What better way to spend a day than to go to the mountains and skate in one of the most beautiful settings on the continent?  But Beware!!

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But for the brave the reward is to enter the beautiful castle made of ice!

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Just be careful to avoid all the tourists guarding it with their flash cameras! 

What is a girl to do in such a gorgeous setting but to spin!

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And in general to mess around on the ice…

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I love skating with the cute pom-pom on this hat:

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It is from a 1960’s Aran sweater pattern book.  My Mum had made me a pink one when I was a kid, but it got lost along the way.  A few years ago I remade it in some leftover yarn, and it makes me feel like a kid again.  Its a lot of fun!

Of course messing around like this can get you into other people’s home videos.  Note the guy in yellow taping me…  We had to relocate the photo shoot!

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Happy New Year to one and all from Anne, Jack and Piper (meow!)

(Thanks to Mr. T for his excellent photography skills, and patience.  We only lasted about 20 minutes due to cold feet, but the hot chocolate warmed us up!)

My Auntie K was asking about how I put these squares together, as she is currently in process of making brown squares, and will at some point want to put them together as well.  I hope.  She admonished me to take photos as I did it, and make a full report.  And being such a good niece here goes…

Disclaimer: I make stuff up a lot, and there are so many ways to do the same thing.  I’m not saying this is the best, that there couldn’t be better ways, faster ways, prettier ways, this is just how I did it.  I teach myself a lot from books, and sometimes I have my own interpretation.  There are words that I still mispronounce today, as I read them, had never heard them being used, and proceeded to make up my own pronunciation. 

After I made all 12 squares (whew) I needed to get those bad boys to come together in brotherly love.  First I ran out to Michaels to buy another circular needle, as I figured out I needed two fairly quickly.  With the right side (pretty) facing I picked up stitches by knitting.  Then you purl back.  Do the same on the other square, with a separate ball of wool.  I chose to put the two squares together by holding their wrong sides together, and the right sides out.  This meant I got a ridge on the pretty side of the blanket.  If you want a flatter join, put the two right sides together.  With a third needle, knit the first stitch on each needle:

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It looks like the Edward Scissorhands of knitting projects with all those needles in there doesn’t it?  I like the green circular the best, as it looks nice with the wool and its metal and slides nicely.  The bamboo one was the emergency one from Michaels, which is okay, but a cat favorite as well.  She tends to chew them if I’m not careful, but the metal ones she can’t (Ha!).  I abhor the plastic dpn’s I’m using, but they were the only ones I had to use.  So knit two stitches:

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Then use a 4th needle (ahhhh!) to bind off as normal by pulling the first stitch over the second and off the needle.  Do this loosely!  I didn’t do very well on this, and there was some stretching done during the blocking process. 

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Can you see how the blanket was completely covering my legs as I knit?  I liked that part!  I tried to take a photo of the join so that you could see the ridge, but it came out unfocused.  Can you just make it out?

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I liked having a 3-d join between the squares, giving it some texture and breaking up the pattern.  For the border I simply picked up down each side and knit 6 rows of garter stitch. 

Alright, I expect to see some brown squares soon! 

And here I am at work, and very lonely.  Only our lovely assistant has joined me today, everyone else is tucked up in bed.  I know this as I got a seat on the express bus this morning, yes I actually sat down!  Not that I don’t love hanging from those little strap things and swinging wildly back and forth as the driver madly brakes at lights, cross walks, phantom cats.  Just saying, sometimes those things are foreseeable, and gentle braking can be applied instead of slamming ones foot heavily onto the brakes. 

For my American friends, Boxing Day is the day after Christmas, and you are supposed to box up all your Christmas decorations for another year.  It is also the day in which you line up at 2 am at Best Buy in order to try and get that flatscreen tv for $3.  Our crazy shopping day is not the day after Thanksgiving, but the day after Christmas.  Everyone spends their Christmas money, gift certificates etc. 

I had a lovely Christmas in Salt Lake, and it was an extremely white Christmas, snowing four inches on Christmas Eve.  I heard tales of chest deep powder on the slopes, and had dinner on Christmas Day with a number of people tuckered out with giant smiles on their faces saying “so much snow, so light, so fluffy, legs hurt so much, give me food and wine”.  I managed to get out cross country skiing, and really enjoyed myself.  I did finally get to give R his present:

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Surprise! A Christmas Blanket!  This has got to be the warmest blanket ever with all that soft Norwegian wool.  Here is the finished photo:

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Kiah says this one is her favorite!

This is the Retro Throw from the free pattern section on Knitpicks.  This is such a great, simple, versatile pattern in which you can do so much with.  Auntie K. is already talking about making the squares with holes in the middle and filling it with crocheted flowers, you could incorporate more stitch patterns, so many colour combinations, switching things up, making it all match.  I did not do any sewing in this blanket, except on the four corners of the border.  For all the joining I picked up stitches, and did three needle bind-offs.  There are plenty of changes I would make if I did it over again, I don’t really like the thick orange stripe, I think I would have made it thinner and had another orange square.  I think I would have had it done before going on Christmas vacation (hee hee).  I hope R really likes it however, as I’m having a few separation issues.  It was hard to give the blanket away, and I think I need to make my own to curl up with on a cold winter night.  Did I mention that blanket is warm?  And so soft?  But R had already given me my new favorite thing, my bike trainer, and I got a Stitch n Bitch calender as well.  What a great gift!  I immediately showed him Salt Lake SNB in October, and he tried to be really impressed, he really did. 

Anne’s tips for Holiday Travel:

First of all, avoid it at all costs.  I hate traveling with tourists, and much prefer business travelers.  I had to travel a lot for work, and I’ve got the routine down pat.  I know exactly how many bins, laptop out, shoes off, belt off.  I never carry anything metal in my pockets, ever.  I never put liquid or sharp objects in my bags, ever.  Most things that you can imagine have happened to me over the last ten years.  Cancelled flights, sleeping in airports, missing flights due to slight mix-ups in time zones, traffic jams, not remembering the flight time right.  When a flight gets cancelled, tourists immediately go to pieces, screaming, yelling, crying, stressing out.  It really doesn’t bother me, as I have a system.  First of all I kindly ask the lovely airline personnel to reschedule me, smiling very nicely.  Always be nice to these people, its not their fault.  They will do nice things for you, but not for that person yelling at them.  I know that somehow, someway, I will get to where I need to go, and that is what is important.  That next phases involve rewards.  A delayed flight warrants a really good fashion magazine.  The kind with no intellectual content, and filled with clothes you can’t afford.  A cancelled flight warrants a trashy airplane novel, again no intellectual content involved.  A good adventure story always works, with lots of twists and turns.  Settle down with your latte, block out the screaming children, and you’re in another world.  So you see, when my flight gets cancelled, I’m thinking “Alright, what trashy novel do I want!”.  (Disclaimer: I do not have children, and I feel for the parents with them whose flights get cancelled.  But hey, you signed up for it!)

Merry Christmas eh!

December 21, 2007

Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad! 

Today, like most people, I’m getting the last Christmas cards sent, eating the last cookies and chocolate here at work (urp!), and wishing everyone Happy Holidays.  Tomorrow I head down to Salt Lake to spend Christmas with friends and enjoy their six-eight inches of new snow.  Whilst in town I’m going to:

1) Go cross country skiing

2) Give Kiah the dog a present from my cats as is now tradition.  She usually gives my cats a present.

3) Drink some fireplace drinks, normally involving eggnog, rum and nutmeg.

4) Perhaps finally walk around the Temple in order to see the Christmas lights, instead of driving by like normal.

5) Spend an afternoon knitting with the Snazzy SLC SNB’ers. 

6) Sleep in my own bed!

I’m almost done square #10, 11 and 12 should go fast.  Then it is getting the squares together, and knitting the border.  I’m planning to hit the library, stock up on DVD’s, hopefully everything Colin Firth has ever been in, and knit.  What a lovely way to spend Monday!  Plus I’ve got my Transition socks packed, and an emergency ball of Trekking XXL just in case I run out.  I don’t plan on posting until after I return on  Boxing Day to the Great White North, but when I do I hope to have a photo of a big blanket with a smiling R under it, and a big black dog on top! 

Confession: Last night I bought myself a skein of Fleece Artist 70% silk 30% camel in an incredible blue colour way.  I’m currently planning a Montego Bay Scarf.  I didn’t see the particular colourway on their web-page.  It is more akin to the “Polar Sea” on the Fleece Artist Website.

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Display in the window at the Gap, Downtown Calgary Store, how adorable is that?

I’m feeling a bit peaked today, and was so yesterday as well.  Our whole office is sick, we made a great team during a presentation today.  Coughing, sniffling, the funny voice, what a great impression.  We are such a close group, we share all our colds apparantly.  Therefore instead of giving you a tour of Devonian Gardens as I had planned I leave you with a photo of what I’m going home to snuggle with:

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That is Jemina all wrapped up in a sheep outfit I made awhile ago for a baby who is now two.  Normally she wears a very fancy chenille Burgundy jacket, of which I’ll get you a photo soon.  Her second job, other than snuggling, is to model baby clothes I make!  She is the perfect size to tuck under my chin when I sleep, and the oh so soft chenille makes her very cosy.  I’ve made a number of stuffed animals out of this material, and love to make animals out of crazy  colours.  The patterns are mostly from Debbie Bliss’s Stuff toys book which I highly recommend.  The little tiny rabbits use up scraps of yarn, and fit into little babies hands quite nicely. 

Of course, being home sick means more time to work on squares!  I’m on number 10, and I’ve gotten over my mobius issue (hopefully).  Auntie K pointed out helpfully that if you make more than one mobius, you have mobii.  She is very clever my Auntie!

Last night the Calgary Knit Club met for a wonderful night of knitting and gift exchange.  The Knit Club, as the story goes, was going strong for a few years before the moderator stopped moderating and it halted.  Two members missed it so much that they resurrected it over as a yahoo group, I believe a search for Calgary Knit Club and SNB should do the trick.  Last night eight people came to celebrate at the Oolong Tea House in Kensington.  It was a joyous night, with the habitual “cool vibe music” replaced by “Hits of the 80’s”.  Our theory was that the ladies behind the bar were so young, the 80’s are a cool retro era now, they didn’t have to suffer through the huge sweaters, jelly bracelets, and flourescent colours.  And yes, one lady was wearing legwarmers under her uber short skirt.  Needless to say we rocked (and knit) out to Footloose, Thriller, Sweet Child O’ Mine, etc.  A debate was had over which movie Kevin Bacon was at the prime of his hottness in (I say  Footloose). 

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And the gift exchange!  There was handspun, hand-painted, purple/blue/silver yarn, sock yarn, excellent choices all around.  But I have to say, I got the very best one (in my humble opinion).  I received  80g of “Twist of Fate” hand-painted 100% silk!  Blue, natural, green, and red. 

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When I opened the package (beautifully wrapped in felted blue yarn) I sat staring at it, just wondering what to make.  Whenever I pick up a new skein, I just get lost in thought trying to figure out what to do.  My current thought is a light hat for spring and fall, ribbed then a lovely open lace pattern on the top.  Any suggestions? 

Of course for now I’ll be hiding it from sight so that I’m not tempted to play with it until the blanket is done.  Still slogging on Square #9!

Getting to Know Emily Carr

December 18, 2007

One of my first excursions here in Calgary was to the Glenbow museum, in order to see their exhibit of the paintings of Emily Carr.  Emily Carr was a very cool lady, and an extremely talented painter. 

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The above painting “The Raven” is considered by some (me) to be the height of her work, and one of the finest Canadian paintings.  Emily Carr was a young woman in 1898 when she began to travel to remote Haida settlements on the west coast of British Columbia and paint the totem poles, people, and the nature she encountered there.  She knew they were fast disappearing, and wanted to capture them before they were all gone.  A quick biography can be found on Wiki,but there is a wealth of information available about this wonderful woman, even a fictionalized book.  In the early 1900’s she picked up and went into the wilds to paint, when 99.999999% of other women were getting married, and worrying about what China to order.  She continually fought against what she was supposed to do (paint pretty watercolours of flowers) and painted wild nature in an impressionist style.  The Glenbow exhibit did a wonderful job of showing the progression in her work as she searched for her voice, her style.  She experimented, she took chances, she looked for the motion in nature, she painted it as a living creature with trees crawling, swaying, blowing, undulating around the painting.  More of her paintings can be seen here, and some of the progression as well.  They exhibited her work along with that of Haida artists in order to show context.  The Haida and their villages have mostly been lost, but they are finding their voice once again.  During the time Emily Carr visited them 90% of the Haida had been killed by disease, the government had outlawed their culture and traditions.  Their villages were fast fading.  I don’t understand why you would try and snuff out such an old and beautiful culture, and I don’t think Emily Carr did either.  It is very high on my list to visit the coast of British Columbia and see some of these villages.  They are now being restored and preserved as National Heritage Sites.   

In Square update, I believe I caught a mobius bug from my Auntie K on Friday.  She had been accidentally creating some mobius’s with her squares, and so did I.  The bug came right through the internet, and whoosh, into my needles.  So I had to pull it out and redo Square #8.  It is done now, and square #9 is on the needles, three more to go after that.  It will be a rush to finish for Christmas… 

Engineers are Damn Sexy!

December 17, 2007

I bet you did not know that little fact!  I bet you had engineers pegged as this!  Okay, the part about fashion and appearance is pretty much true for the male variety.  And I do always want to know how things work.  However, this weekend I got to watch the world’s sexist engineer belly dance on a table! 

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That ring on her pinky matches one I wear; our engineering rings.  It is a Canadian tradition to wear them on the pinky of our working hands, the first ones were made from iron of a bridge that failed in Quebec.  They are to remind us that we are fallible, and of our responsibility in what we do.  For example, if I mess up a water plant, people could get sick.  The other item she is wearing is cymbals, which she loudly played to the music, as she danced and worked up the crowd at the restaurant.  They were lining up to dance with her!  Little did they guess that she is also the mother of two adorable children, and can do triple differential integrations.  I have to admit we did spend a bit of time trying to figure out how a wash cloth impregnated with silver oxide was supposed to do all the wonderful things it is advertised as. 

I spent saturday in Red Deer Alberta, which is halfway between Calgary and Edmonton.  This town is also extremely famous as it is the birth place of Kurt Browning.  I think it is really cool place, as it is so cold, there are skating rinks at every school, and on every pond.  We took the kids skating, and I showed off a bit:

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It is so much fun to make your scarf swinging around as you spin!  We lasted about 20 minutes before our feet got pretty cold and we headed in for some hot chocolate. 

Hey Mum!  On sunday I landed an axle!  It wasn’t pretty, but it was all the way around and on one foot!  I was very proud of myself.  ING was having their family Christmas party at the Oval on sunday when we were skating, so we had an audience of hundreds as we skated again, and I fell a few times (that means I’m working hard and getting better!).  However they had three members of the Canadian Speed Skating team in their skin suits there to skate with the kids (Best Christmas Party Ever!) so we had some good eye candy.  Where did the weekend go?

Tomorrow is the Holiday party for the Calgary SNB!  Can’t Wait!

Transition Socks

December 14, 2007

I’ve felt for a long time that a knitted item has a story attached to it that goes beyond who designed it, who knit it, what yarn was used.  Its story involves the decision to make the item, where you knit it, what was going on in your life and your world when you were making it.  Every knitted item has me, literally, knitted into it via strands of hair that go into the mix.  I’m sure there is plenty of cat hair in there as well.  Without further ado, I present to you the story of “Transition Socks” as I’ve started calling them, otherwise known as “Child’s First Sock in Shell Pattern from Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush”.  Not very sexy name is it?

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I bought the yarn, Regia, at Lettuce Knit on a shopping trip with My Auntie K.  I think it was last summer, or maybe the summer before.  Lettuce Knit is in a cool neighbourhood of Toronto named Kensington Market.  If anyone loves Indian, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Greek, Italian, Caribbean, Thai, Malaysian, etc. food I highly recommend spending a week in Toronto.  You will gain at least five pounds, trust me, its very good.  I put the yarn away, and brought it out this summer, sometime in August.  I had already decided to leave my job, and return to Canada.  On my last day of work, I drove down to Moab for an excellent weekend of reflection, and knitting with a buddy.  I had sprained my wrist three weeks before, so this was my first time back on the bike.  On Saturday I rode in the morning, I sent C off to ride Slickrock in the afternoon.  I settled into the campsite and knit for about three hours.  Normally I knit in front of the TV, but I was so content to sit in the shade, knit, and look at the view.  Let’s take a second to contemplate the view from that particular campsite:

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Or perhaps the view at sunset:

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What a perfect place to sit and think “Holy Shit, I just quit my job, I need to sell  my house, where am I going to live, what on earth have I done?”  This is truly one of the most beautiful places in North America, if not the world.  The stars at night over the campfire, the smell of sage drifting by, the howling of coyotes (eek!).  A good tired feeling from having ridden your bike a couple of hours in the desert.  A giant veggie burrito for dinner.  Ummmm.. Okay I’m back again, oh yeah, knitting!

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After this weekend I went to my parents house in Honduras, and worked on the sock there.  Then after another week I drove up to Calgary, and started the second sock last week.  The pink colours make me feel very happy, as I’m happy with my decision to move back to Canada.  When the days are grey, and a bit cold (alright bloody cold) how could one not feel warm and happy, especially with Honduran sunshine coming out of one sock.  Everytime I look at these socks, and wear them, I will think of Utah, Honduras, and Calgary, and of the huge transition in my life. 

During my walk through the mall at noon today I went by two book signings.  The first one was “My favorite restaurants in Banff and Calgary”.  What a great idea!  You walk into a restaurant, tell them you are writing a book, get a free dinner, and only write about the ones that gave you a free dinner.  But how do I know this guy likes the same things and food I like?  How can I trust some strange dude that his faves will be my faves?  Does he put jalapenos on his Chinese food too?  Does he eat tofu raw with soy sauce and green onions?  I walked on.

The next book was titled “If Vibrators Could Dance, Who Would Need a Relationship?”.  Now this brings up a good point, women like men who can dance!  And if there are any men reading this (perhaps certain sly devils in Dubai) they should know how to dance well, cause women dig it!  On another note, did you know that vibrators are illegal in Singapore, but female prostitution is legal?  This is what happens when men rule countries!

Squaretastic count: 7.5 down, 4.5 to go!

For my one and only Christmas knitting project this year (whew, I hate knitting on deadlines, what a good decision) I am making a friend in Salt Lake, R, a blanket.  I’m using a free pattern from Knitpicks named Retro Throw.  Already I’m a bit worried that the surprise part will be “Wow a bunch of squares, thanks”, or “Gee a wet blanket pinned out on the floor on Christmas morning, thanks”, or the worst “Wow what ugly colours”.  But I’m hoping the last one won’t happen as the colours, and orange is not a favorite of mine, will be a good choice for R.  His favorite colour seems to be orange as he has about 10 orange jackets.  The blacks and greys were chosen as they are dude appropriate, plus he has a black doggy that loves to sit on blankets and shed hair. 

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I’m making 12 squares in total, of which 7 are complete and #8 are on the needles.  Only 4 of these will have orange, spaced randomly through-out the blanket.  I’m trying to resist the urge to constantly change colours as I get bored with the same old thing. 

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The yarn is from Norway, and since I’m currently at work, and the ball bands are at home, that is all I can tell you at the moment.  I did block six of the squares on the weekend, and the wool softened beautifully.  It is very loosely spun, I’m using 6.5 mm circular needles, and changing to dpn as the square gets smaller.  I bought only a few balls at first, as I wasn’t sure how big things would turn out, or how much I would really need.  When I went back to get more they were out of the mid-colour grey.  I was able to find some Rowan to match, at the price of 50% of the rest of the blanket for 2 x 100 g balls.  That was a bit painful. 

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Piper likes this one the best, it does rather match her fur now doesn’t it?  She misses her friend Kiah as well, the big black dog that let the kittens chase (and chew on) her tail, sit on her, and in general demonstrate the superiority of cats over the silliness of dogs. 

I believe my knitting next week will involve a lot of square updates, and maybe towards the end some description of knitting them together using a three needle cast-off.  (Mental note, must look that up).  I’m going to show you my transition sock tomorrow, and probably show some old finished objects (I’ve got a lot of old photos to bring to light) and more of Calgary next week.  Oh and show some handy new needle cases and project bags after the Tuesday holiday gift exchange at the Calgary SNB. 

So to begin: 7 down, 5 to go!  Squaretastic!