A Snowy last Day of the Year

December 31, 2009

It’s snowy and cold outside, and we’re cosied up indoors “getting stuff done”.  Yes, unfortunately I said too many “I’ll do that during my vacation” and now its time to actually come through.  Sending out Xmas packages, cleaning the house, visiting friends, getting outside (when it was warmer) organizing my stash, finishing Christmas presents.  But I’m slogging my way through the “to-do” list and feeling very good about it!  This last week has been a good one here in Calgary, and a good way to end the year.  Here we are on Christmas Day in Canmore taking Mr. J’s new skis out for a test run:

The weather was perfect, the views incredible, and the fresh mountain air really does amazing things for your outlook.  We’re hoping to get out once more before we go back to work. 

The first few days of the vacation were spent finishing up some presents that had a deadline.  I discovered that Noro can completely dry in front of the fireplace in 20 minutes, and that nieces don’t really mind slightly damp shrugs.  My favorite present however, the poncho, turned out well and was well received.

The presents for Mr. J’s Mum and grandmother turned out satisfactorily.  The green fuzzy slippers, which I thought were hilarious looking, were dubbed very warm, and another pair requested.  I think the neck scarf was well received, I hope she likes it!

This past year has been an extremely good one for me.  Taking charge of my health, learning new skills, making new friends, and enjoying good vacations.  I think of it as a year where I took a really good look at myself through the eyes of others, and did some good critical review.  I’m trying to be a better person every day, and improve into the ideal which I’d like to be.  It’s hard, some days are worse than others, and I can see myself needing some outside help perhaps through some educational courses on leadership, project management, or even management in order to achieve some of my professional goals.  Mr. J and I, after moving in together, did a really good job of simplifying our lives, and figuring out the balance between ourselves, its been a very positive experience.  Happiness in life comes from small things, and quite honestly while money helps, it can’t make you happy.  Friends, family, a sense of self-worth, warm toes, and fuzzy kitties are where happiness comes from. 

I hope you had a wonderful year, and the next one is filled with happiness, health, and warm toes.

Flying Camels and Axle Loops

December 23, 2009

This morning Mr. J was kind enough to tag along to the rink to take some figure skating videos.  Not only are these videos good for my Mum who gets to see some of the progress I’ve been making, but they are useful for me to see what I look like.  What I think I look like is very different from what I actually look like!  It’s so useful to be able to see myself from a distance, and make improvements based on that. 

Here I am doing an axle-loop combination.  The axle looks like it is almost clean, but I take off into the loop so quick its hard to tell (but that’s how it should be).  My hands are in tight close to my chest, but my elbows are way out; and the tighter everything is in to the body the faster you spin.  My legs are a mess, but it’s getting better.  To me I look hunched over, but that is better for the jump then arching my back and not rotating on my center of gravity.  I’m also not going “up” as high as I thought, so I need to concentrate on using my left leg to spring more, and my right leg to aim higher, and jump higher.  But all in all, good progress over last year!

We also did some videos of me performing a flying camel, which I’m learning how to do better/properly this year.  I’m still very hesitate on the “take-off” part of the spin, as I’m trying to correct bad old habits.  I’m not really doing much more than stepping over onto my right leg.  I’m trying to keep my body square to the ice, instead of going sideways, right shoulder to the ice, left shoulder up like I used to do it as a kid.  I am spinning much faster now on the right leg, which is excellent, and I did the proper 3-4 rotations, which is also good.  You can see my leg rocking up and down however, which means I’m off-balance.  Still many things to work on!

I’ve found out that there are 7 people in my category in the competition.  I was really hoping for only 3 so that we would all get medals!  I’m getting nervous…

FO: Bella Mittens

December 22, 2009

This weekend I finished up some Bella mittens for my SIL, from whom I borrowed the Twilight books to read. 

You will have to forgive me, but I don’t have the yarn band here to remember what yarn I used!  Originally I bought some grey, but then remembered my brother had said her coat was chocolate brown, so I went back and got this rather lovely blue.  The yarn is made in Germany, and is called Schlopinzeewool, or something similar.  It is very nice, and I’m loving how single ply yarns feel in mittens and hats recently, very elastic.  This yarn is a tad thin for this particular pattern, it may have been better if I held it doubled.  The mittens fit snugly, and well, but there are a lot of gaps for cold air to get in.  I would only rate this at a -10 oC, rather than what we all need which is -20 oC.  I may try and find some thin store bought mittens to go under these for her.  There is literally only enough room for an extremely thin mitten. 

For the past three years I’ve been making calendars of my Dad’s paintings to give to the family.  This year Dad picked out the paintings he wanted in the calendar, if you are interested you can look at it here: calendar.  If you would like to buy one, we will use the bit of money to buy Dad more paints.  Dad does not sell his paintings, only gives some away.

 Another pair of Thrummed Mittens using a Fleece Artist kit for my skating coach.  I think I finally got the hang of my thrumming technique, and these mitts have fairly regularly sized ones.  I still needed to use some of the extra roving I bought on the 2nd thumb, but I didn’t run out of yarn, mostly thanks to making the cuffs four rows smaller on each mitten.  My skating coach is very petite however, and they fit her pretty well.  She spends so much time standing around in cold skating rinks, these should be nice and warm for her.  Especially now that she is getting very pregnant, she can’t move around as much to keep warm.  Well, she can, she is just not really supposed to.  It’s very scary for the rest of us to see her take a tumble. 

On the Christmas present tally I’m now at 2 done, 1 almost there, and 5 more to go.  Two presents need to be finished by Christmas eve, and two others by Boxing Day.  I’m starting to get worried about whether or not I’m going to make it (plus the time it takes to block and dry those presents!!!)  but I’m hoping that some good dedicated work over the next three days should yield many dividends.  Or presents as the case may be.

Well, not only photos finally, but also the zipper sewn in.  The first time I sewed it in I got it askew, which meant I had to rip it out and try again!  Right now its not perfect, and I need to finish a second line of sewing down, but it works.  This is good, as I’ve been wearing the sweater on many days.  The snug fit keeps the heat in, and the cables provide a nice thick insulating fabric.  The overall fit of the sweater is excellent in my mind, except it could be around 1/2 an inch longer so that it doesn’t hit at the top of my pants.  I love the zipper, when Piper gets on my lap and wants to knead on my stomach I can just zip it open until she feels I’m suitably softened up and she can begin her nap. 

(I’m attempting to grow out my bangs/fringe, they are in the awkward in between stage at the moment, hence the bad hair do.)

This pattern is from the Vogue Knitting Fall 1998.  My modifications were to cable everything, instead of doing one band of cables and one band stocking stitch (like totally on purpose, it wasn’t a mistake at all).  What my modification (screw-up) did was make the sweater smaller and fit more snugly, which turned out to be okay!  The size I made was supposed to have a 40 inch bust, and be rather boxy, but now its not!  There is no waist shaping in this sweater, the cables pull the body of it in.  The shoulders stretch out nicely to fit up there as well. 

We finally made it over to the best FO photoshoot location in Calgary in the winter: Bankers Hall!!  Have a good weekend everyone, I’ll be busy getting ready for next week, last minute knitting, shopping etc!!

Getting Into the Ice

December 15, 2009

Coaches say this all the time, Kurt Browning says it when he is commentating on a skater some are “into the ice” and some are not.  Those that are not do not fare well I’m afraid.  I heard this a lot as a kid (from my coach) and never quite got it.  You know, when I was nine I didn’t “get” a lot of things. 

But now, at 36, I’m beginning to understand this phrase, or at least what it means to me.  Each practice session, after a bit of skating around to loosen up, warm up, wake up as the case may be, I wander over to the end of the rink, out of the way, to do some figure eights.  Do you remember when skaters used to do figure eights in competition?  Round and round, three perfect tracings, exact specifications.  I look down at the ice, put out my hands, palms down facing the ice, take some deep breathes, bend at the knees, crease at the ankles, and sink down.  I bring my awareness in and down, and feel my blades cutting into the ice.  This is similar to yoga, bringing everything down to your feet and concentrating on your connection to the ground, feeling how your feet contact it.  Picture the circle you want to make in your head, and push off.  Push away all your problems, worries, niggling thoughts about leaving a light on, and concentrate on the circle, and what your shoulders, arms, head, and hips need to do in order to create a perfect line on the ice.  Its a shame skaters don’t do figure eights anymore, I always loved doing them.  As a kid it helped with my powers of concentration, and was always a form of meditation.  As an adult (ish) they have the same power, and always help me get into the ice so that I skate better and “be more over my blades”.  But that is another interesting phrase for another time.

Toasty Fingers

December 14, 2009

I finished up the thrummed mittens on Sunday, and took them for a test drive up to the grocery store in -25 oC weather.  Yup, all day it was that cold, and today as well for our 25 minute wait at the bus stop.  However, my hands were pretty toasty warm, which makes me very happy.

Mittens that are this big and bulky have one purpose, which I fully understand.  They are to keep my hands warm when I’m waiting at the bus stop, walking to the grocery store, and are best used under -15 oC.  They aren’t meant for driving, or anything requiring fine motor control.  Its more like wearing boxing gloves!  So the test drive yesterday.  For some reason Igot restless, and wanted to go for a walk, even though it was a really, really cold day.  As it also meant changing out of my pink reindeer pajamas, this is another reason why I could be called crazy, but maybe cabin fever is to blame.  But sometimes my die hard Canadian side rears its head, and I want fresh air, I want to go for a walk!  With my parka on, long johns, toque, scarf and winter boots I tend to stay pretty toasty.  There wasn’t much of a breeze which would have been a real test, but the mittens did well.  There is a portion of one mitten where I was worried I would run out of roving, but before I decided to just go and buy some more that the thrumming got a bit thin, and cold air leaked in here.  I think I may need to line this section with more roving.  I also ran out of yarn at the end of the last thumb, and used some black yarn!  It’s obvious, but not enough to be annoying, plus the thumbs could have been smaller, which would have eliminated this problem.  I had to stick my hands in my pockets after a little while, but overall these mittens were extremely, extremely good.  I believe they will get better over time as the roving mats up!  This is the Fleece Artist Thrummed Mitten Kit.  I’m working on another pair for my skating coach now.

A chinook is predicted for Wednesday, with temperatures over freezing!  I’m crossing my fingers that this happens, but you can’t see it because they are hidden in warm mittens!

Lonely Afghan Blanket

December 11, 2009

I spied this pretty hand crocheted square afghan folded neatly on a bench in downtown Calgary a week or so back on my way over to the library.  There weren’t many people around as it was after five, and the downtown tends to empty completely after normal business hours.  For people like me wandering down Stephen Avenue, over to the library, then to Kensington for Knit Night its a pretty walk to enjoy all the Christmas decorations.  But who left the afghan there, whose was it, did they forget it?  I spent a while pondering the options; did a charity group leave it there in order for a cold person who needed some warmth to find it?  Did someone forget it, I can’t see the person, or people who made it forgetting it.  Was it given to a charity by a crochet group, who gave it to a deserving cold person who then left it on the bench?  I know that in Toronto charity groups tend to leave blankets and sleeping bags in corners for people to find.  What was the story behind the afghan?  And what should I have done?  Should I have picked it up and taken to a charity organization to give it to a deserving person?  Should I have left it there (which I did) for a cold person to find for warmth on a cold night.  And what about the items that I make to give to charity, will then also end up on a bench abandoned?  Or will they find a home and keep someone warm?

What is the right thing to do?  It seems that is a very individual choice that we must each make for ourselves.  I’m going to choose to keep making charity items, and picture the recipient warm and cosy.  What do you think?

WIP: Xmas Knitting so far

December 9, 2009

With the abrupt stop to my thrummed mitten production due to critical supply failure (I used all my roving up, had to get more, didn’t drive anywhere on Sunday due to bad road conditions) I started one of the other Christmas presents.  (I did get some more roving last night, along with two skeins of Madelaine Tosh worsted in Spicy Ginger that are beeaootiful)  My usual approach to a task list is to start to work on the largest item, or the one thing I really don’t want to do.  Get it over with, and move onto the fun items is my normal operating procedure!!  With the Christmas presents I started work on what should be the largest item, a poncho for my oldest niece.  I was also itching to start this one, and so far I’m having a blast making it.  The pattern is from Vogue Knitting on the Go, Ponchos.  I love a nice poncho, I have one at home I wear a lot, and would like to make more.  This pattern is straightforward, but with stripes and garter stitch to break up the monotony.  I also really like the colours I picked out:

It will eventually have a turtle neck at the top for a nice warm item for her to wear around their house in the winter, spring and fall as this is Calgary after all!  I got over the pain of casting on 2x 188 stitches, and now I reduce every second row, which means this will go faster and faster!  The pattern was written as two flat pieces that would be later seamed up, but we all know that is silly, so I’m knitting it in the round. 

I’m feeling pretty low stress about making gifts this year, I realize I won’t get them all done, but I hope to get done the critical ones, and the others that need to be mailed will just be sent out “later”.  In the meantime, I’m having a grand old time working on all this stuff, and I plan on knitting them one after another unless there is some other reason to work on multiple projects at once!  I still am finding the odd moment to work on Ene’s scarf (so close there) and my Bettie stockings (like plane rides and weather delays at certain airports).  Still no green buttons.

It is very cold here in the frozen north, and it doesn’t look like its getting any warmer anytime soon.  Add to that the 2 feet of snow we had last Friday, which still hasn’t been cleared from any but the major roads.  Our bus has been 1/2 hr late the last two mornings, which means we stand out there waiting and waiting!  The morning temperatures are pretty cold, -25 oC, or -13 oF, but the wind is not there to make it colder which is nice.  We had a fairly quiet weekend, mostly due to the fact that is was challenging to get my car out of the garage, and down the street which is still full of snow.  I like my neighbourhood in that we could pack in all our plans, stay home, and just walk/trek up to the store for groceries instead.  Even this morning our bus almost got stuck in the snow, spinning wheels for awhile until it got traction again.  I did actually see a snowplow on Saturday, but it was stuck at the side of the road.

I get a kick out of the fact that in the United States the weather forecasters say “…. cold air is coming in from Canada for a cold snap…” while up in Canada they say “… cold air is coming in from the arctic for a cold snap…”.  As a result the Americans blame the Canadians for the cold weather, while we just blame the Arcticans? 

Needless to say, I really need to finish my thrummed mittens in order to keep my hands warm while waiting for the bus for so long.  I’ve finished the first mitten, and am about up to the thumb gusset on the second, but I’ve run out of roving.  I didn’t want to make them too thin, but rather nice and plump, full of insulation against the biting wind.  I’m off to find some more roving at  LYS so that I can finish these up ASAP!