11.20.2014

Jeudi (Thursday)...

i'll end my week of posts with a variation on the theme of potential. it's my new favorite accessory, just in time for the first bite of winter.



this time, i used a mill-spun yarn that i dyed using my own (patent-pending) method.  the photos don't do justice to the richness of this colorway that incorporates the glow of burnished copper and brass. i call this combo antiquity.



this project exceeded all expectations. the aim was to showcase the beautiful yarn, so i stuck to simple stitches (mostly garter stitch and twisted rib stitch) and added some coconut shell buttons that resemble tiny belt buckles.



the cowl is similar to the peacock-colored one from the previous post, except this one has functional buttons.



it can be worn cuffed...



or unbuttoned for a deeper cowl to ward of the worst of winter days.



in my ongoing commitment to minimizing waste, i used up all of the 8 ounces (roughly 225 grams) in this dye lot.  well, almost all of it.



the peacock cowl is meant for my mom, but this one... this baby is all mine!

11.19.2014

Mercredi (Wednesday)...

a quick post on the theme of potential (there's a second part to this theme, but i'll save that for tomorrow).  i dyed about 4 ounces of merino in a peacock-inspired colorway, then left it sitting in a bag for the next year. i finally got around to spinning up the fiber...



and, now (another year or so later). i've finally gotten around to making use of the yarn.

























it's a simple garter stitch cowl, accented with a ribbed cuff, and finished with a few pretty buttons (the photos were taken before i sewed on the buttons).  i'll (eventually) get around to taking more pictures... one of these days.


11.18.2014

Mardi (Tuesday)...

i recently had an unusual experience... which started while i was laying in bed.  before you cover your eyes in fright, i absolutely promise that this tale is rated G.

there i was, in the grips of my nightly struggle with sleep, when i was suddenly overcome by the sensation of traipsing through dewy tropical undergrowth. now, having spent a decent portion of my childhood in the Caribbean, i was cast back to memories of playing hide-and-seek by moonlight with my cousins in the veritable garden of delights that surrounded our grandparents' home. the memory of warm air, heavy with the fragrance of countless flowers in full bloom, is always a welcome intrusion on sleep, but it seemed out of place in my humble apartment in the middle of Montreal. however, i could not quite manage to escape that smell, and it kept getting stronger, until i felt like i was enveloped in a cloud of heady perfume.  where was it coming from?

my super-sniffer told me that it was coming from the direction of the window above the bed, but there was nothing on that window that would account for such an exotic fragrance... or so i thought. until that very moment in time, i had no idea that the humble snake plant (and its close-relative, mother-in-law's tongue) was capable of blooming... and bloom it does!



i've had this plant since my grad school days, and it's followed me through my (brief) lecturing career, and even crossed the border to my current stay in Montreal.  it's been replanted a few times, and has grown from the few leaves i purchased all those years ago in a tiny plastic pot to a large cluster in a bucket-size metal planter.  the longest leaves are already threatening to touch the top of the window casement in which it's lived for most of the past two years. 

this is the perfect type of plant for lazy people.  it thrives in low-light, and does not require constant moisture. i usually soak it once every two weeks or so, and let it dry out between waterings. turns out that this is precisely what it needs to bloom.  it's a night-bloomer with pure white flowers that would practically glow by the light of the moon, and the intense fragrance out-perfumes any flower i have ever come across.  it smells somewhat like a cross between a wisteria and night-blooming jasmine, but cranked up by a factor of 100.  it was delightful... for the first day.  by day 2, the scent was so over-powering, i was begging for it to stop.  



the base of each flower cluster secreted a thick, sweet nectar (yes, i couldn't resist tasting), an offering to the bats or moths that would pollinate the plant in its natural habitat.  



there were two flower stalks, each over a foot tall, and the flowers bloomed over a total of 3 nights, progressing from the bottom to the top of the stalk.  each individual flower bloomed only once, then gave way on the following night to the buds higher up the stalk. it was a magical experience.

11.17.2014

Lundi (Monday)...

it's snowing in Montreal.  i know... shocking! most people take this sharp change in the weather as a sign to put snow tires on their vehicles.  i prefer to prepare for winter by stockpiling boxes of tissues and cold medicine. my way definitely makes more sense.


the sub-zero weather also means that it's finally time to pull out my newest toy.

























it's a set of wool combs from the good people at Moonsong Ranch (here's their blog, and their Etsy store).  all their tools are handcrafted, so it's that much more exciting to be supporting an artisan.



this particular set features a double-pitch (double-row) of tines, and is specially designed for handling fine fibers (which is perfect, as i mostly work with merino-type wools). each comb has 27 stainless steel tines.



that's 54 new opportunities to injure myself!



last, but certainly not least... i also now own this nifty object, which is part of the assembly for clamping the combs to a table.



what could possibly go wrong?

11.16.2014

Dimanche (Sunday)...

this was a dyeing project more than a year in the making.  i won't bore you at this time with the details of the laziness involved in applying the color, but it was a highly successful investigation into getting maximum color impact from minimum effort (i excel at minimum effort!).

i applied Dharma Acid Dye in twilight grey and strawberry red to 4 ounces of superwash merino wool. the result reminded me of old-fashioned comic book art.



after sitting in a bag for the best part of a year, i finally got around to drafting...



spinning singles...



and 2-plying it into a serviceable yarn.



the end result puts me in mind of a superhero comic put through a blender.  i'm calling this color combo Lichtenstein.



and, while i'm on the topic of color... i was asked to step down from my position at the head of the Wednesday Watercolour Society, as this is my best effort to date.



turns out you need some sort of artistic talent to govern such an august body.  i did threaten to leave the group in protest, but it would seem that quitting is banned in the bylaws, so i'll just have to keep on making mediocre miniatures until i figure out how to stage a coup-d'├ętat.

11.15.2014

Samedi (Saturday)...

i tend to stare in awe whenever i hear someone proclaim their inability to cook.  and i don't mean a "wow, that's so cool" type of awe, but something more along the lines of "how is that even possible" type of awe.  most of the adults i come across possess a culinary know-how that is limited to making toast and (maybe) remembering to boil the macaroni before sprinkling on the orange powder (adding milk is an advanced workshop that many seem to have slept through).

in all fairness, it must be said that i grew up in a family of folks who all knew how to cook, and i got double-lucky by landing a guy who knows his way around a kitchen. together, we practice a philosophy of food that i learned from my mother. nothing goes to waste! she prepared for the weekly restock of groceries by making what came to be known around our home as a "fridge-cleaning" soup or stew. all the random bits of vegetables that were left over from the previous week were turned into the most amazing meals. the fridge was cleaned, nothing went to waste, and the outcome was always out of this world.

so, there i was, sorting through this week's farm-share of veggies, when i came across a bag of apples (Spartan apples, to be precise). this was precisely the inspiration i needed to finally get rid of the bowl of cranberry sauce that was occupying valuable shelf space in the fridge. cranberry sauce lasts a long time, but as i am the only one around here who likes it (and, then, only in tiny portions a couple-few times a year), i had to take more aggressive steps to get this stuff out of my fridge. with a bag of apples (minus the one apple i... uhm... sampled) and a bowl of whole cranberry sauce, i put together a tasty dessert in a little more than the amount of time required to peel and slice the apples.

apple cranberry pie!!!



this really doesn't require a recipe.  it's a basic double-crust apple pie, with about 2 cups of whole cranberry sauce mixed in with the apples.  i tend to like things on the less-sweet side, so i generally use about half the recommended amount of sugar when making cranberry sauce. i also like to toss in a cinnamon stick and a few strips of orange peel to infuse into the cranberry mixture (i almost forgot to fish them out before adding the cranberries to the apples). i added about half a cup of raw brown sugar (the default sugar around these parts) to the apples, which is about half the amount of sugar recommended in most pie recipes. to control for the added liquid in the pie filling, i added a couple extra tablespoons of flour to the apple mixture.

because this pie was on the less-sweet side, it would make a great anytime treat (it's fantastic for breakfast, minus the ice cream, of course).  the end result has a nice blend of tart and sweet that was reminiscent of rhubarb, and the addition of a scoop of vanilla ice cream rounded out the flavor profile for an appetizing taste experience.



11.14.2014

Vendredi (Friday)...

i sit, clutching a large cup of coffee, somewhere in the wee hours of the morning.  this post will be just one of the many that i have written in recent months.  hopefully this one will survive the over-thinking process that usually ends in deletion.... hopefully.

there has been a flurry of more-of-the-same around these parts, which i have come to accept as something bordering on stability and, even, sanity in this cluttered corner of the universe. i'm doing a whole lot of procrastination, which is remarkable because it means that there is work to be done.  and i've been making all sorts of silly things, so i'm going to attempt another post-a-day week, so (naturally) i will begin at the near-end of the week.

my favorite animator came up with the absurd idea that we i should turn a drawing done by one of his nephews into a stuffed toy. here's the drawing...



and here's the stuffed toy..



i started by making an enlarged copy of the main figure, and mapping out the individual pieces...

*that shadow is a cat who kindly offered to supervise the documentation process.  


then i purchased some fabric (blue plush for the body, and two shades of green felt for the arms and trim).  the remaining materials were scavenged from the steamer trunk of puppet-making supplies (wish i was kidding, but as the apartment features a working animation studio, such crazy things do in fact exist in our home).



about halfway through the creation process, we took a short (in both distance and duration) trip to Ottawa for the express purpose of pitching project ideas at the Television Animation Conference, which is part of the annual Ottawa International Animation Festival.  to be more specific, he pitched ideas, and i laid tucked up in the hotel fighting off a truly magical head cold (great way to get Autumn off to a start).  in the past, whenever i dragged him to Neuroscience conferences, we always managed to squeeze in a bit of fun between the professional obligations.  this time around, my experience was pretty much summed up in this view by day...



and by night...

*the New Yorker in me marvels at the notion of a major street (in a capital city, no less) being this empty, even in the middle of the night. 


i would love to say that i returned home and immediately turned my attention back to my little project, but i pretty much left the pieces half-done, sitting in a bag (on the couch... under a cushion... under a pile of yarn) for the next few weeks... until i was given less than one week to get it ready for delivery to the young artist. it's amazing how much inspiration one gains from a looming deadline.

at this point, it should be noted that every single stitch of this project was sewn by hand, as i wanted the outline to maintain the same hand-drawn quality of the crayon lines.  my favorite details were the hands...



especially this hand...



and the eyes...



especially this eye...



i had to take a bit of artistic license with the legs, opting for a darker shade of brown corduroy fabric from the stash, but the deadline was met and delivery was made a few days shy of the young artist's birthday.



and here he is, next to my hand for scale. ain't he a sweetheart?

7.05.2014

forbidden fruit...

i think i've been putting off composing a new post until i could hold up the old MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner next to the image of a completed sweater all ready to be sent off in the mail.  guess what! it's July and rather steamy in this city set on a small island in the middle of a mighty river.  seriously... who puts a city on a tiny island in the middle of a gigantic river??? it's like standing on a piece of carrot in a boiling pot of soup, so all activity that requires sitting around with my lap covered in bits of wooly jumpers have been suspended until the weather starts to cooperate.  so, naturally... i went and purchased two dirty fleeces that have to be washed in copious amounts of near-boiling water then rinsed (possibly multiple times) in equally-hot water.  what can i say?  addictions can be so very hard to break.










i will likely discuss said items in great detail when i get around to spinning them, but i am like a kid with a new toy, so i have to say a little something about these two beautiful fleeces.  they were purchased from Little Smoky Natural Fibres (thanks, again, Rory and Jody... and happy retirement!). this is the last year they'll be selling fleeces, so i was extra lucky to get in touch with them when i did. the flock and fiber business will go on under new management, so i hope to have a steady farm-direct source for the foreseeable future.

this was my first time venturing into the world of natural-colored fleeces.  i am hooked!!! the white/silver/grey fleece is a Shetland-BFL cross, while the other one (the brunette with the sun-bleached tips) is a straight BFL (Shetland and BFL are breeds of sheep, in case that part wasn't clear).  i selected these two fleeces because of their color(s) and the fineness (softness) of the wool.  i tore open the box and grabbed a small sample from each bag. this is dirty wool (it smells like sheep and happiness, and, yes... i do realize how not-normal that sounds, but it is my happy place)...



a hot bath and a rinse later...




hang on... i need to see that again.




yep... happy place!  gonna save the brunette for another day, but i couldn't resist sorting and washing the white/grey one last night, and it was almost dry by the time i woke up (although, to be fair, i did sleep in late this morning). it. is. gorgeous.  so very happy place!!! [i recognize that i stay straddling the line between dork and geek, but when the zombie apocalypse comes, how many of your friends will able to recycle the wool of the undead (sheep, that is) into fashionable knitwear?  this is why people keep me on their 'must survive at all cost' list.]



so... not only am i doing silly things like rolling around in dirty, greasy, smelly parts of sheep in the middle of a heatwave, but i've also been baking!!!  in my defense, i have been avoiding wheat for nearly two months now (which means no bread, pasta, pizza, pastry, or even a lousy cookie or slice of buttered toast to nibble on alongside a cup of tea).  i'm not talking about the bandwagon gluten-free diet everyone and their grandma seems to be on these days. mine is a straight-up, no-holds-barred case of death by toast (seriously... i ate slice of whole-wheat toast a few years back and almost ended up in the hospital).  sure, i used to sneak in the odd plate of pasta or indulge in an occasional too-lazy-to-cook dinner of pizza (possibly, the most perfect food on the planet), but those days are long gone.  the aftermath kept getting worse, so i had to go cold turkey... which is really really really hard when you have a deep, passionate love of all things wheat. [i have been known to sniff bread in the supermarket, but i have (mostly) put that behind me].

you have to understand... i grew up in NYC (amazing pizza and bagels right out of the oven every which way you turn), and now i live in Montreal—a.k.a., Paris lite—where people practically toss yummy pastry at each other as a form of friendly greeting.   couldn't Mother Nature find a slightly less popular food group to add to my naughty list?  it's like moving to the coast of Maine, then being told you'll die if you eat the lobsters.  complete and utter madness!  i would gladly give up potatoes or even... gasp... beer and vodka (for LIFE!) if only i could go back to adding bread to my grocery lists.  sigh! it's been torture, but i accept that changes have to be made to my eating lifestyle. so, naturally... i've started BAKING!!!  




this is my first ever experience baking with one of those gluten-free "flour" blends.  i've also made a couple batches of pancakes in the past week using oat flour as the sole starch, and i will likely give rye flour a test-run for bread making when the weather returns to sub-zero conditions.  it should be safe, just as long as i steer clear of the forbidden grain and its close relative, semolina (i.e., the yum in pasta and couscous).

i take zero credit for this delicious cherry cobbler.  the recipe was found here during a desperate search for something to satisfy a particularly strong craving (without having to take a trip to the store... that part was really important to both of the lazy people who live here).  i followed the proportions as noted, but i did reduce the amount of sugar in both the cherries and the batter to ½ c each, and it's still too sweet for my taste.  i also added some fresh grated ginger to the cherries and some lemon zest and ginger powder to the batter mixture.  it is tasty, but next time i will skip the batter and just top the cherry mixture with a crumbly blend of oatmeal, chopped nuts, and coconut flakes and serve it up with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.  don't think i'm a fan of the texture of the gluten-free rice/potato/xanthan blend.  it just felt off in an unsettling way.  for now, i'll stick to the oat flour, as i really enjoyed the mouth-feel (it's a technical term) it produced in the pancakes.  was like a hearty,old-fashioned flapack with a touch of nuttiness to the taste and texture, so it's a definite keeper.  yes, yes, i know... i am suffering, but i'll just keep on fighting my demons one delicious dish at a time.

6.09.2014

stuff, things, and more stuff...

it just crossed my mind that i have a blog that has been woefully neglected in recent months, so here i am with a (somewhat) random glimpse at the (highly-unexciting) stuff going on around these parts.

apparently it has stopped snowing in Canada long enough for this to happen.



all of Nature rejoices!!!  i celebrated with a reintroduction to summer reading in the park.  this season's literature list will consist mainly of murder mysteries in the gentleman detective tradition.  i wish someone would resuscitate Agatha Christie just long enough for her to produce about 2 or 50 more Poirot novels, because they really are my favorites.  still, a quick trip to the local used-books store yielded a decent stack of paperbacks, including a couple new authors to audition.



now, not being Canadian, i had to take some extra precautions before officially launching into park-reading season. specifically (as i could hear my great-grandmother's voice in my head predicting some incurable disease if one dared even stand too long on wet, cold ground), i opted to wait an extra week or two to make sure that everything had indeed thawed before claiming a spot under a sturdy tree at the very center of the park. this is the view looking up into the chosen tree [my favorite animator took the picture, but it's my camera, so i claim all rights to its use]...



and this is the view, from my special tree, of a big crabapple in bloom. the building in the background is a funeral home, complete with lots of creepy windows that are guaranteed to cause a chill when walking by late at night.  but, i digress.  crabapple blossoms and happiness...



i got about ten pages into my very first Ngaio Marsh mystery...



...when i realized that i was already hooked, which prompted a return to the used bookstore for more (which loosely translates to, i took everything i could find with her name on the cover).  i take my addictions very seriously!



so, there i was reading my book, basking in the liberal application of SAT words (the lady has had a way with the language that makes me smile), when i noticed movement in the distance, prompting me to abandon the unfolding murder and to go diving for the camera.



now, you have to understand that i've had a few rather unsettling (some may say, hilarious) encounters with squirrels back home in NYC, so i tend to enter a state of total-panic whenever one gets within 20 feet.  but this one was at a safe enough distance that i could let down my guard and try to grab a shot (or twenty) in the rapidly-waning light.  there i was, waiting for my subject to stop squirming long enough to capture something other that a total blur, when (s)he, as though sensing my presence from several trees away, turned rapidly and stared directly into the lens. [this is the actual picture, taken mid-rotation]...



i'm not going to lie... i let out an audible shriek, which was met with extreme amusement by my park-blanket-partner who'd observed enough of the exchange to know the cause of my sudden fright.  so, to recap... a squirrel from half a park away made me scream like a little girl because (s)he turned and looked my way.  yep, that happened.  however, in my defense, it looked much larger and closer through the lens and i expected to drop the camera and find a 10 foot tall squirrel standing right in front of me.  (s)he decided to add to my discomfort by continuing to stare directly at me until i conceded and packed up my stuff to go home.  so, yep... i basically lost a staring contest to a squirrel.  oh, the shame!



what made this extra-hilarious was the fact that just that very morning, i'd casted on to knit a squirrel-themed sweater for one of my favorite Aussies, who finds much humor in my sciurophobia. there will be no previews of said object until it is completed and has been duct-taped to the back of a dolphin heading in that general direction, so you'll just have to trust me that it is really happening. i may need therapy by the time it's done, but it really is happening!

...........................

on the domestic front, i've decided to forego the tomato experiment this year (as it yielded a total of about one dozen cherry tomatoes last year).  so, instead,  i've placed a large bucket of thai basil next to the window-box of rosemary and oregano, which should make for a few extra-tasty meals in the near future.  the basil is already in need of a bit of thinning out, so there may be a coconut-basil curry on the menu before the end of the week.



it dawned on me that my frequent headaches may be an indication that i needed new reading glasses, and it would appear that my summation was quite correct.  i told the technician at the optometrist's office that i wanted something substantial (i.e., LARGE), with just a hint of  vintage sexy-librarian vibe (i used those words exactly). now, i'm usually indifferent to glasses, as i only really need them when using the 'puter or reading for an extended period of time, but i wish i could see more than two feet in front of my face while wearing these frames, because i would seriously wear them every waking moment of the day.



oh, and last (and, possibly, least) of all.. someone had a birthday this weekend... and it was me!!!



fortunately, it started out as a really awesome, bright sunshiney day.  unfortunately, it ended with a quadruple-dose of antihistamines and a twelve-hour rest to sleep it off.  turns out that there was enough wheat in the crust of the coconut-pineapple cheesecake (which was as close as i could get to the coconut cake with pineapple filling i really wanted) to send my allergies into overdrive, and i had to take four doses of antihistamines before i stopped itching all over just long enough to fall into a deep, drug-induced sleep.  my awesome birthday dinner became an awesome day after the birthday late-lunch, and i learned (the hard way) to avoid the crust when enjoying cheesecake.  seriously... best birthday i've had in a long time!!!