned the new Knitty was out, so I looked, and WOW I must have that hat. Soon.

So please don't tell my mum but I opened the Christmas present from her early. I had to, see, because I am in limbo right now and I thought that her gift might be a useful thing and I sure didn't want to have to lug around a box of something. It turned out to be yarn. My mum is so sweet, buying me yarn. It's Sirdar Family Worsted With Wool, with a 75% acrylic content, which I wasn't very excited about (I hate knitting with acrylic), but it has actually been a pretty good yarn to knit with. She gave me two balls of green and two of ivory, about 800 yards in total. I can probably get four hats out of that. My next Escargot will be ivory with green trim.


I had issues with this right off the bat because it wants you to cast on 240 stitches. Whoa whoa whoa, right away, once there are more than say, 60 stitches, I run into problems if I don't use a stitch marker. (Remember the Mezquita?) I had way too many, so took a bunch off, then I think there was a problem with the second row and me not reading the pattern right (that's what I get for watching movies with subtitles while knitting), so I frogged and restarted. And then I just couldn't put the thing down.

It was at about 11pm last night where, less than an inch away from starting the crown decrease, that I actually had to admit I was tired and needed to go to bed. So I did. But you can bet the first thing I did when I got up this morning (after I made coffee of course) was pick it up. I had it finished and ends woven in by 2pm today, with a few interruptions (or else it would have been done sooner).

I haven't blocked it yet, and I have several items that need to be blocked so I think I will get to that in the next few days. But I'm pretty excited about this hat and think that you should totally knit one too.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

not knitting for everyone this year

As you know, I am a hand-maker-of-things. Knitting is my craft, I can do rudimentary crochet, am a not-to-shabby cook and I pride myself on my baking. I am okay with a sewing needle, a menace with embroidery, draw great stick people and can do rather a lot with pencil crayons and paper.

Since being with Dan's family, I have created almost exclusively knit items for the family for Christmas. They appreciate it, see, and it is way more fun to knit things for people who appreciate them. (A few years ago, someone in my family threw something I had knit in the garbage because there was a hole in it, not realizing it was a simple mend). So with Dan's family, that's about ten people. Then if I knit for my sister, her kids, and my mum, we're up to 14. For the past few years, almost every gift has been knitted or at least handcrafted in some way. This is largely a function of time and money, since we haven't been in a position to spend lots of money on presents, but also because of my state of paid employment. I'm finding myself for the fifth winter in a row with not much work (2007 & 2008 I was in grad school, so that sort of doesn't count).

I joke about being "a woman of leisure" at the moment, because I have so much time on my hands. I go to bed and wake up when I want. I take my time with my morning coffee, and my to-do lists for the day are generally small and flexible. All this sounds wonderful, right? To be honest, I feel terribly inefficient. I mean, on the one hand, it is very good for my health to be able to relax this way, to get some much needed rest, and I am getting some time to work on my 'stuff' (there is a lot of stuff going on in my head, I'll tell you about it sometime). On the other hand, yes, I would love to be working and earning some money, which would take my mind off my 'stuff' and provide some framework for how I organize my day. But I digress.

One toast mitten for Christmas 2009


There have been a few late-night Christmas eves where Dan and I would be madly working trying to finish up the last few gifts to take over for the family on Christmas Morning. The toast mittens in particular took WAY longer than I thought, because after they had been knit, they still needed to have the ends woven in and the liners inserted. By 2:30am we decided that John would just get one toast mitten for Christmas and the other for his birthday, two days later. That was one of those years where, after knitting gifts for everyone, I said NEVER AGAIN, and "next year, everyone is getting gift cards!"

The other toast mitten joins its partner two days later in 2009


So.

This year, because of my state of uncertainty and not knowing where I would be for Christmas, I didn't make any plans to knit things for the family. Not really. I also didn't think I had enough yarn in what was left of my wee stash to be able to pull it off in time anyway. Then, by late November, it became apparent that yes, I will still be in Canada for Christmas and yes I will be with the family on Christmas day. And I have no income. Crap. Better figure something out.

So then I got really creative. Of course I can't tell you anything about that just now, but list-making and planning and knitting began in earnest.

Now, I will say right here that I did not sign myself up for a breakneck knitting schedule, not everyone will receive knitted items this year. There will be a few small items that will be purchased, some have been purchased already, and I hope the family will understand why they are so modest. I'm sure they will.

So as I am knitting on the last thing for a Christmas gift, I am really looking forward to preparing the other family Christmas surprise, which I will blog about afterwards.

For Christmas 2010, Toast mittens are joined by the Toester
 

There is really a lot of stuff happening in my life that I simply can't blog about. All I can tell you, dear reader, is that when someone says to me "how are you?", I can honestly answer "pretty well, all things considered". I've been living almost seven months without my husband and he told me yesterday that I will see him next month, whether for a visit or for our grand road trip to North Carolina. With our luck, it would be in deepest, darkest winter. He will see the lawyer today and maybe there will be some news, maybe not. But I'm hanging in there, making the best of things. After Christmas and all this knitting/crafting is out of the way, I will turn my attention to being the Best Farmhand Ever for my friends here at backyardfeast.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

migrating north

To recap the nomadic ways of Stacey and Her Cat Sam, Dan left on May 25th. We were living in Ucluelet then, and after a couple of weeks I realized I could not stand to be in that big dumb house alone (much less afford it on my little income), so I decided to go wait for immigration at my sister's farm in central Alberta. Left Ucluelet on July 2.

Arrived on farm on July 8. Was there almost three months, left on September 28, thinking we were going to cross the border (Dan flew into Edmonton, we left that night), but were rejected the next morning. Drove to Victoria, arrived September 30 at his parents' house also known as The Stately. Dan stayed a week, then few back to North Carolina. I stayed on. Just over two months in Victoria.

The other day Sam and I moved up to Cowichan Bay to stay with Toni and the Skipper. There are fewer people and more bathrooms, and I have a room to myself here. I will get to be a farmhand (hopefully this can wait until all the Christmas knitting is out of the way!) Sam is the only cat and she has been alternating between lazing around and kittycatting around at night. It's good.

I'm still working away at this small project for the Cancer Agency, so that's good. I've started studying Russian, and I'm going between movies and podcasts to keep me entertained as I'm knitting. I have a whole new area to explore while running, and my running is steadily improving.

It's been a very interesting process, really, living with other people and becoming accustomed to the rhythms of their households. I do miss being the Queen of the Castle, but I know that will happen soon enough. I have learned a lot about the way other people run their households and am filing this away for the day that I once again have my own.


Mercury went direct yesterday, Uranus went direct on the weekend, around the same time there was a full moon eclipse. Whether you believe in astrology or not, there are some big changes afoot. At least one person I know has already experienced the effects of these movements. I am expecting to hear something from Dan's lawyer this week regarding my immigration. Fingers crossed.

Last weekend I was able to catch up with the friend that had introduced me and Dan, he's been overseas for a year and a half. The party that was thrown in his honour was a wonderful and relaxing event, I felt very at home and comfortable there around lots of old friends and acquaintances.

Now that I'm not at the Stately, the paths of the Alcohol Advent Calendar are diverging but they are still happening. I'll be drinking mostly wines and beers, I'm sure, and I am perfectly content with that.

As I write, Sam is sitting on my lap, wishing I would stop moving around so much so she could settle into a nap. She isn't normally a lap cat while I'm sitting, so I don't quite know what this means, but I take her moments of affection as they come.

On Christmas Day I will drive south over the Malahat (the mountain pass that is the gateway to the south end of Vancouver Island) if it is not closed due to weather, and join the family at the Stately for Christmas. I'll head back to Victoria on Boxing Day for a friend's annual Boxing Day party. December 27 is my step-father-in-law's birthday, which will mark the end of the Alcohol Advent Calendar. So lots of driving these three days, weather permitting, but it will be a fun and festive time.

That's it for now. I know I owe you all some photos of my recent adventures - worry not, they are on the to-do list.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Alcohol Advent Calendar post Day 9

To review:

December 1st: red wine
December 2nd: bourbon
December 3rd: Scotch
December 4th: rum & egg nog
December 5th: port
December 6th: mead (the very mead that Dan and I made at our wedding)
December 7th:Carolan's Irish Creme
December 8th: Double Chocolate Stout
December 9th: sherry, followed by the emptying of the bottles of port (day 5) and mead (day 6)

This is going great and I'm having such a good time. I have so far managed to avoid a stinking hangover, but it's not like we drink our faces off every night. Sometimes it's just a sip. I think tonight we're having Caesars, which I understand is a uniquely Canadian drink. Bottoms up!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Alcohol Advent Calendar

I'm staying with my in-laws right now. There are five people in the house, and attendance at dinner ranges from three to five of us. One night at dinner, Thor (was it him?) suggested we do an alcohol advent calendar. Well okay then. We started December 1st. Here is the list so far:

December 1st: red wine
December 2nd: bourbon
December 3rd: Scotch
December 4th: rum & egg nog
December 5th: port
December 6th: mead (the very mead that Dan and I made at our wedding)
December 7th: ?? I don't think we are decided yet, but at the moment the liquor stock is increasing and we have a number of options available to us. On deck for future evenings: sherry, vodka, porter, stout, and cherry brandy (so far). I hear some Bailey's is on its way and we found an unlabeled bottle (thanks to Dan) that could either be mead or the cider we made in 2008. All very drinkable stuff.

Also: as the family patriarch's birthday is on December 27th, the advent calendar will run until then.

And someday, if I remember, I will post photos.

This just in: Carolan's Irish Cream just entered the house!

overdue photos: Muppet cupcakes

O dear. This grand event, Zola's 25th birthday, happened more than a week ago and I have not yet posted the photos! Here:

 I can in no way take credit. I decorated some of the Mup-cakes, but it was entirely Zola's idea, and her sister S brought all the decorations as well as the cupcakes themselves.

 Cookie Monster
 Elmo
 Bert
 Grover
 Camilla
 Animal
 Dr. Tooth
 Oscar
 Janice
 Zoot
 Ernie
The Swedish Chef


We had a great time doing this! I highly recommend a theme cupcake-decorating party.

Friday, December 2, 2011

no news, just knitting and research

As I go about my day, I often think of something that would make for a great blog post topic. And then I forget it. I'm sure I'm not the only one this happens to. I have taken over a hundred photos in the last week, some of which are worthy of blog posts. but some days (sometimes a few days in a row), I don't feel like turning on my computer. Or I just don't feel like blogging.

This past week has sped by so fast, I have to think for a minute to recall just how I filled it up. What did I do? On Monday I went to my doctor to see about my lung/cough problem. She said it could be reflux, or asthma, or (depending on what the lab says when they analyze my specimen) it could be something else. Well, I'm a runner. I don't get winded when climbing a few flights of stairs. I have no allergies and don't wheeze, so it is unlikely to be asthma. Reflux? How does a gastrointestinal ailment affect the lungs? I'm a bit puzzled by the whole thing, but my doc gave me a sample inhaler meant for asthmatics and sufferers of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and sent me on my way with a specimen container and instructions on how to modify my bed to reduce reflux.

I saw a friend of mine later in the day, a former pharmacist, and he was fairly certain it was not asthma, that the inhaler would not help, and that if it is reflux, here is what to do... It's great having friends who are health care professionals.

It was around that time that I "made contact" with my late great grandmother, my mother's mother's mother. I don't really want to go into too much detail about that, just in case you think I've gone loopy, but it suddenly has me extremely interested in researching Russian history and language. I knew that my great grandmother Marie came from somewhere along the Volga River. And yet they were German. Or were they? There was a group of Volga Deutsch, Germans living in Russia. I didn't know many details of what had happened, but I know that at least a few of her eight children had been born when she (and later, her husband) came to Canada. There is a family story of how uncle Louie as a baby was made to swallow a lump of gold as the only valuable they had left, and hidden inside the baby the Bolsheviks would not be able to take it away.

That was all I knew, really, about the story. Years ago I had asked one of my mother's aunts about these stories, to fill in more detail, but was met with silence. They must have been painful memories that did not want to be disturbed. But now it's too late to ask the living, as the two remaining children of my great grandmother are in their 80s and in declining health.

Whenever I get interested in something, my very first place to search for information is always the library. Luckily, I am currently in Victoria which has an excellent collection. I have been able to source books, audiobooks, DVDs, and language learning kits. It's time I at least learned Cyrillic and then perhaps some basic conversation. The library has 21 DVDs that show up when I do a search for Russian History. One of my favourite podcasts is the Russian Rulers History Podcast.

I don't know exactly when my great grandmother came over, but I'm fairly certain it was around the time of the Russian Revolution. She was born in 1898. Where did the boat leave from? Where did she land? How did she get from the east side of North America to the southern interior of British Columbia and why go there? This will require some excavation, but it will be helpful to me to understand what was happening at the time. It was not a safe or comfortable thing to be Volga Deutsch in communist Russia.

I have a lot of beloved dead, dearly departed. When the question was posed, which of my beloved dead would I most like to communicate with, I did not hesitate. I thought that was interesting, because my great grandmother died when I was a child, maybe when I was 13. I think she is the one of my ancestors that I think I have the most in common with.

At any rate, now I know where my week has gone. It has been thinking about and researching this topic.

Also: on Tuesday when I got home from shopping downtown with a friend, I felt extremely compelled to enter all of my yarn stash into Ravelry's database. I ran out of time before I got it all, but after about an hour and 15 minutes, I probably got at least 75% in. I don't have a big yarn stash, but this process requires taking a photo of the yarn, entering the yarn's name, colour, date purchased, how many skeins I have, etc. It was as a result of doing this that I was once again motivated to get knitting for Christmas.

I didn't think I was going to be able to knit many of my gifts this year. I think for the past two or three years, most of the 15 people in my family have each received hand knits. I am not in a position to buy yarn at the moment, and stash reduction is a really good thing with my border crossing imminent. So I have watched some DVDs about Russia (finished Miss Marple when I finished Mezquita on Sunday) and gotten two gifts finished in the last two days.

Oh, and running. I'm up to 5 1/2 miles when I go out. On my last run I ran 7 minutes, walked 2, six times, plus warm up and cool down. Today was a run day for me but I'm feeling some flu symptoms, so will take it easy today and see how I feel tomorrow.




Saturday, November 26, 2011

what the lawyer said

I admit I was hoping for News. All we know is that everything we submitted is fine, there should be no further obstacles, and now we wait for packages from the USCIS. My package will have information about setting up the appointments for the interview and the medical check. Hopefully this will come in the next couple of weeks, but we just don't know really. All we know is that if things go well, we could be crossing the border before Christmas, and if not, then late January-early February at the latest. We sort of already knew this but it has been more or less confirmed. So that's good. I have one or two months left here in Victoria, on the Island, in Canada. I may or may not be here for Christmas (though this I'm sure I should know in the next two weeks).

It's so hard to plan with uncertainty looming. Well, it looks like I'll have more work from the BC Cancer Agency so I can keep my brain busy, at least. I'm almost done the Miss Marple series, which also means my Mezquita shawl is almost finished. I think I have about five or six rows (l o n g rows) left. The cats have been kept apart with success, though Sam saw Yuki outside through the window and was disquieted. Not in a mad-because-I-see-another-cat kind of way but hey-that's-a-BOY-cat kind of way. I only recognize it because she doesn't make that noise very often. Will wonders never cease?

If you look close enough, you can see the scales and slime from these shortspine thornyheads.
So. Now what do I do? I feel like I should finally get in touch with the people I haven't seen yet, even though I have been here for almost two months now. I also think that repacking my Rubbermaid bins would no go amiss. Believe it or not, I'm thinking about sending holiday cards, but I'm not sure I can get myself organized enough to do that. And what would I say? Happy Holidays, read my blog, it's all there. Last year Dan and I sent Merry Fishmas cards. I took a bunch of photos while I was working on the fish plant dock, of fish with a Santa hat or in a stocking. Dan Photoshopped them and we made them into cards. I will give making new cards some thought, I'm just not sure if I'll have time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

a little information can make me so happy

On Friday Dan received an affidavit of support that he had to fill out and return. This happened only one week after the petition was sent. They processed the payment last Monday, the first business day after. 

I had an hour-long conversation with Dan last night. It was great. We don't get to actually talk very often, and when we do, we have this bit of awkwardness because neither of us are good at small talk. We haven't been Skyping because a) you need Internet for that and we don't always both have it and b) Dan's netbook broke and he's waiting for replacement parts. So we have still largely been communicating by text messaging.

In our conversation last night, Dan told me all sorts of wonderful things:

He needs from me a list of every employer I have ever had including dates, addresses and phone numbers. Well holy crap, I have had a lot of jobs in my 23 years of working life. He also needs our rental agreements to show that we have in fact been cohabiting for a long time. 

The US Immigration service has a new thing where you can sign up for email updates of what is happening with the processing of your case. FINALLY!

It is possible that if we apply to have my immigration interview over the Internet, I won't need to go to Vancouver for it.

Also, there is an immigration doctor that comes to Victoria every other week, so I might not need to go to Vancouver at all. (I'd still sort of like to, I have people in Vancouver I would like to see, but it's nice to know that this whole process can be easier).

Dan will be sending me a PDF of an affidavit that I have to fill out and sign. Only, I have to sign it in front of a notary public. And guess what? On Friday I attended a Tweet-up where I met and made new friends with a notary public. How's that for synchronicity?

Dan will see the lawyer on Thursday. Cosmically, that's the day that Mercury goes retrograde but I'm not at all worried about that. The retrograde period is a time for finishing things, tying up loose ends. In this case, the Susan Miller horoscope for Aries in November said some big stuff is coming on the new moon eclipse on November 25th. She even said "green card" so I am pretty stoked.

The best news? Dan said that if nothing is happening with this processing by early December, he'll come for a visit. If things are happening, then he'll sit tight if it looks like he'll need to come make this trip with me soon. Obviously I hope for the latter, but one way or the other, I will see my husband in December.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

knitting!

I've been busy. I can't post everything that I've been working on with my knitting just in case a recipient is a reader. But here is some stuff: 

  Mittens for my niece that she requested. The yarn is Sandnes Garn Smart, I knit on 4mm dpns. I really didn't like this yarn, it made my hands hurt as I knit these mittens. I know it isn't just a function of doing stranded knitting, because when I was knitting the pink & white mittens for myself, which are also stranded, my hands didn't hurt then. So I'll never use this yarn again, but it was a DK superwash and didn't cost very much. And they're done.
 These are for my mum, who I'm fairly certain doesn't read my blog. Mum was telling me a few weeks ago that she needed to get some mittens. I asked what colour. She said "are you going to knit me some mittens?" and I said "I'm not promising. Just what colour would you like?" Navy. I happened to have some navy Cascade wool that was almost three different things, including a hat and a scarf, but the yarn didn't want to be either of those things. Also knit on 4mm dpns, I really enjoyed this, actually. 32 stitches, 2x2 rib for a bit, switch to stockinette, did afterthought thumb. Instead of a tapered decrease at the top, I decreased evenly all the way around and I like the effect. Someday I will knit mittens from a pattern. I finished these last night at the coffee shop with all the knitters!
 This is the Molly Beret by Alana Dakos. I bought a few of Alana's patterns while I was working at Knits by the Sea in Tofino. I've been carrying these patterns around in my head, wanting to knit them because I hear such great reviews of them. This is the second of Alana's patterns that I have knit now, the first is a secret (for now). The yarn I'm using is Sandnes Garn mini alpakka. I'm realizing that I haven't met an alpaca yarn that I didn't like. They are all the same in character and I just love the hand on them. I can wear alpaca around my neck and not have it itch (which alas, is not true for wool, even superwash). So this beret begins on 2.25mm needles and holy crap that is small. I'm used to knitting socks on needles this small but knitting at such a small gauge for a hat is really an exercise in patience. I'm two rows away from switching to the the striped section, which other than increases and decreases, it's basically stockinette on 3.25mm needles, so should go way faster. This is intended for a gift but... well... we'll see. It might fit me.
This is the one I am most excited about right now, in terms of my WIPs. This is the Mezquita Shawl. I don't remember where I first saw this pattern but I put it in my queue on Ravelry and it has been niggling at me ever since. At one point, the pattern said to me "Hey Stace, I bet I would go really well with that Handmaiden Sea Silk that you bought in Kelowna last year". And I said "but I don't have a 5.0mm 40" Addi Turbo circular needle!" And then some money came, and then I went to my favourite yarn shop in Victoria, and all barriers to me knitting this pattern were removed.  This is the shawl I mentioned in a previous post, the one where I had to cast on 361 stitches. I haven't had much time in the last few days to knit on this, because it does require some dedicated sit-down-and-knit time, but I am anxious to get it done so I'll have my aforementioned matching set. The weather in Victoria has gotten cold (read: below freezing temperatures!) and I'm finding the need to have something on my neck. I have been wearing my Darcy Shawlette that I finished in the summer, but it's azure and blue, so doesn't exactly go with my hat and mitts.

And now that I have cast off the mitts for my mum, I'll take those 4.0mm dpns and cast on another thing for someone else. Boy, after Christmas I'll have a few things to tell you all about. And look! This here is finally a post about knitting.

Wait - one more thing- I must admit I am absolutely itching to knit socks right now. I have two single socks that need to be finished, one for me, one for Dan. I really do want to knit on them just now, but I'm feeling like the gift-knitting season sort of takes precedence over knitting for ourselves just now. It will all depend on what happens in the next five weeks, really.