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?