“Smell the sea and feel the sky, let your soul and spirit fly.” – Van Morrison
When visiting Sherry Galey’s online home, Still and All, she had posted this soul stirring poem. I couldn’t help but be completely smitten. With the need for wanting to share, I’m repeating that beauty right here, for you:
…He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.
One more item of wonder for you, Why Leaves Turn Colour in the Fall.
And finally, for some heartfelt inspiration. My son told me about this video that was taken in downtown Edmonton (where I’m from and where he lives). It’s a homeless person, as will be evident when you see the video. Inside everyone is something special.
PS: I have been busy knitting, in addition to all kinds of other things of course. I’m knitting items to give away at Christmas and, since most of my family do check in here, I can’t tell you what I’ve been making or show the finished items here. If you’re on Ravelry though you can check me out (Ramonasgirl). I’m also quite pleased with myself because the current project required me to learn how to use magic loop. Sure beats using double pointed needles!
“If you make a mistake, celebrate.” ~Benjamin Zander
You’d think I’d begin setting specific days or dates that I should post to my online journal, but life really does get in the way. That’s not a bad thing to get in the way. So, as promised, I’m finally going to share with you comments about some of the books I’ve read of late.
I had to look to see which were the last books I mentioned and, after looking it up, see that I am further behind than I thought. Well, there is definitely one book I read for our book club since then that I DO NOT recommend (The Dinner by Herman Koch) but the ones I read after that certainly made up for the less-than-desirable ones.
First up is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It’s not unusual for me to recommend books that are often rated as Young Adult and this would fall into that category, but don’t tell all the adults who have been enjoying this novel. If you enjoy a good story, well told, about a serious topic and with a good dose of reality tossed in, this one might appeal to you. I laughed and cried and am so glad I read this one. You might too.
Cutting for Stone. I read this for our book club and was actually looking forward to it. The story had me from the beginning and never let go. For me, this would fall into the category of one of my all-time favourite novels ever. I can never pick just one book as a favourite but I have a very discriminating list (it’s short) of novels that fall into this category and Cutting for Stone is comfortably in that realm. Rich, well written, intelligent, and loaded with culture and tidbits of history and a good dose of medical interest. Sure to please the person who appreciates a fine literary novel.
A wee update. As I mentioned, I’ve been working at making a switch from American knitting style to Continental knitting. It’s going quite well — better than I had anticipated. I just finished making a hat to practise my skills in continental knitting. The only problems I’ve had were getting a handle on the tension and at the end of the project I found it really awkward using the DPNs (double pointed needles). I’m sure it’ll get easier the more I do it so I’d consider myself officially switched to Continental! Imagine the possibilities.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family here in Canada. We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with friends. I’m immensely grateful for recovering so well from my stroke, for my family, my caring friends, for everyone who rescues and cares for abused and abandoned animals, and for all the hard working market gardeners and folks who raise feed animals in such a humane and sustainable manner. I’m grateful to you all.
May you all live in a world of possibility. If you’re interested in that concept (living in a world of possibility) take a mere 30 minutes of your day to watch this inspiring talk by conductor and leader Benjamin Zander. Oh, I know, 30 minutes seems like a long time (but you should see the transformation in the 15 yr old cello player). But the 30 minutes I spent watching and listening has transformed me, truly. These principles apply to every aspect of our lives. He is one inspiring individual — I’ve been playing with one buttock since watching this.
“For most people success is measured in wealth and fame and power. For me, success is measured by how many shining eyes are around me.” ~Benjamin Zander.
“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.” – Elizabeth Zimmermann
“It is a peculiarity of knitters that they chronically underestimate the amount of time it takes to knit something. Birthday on Saturday? No problem. Socks are small. Never mind that the average sock knit out of sock-weight yarn contains about 17,000 stitches. Never mind that you need two of them. (That’s 34,000 stitches, for anybody keeping track.) Socks are only physically small. By stitch count, they are immense.” – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much
I finished! This Nae shawl is one I made for myself. I knit it with two yarns held together and the resulting fabric is so squishy and warm. I love it. Look at all those tiny stitches — thousands of them. In fact, after knitting all those little stitches, I’ve made a decision — difficult as it may be in the beginning. I plan to change the style of knitting I have learned. For those who don’t knit, there are different ways of knitting and each has their own set of pros and cons. Well, I learned the English method also known as “throwing”. It’s more time consuming and can be irritating to shoulders. My shoulders know I’ve knit all those little stitches. I’m going to teach myself how to use the Continental method of knitting. It’s going to be awkward and slow while I’m learning but I’m determined to make the switch. When I watch others using this method it’s much more fluid and far more efficient, not to mention quicker. I’ve already got a nice rhythm and am very comfortable with the English method but I can see how it’s going to wreak havoc on my shoulders eventually.
Another bit of knit news. Some of you may remember when I ordered those darling shell stitch markers. I’ve ordered another set as a gift for someone so while I was visiting one of my favourite spots on Etsy (I love buying from Etsy sellers), I saw Lavender Hill Knits also made these beautiful Japanese knot bags. Knitters buy them to use as project bags. My lovely sister-in-law had already gifted me with a hand-sewn and fantastic large size project bag that I use for housing all my knitting paraphernalia – thanks Lynda. I was wanting a small project bag that I could cart around from room-to-room and place-to-place with whatever project I’m currently working on. My order arrived today and how fantastic and exciting. One thing I love about buying from Etsy sellers is their attention to detail and pride in what they make. Not only are the stitch markers and this reversible bag outstanding in the workmanship but the wrapping, the wee little ‘gift’, and handwritten note make me feel like it’s Christmas in October.
Okay, so enough knitting news — for now. I promised to do a post about a couple of books I recently read. That will be next for sure. Wish me luck on learning a whole new way of knitting. It’s going to be awkward, slow until I get the hang of it, and quite likely a tad confusing. But I am determined.
Do you have a favourite Etsy shop? Care to share?
Have you ever had to switch gears on something you’ve done? Or completely re-learn how to do something in a different way?
Recently on Flickr, where I share the occasional photo, a lovely acquaintance of mine, Sherry Galey, asked me the question, “How would you recommend a novice start off? I do know the basic stitch but that’s it!” I was going to send Sherry a private email but then I thought this might be something more people might want my answer to, so here goes.
As most of you are aware the reason I took up knitting at the end of January was as rehabilitation to improve my fine motor skills after having a stroke. Well, not only did it help me with my fine motor skills in my hands and fingers but it also managed to get me hooked on knitting!
I did register for and attend a local learn-to-knit workshop. I have to tell you that it was not at all what I had expected and I learned far more by going online and scouting through video tutorials on YouTube. No kidding. Some videos are better than others but the advantage to the videos, when they are well done, the person shows you slowly and in easy to understand terms. For those who, like Sherry, already know the basic knit and purl stitches, here are the tutorials or people who give tutorials that I highly recommend (see below). But before I leave you with those links, I’ll add a few more thoughts.
You need to want to learn and are willing to be an attentive student – seems obvious but attitude is everything. I recommend starting by committing to an easy first project. It could be a scarf, a hat (yes, you can make a hat), or perhaps a cowl or shawl. I would consider each of those as ideal projects for learning. My first project was a hat. While you are working on a project you will learn and most likely will need to watch a video or two to help you get through. The other thing I feel is so important in learning to knit is learning to read a pattern. For me, that was one of the more confusing aspects but after working through that first project, I realized it’s not as difficult as I once thought. And with each project afterwards, your skills in knitting and reading patterns will improve — it’s a good feeling.
And, if after you complete your first project, you want to do more, I have another recommendation. Join Ravelry. It’s a free knitting and crochet community where you can join groups (some are local) and talk to other knitters (including newbies like you), get answers to questions, join help forums, and get all kinds of free patterns! I am RamonasGirl on Ravelry – join and add me as your friend.
Every single time I ran into a problem with my knitting whether it was how to fix a mistake, how to do a particular stitch, how to do a different cast on or bind off, or any of the other many things that seemed impossible to me, I went to the computer and searched for a solution. There was always an ideal video available to show me the way. I still use those videos.
You have no idea that joy of completing a project. I’m proud of myself because I’ve made something with my own hands. It always feels so soft and squishy to the hand plus [excuse the cliche] that warm fuzzy feeling inside. Even when I knit something with a few mistakes (like my recent Multnomah shawlette), I still love it and what a feeling of accomplishment. It’s relaxing, almost meditative, and the hand feel of the finished project is like nothing else.
Right now I’m knitting a Nae shawl and what a treat to sit and work on it. The yarn feels amazingly soft as I work with it and the resulting fabric (I’m just over half finished) is absolutely sensational. This is going to be knock out. I then plan to begin knitting the gifts I plan to give my son and grand daughters for Christmas. Oh, and if I have one single tip when learning to knit it’s this: only knit one project at a time. Finish one and then begin the next, don’t try to knit multiple projects at once, especially when you’re beginning. If you don’t get that positive reinforcement from completing a few projects first, you may not continue.
I hope this has been helpful for those of you who are thinking you may like to give knitting a try. Don’t forget, I’m still a beginner myself but I hope that my experience at getting started may be of some benefit to those wanting to also learn to knit.
“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.” — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
This is another scent that I associate strongly with autumn. Even when we lived on the prairies, apples always arrived in autumn and neighbours always had them falling from their backyard trees. I remember the neighbour across the street from my mom — his name was Ed — always shared bagfuls of his apples with her. She couldn’t let anything go to waste and knew she’d never eat them all so her solution was the best. She painstakingly peeled every one of those tiny apples, cored and sliced them, made batches of pie dough, and spent hours on her feet in her cramped kitchen making apple pies. They were the best. Funny how the smell and thoughts of apples bring on such warm and luscious memories.
From my kitchen window and also from our backyard, I have full view of the giant maple tree belonging to a neighbour two doors over. It eventually turns a brilliant red with hues of saffron and gold intermingled amid the crown of leaves. But what I love the most about that tree is that it begins to lose it’s leaves early and bit-by-bit, a single leaf at a time until maybe a month or more from now it will still be losing leaves but they’ll begin floating down in masses. As each one is released it flutters butterfly-like and then takes on a swinging zig-zag fall all the way until the leaves rest upon the other neighbour’s roof, various yards and driveways, including our back yard. Today I found one single leaf from that tree – the first of many to come. I’ll be watching, or rather I’ll be mesmerized as I witness many of those leaves in the coming weeks as they swing and sway their way down.
The season is ripe; the leaves soon will be wild and free.
Tell me what memories, thoughts, sights or smells you relish at this time of year. I’d really love to know.
I’ll answer the bottom question for now. When I was in elementary and junior high (middle) school, classmates would remember me as the shy, quiet one in the back who never talked or raised her hand. Oh yes, and she’s the one everyone either teased or bullied. They called her names, mostly “injun” or “squaw”. I guess with my long black hair and dark skin that’s what they thought. My insecure demeanour didn’t help. Away from school I was very different. If they could only see me now. When I hit high school, a couple of my teachers were instrumental in ‘opening me up’. I became confident, talkative, and sometimes even bold. But that wasn’t until those final three years. Thankfully, once I gained that high school confidence, things only improved from there. Whew. Care for a Dutch Baby?
PS: If I write out my Dutch Baby recipe here, my website won’t allow you to cut/paste so here’s a link to a recipe online that is just about the same as mine. My recipe is different from many online in that I never use sugar in the batter. I prefer the sweetness on the top-only such as pouring real maple sugar or else make it like cinnamon toast: spread softened butter, sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Or just add some lovely fresh fruit. I also love lemon sugar spread which is simply softened butter, fresh lemon zest plus a little squeeze of the fresh lemon, and some sugar. Enjoy. I cook mine (the size above) for exactly 15 minutes and immediately remove it.
a peek of the Salish Sea at sunset
“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Fair warning: this is one of the longest posts I’ve done so feel free to skip over any/all. One of the reasons I’ve continued with my photo journal / blog is because some people I know like to look in and see what I’m up to, especially now that we’ve moved onto Vancouver Island. I often feel like it’s boring to keep telling everyone what I’m up to or sharing some of the beautiful sights we get to see everyday around here. And then I try to remind myself that is the very reason some like to stop by — you get a glimpse into a life lived differently. As we all do, each of us has something different we do and experience whether it’s daily or sporadically. So I shall continue.
Although I’m still spending all kinds of time outdoors each day, I’m beginning to spend more of my evenings indoors. Guess what I’ve been doing during those evenings? Knitting. I’ve made my first shawlette (just a smaller version of a shawl) and the lace pattern along its bottom is what’s known as feather & fan — I love how easy it was and how it turned out. I did have some mistakes I made in the eyelets that go up the spine but I wasn’t going to rip the whole thing out. So my Multnomah shawlette is complete. Even with a few mistakes, that’s not bad for someone who’s only been knitting a few months – no?
So now I’m on to the next project. It’s a full size shawl by the name of “Nae” and I adore how it’s knitting up. When I had the first 18 to 20 rows knit, I wasn’t crazy about how it was turning out so I promptly ‘frogged’ it and started over using two yarns held together — I love the resulting fabric it creates. It not only looks so nice but it feels so soft and smooth. I can hardly wait to wear it.
I can see how easily other knitters end up never finishing several of their projects. There is such a strong temptation while knitting away on something to want to get started on the next project or the next or the next. It’s for that very reason I am (so far) holding firm to finishing one project at a time and not beginning another one until the current one is finished. The Multnomah shawlette is going to be donated to one of the local organizations for their fundraiser. The Nae is just for me! And I already have yarn and patterns sitting and bouncing in anticipation for me to get started making Christmas presents. I’m going to have get busy knitting! The days of sitting and knitting beside the pond will soon be coming to a halt too.
Although the weather here has been absolutely divine, I realize we are definitely well on our way to autumn. The leaves are beginning to turn colour, others have already begun to fall — one of my favourite trails to town is all crunchy underfoot. Since I didn’t post much through summer, I may end up posting some of my “summer past” photos because I had some lush flowers this year. Although I wouldn’t move back up north for anything, the one thing I truly do miss is autumn on the prairies or up north. Autumn has a lovely earthy scent there where that just doesn’t occur on the west coast. I also miss the twice daily flyovers by the Canada geese honking and carrying on in their readiness to head south for winter. Funny how little things like that are so meaningful. For those of you living where autumn has that smell — take in a great big deep breath and revel in it, just for me.
One more little note about autumn … in a word. Hiraeth, (noun) a homesickness for a home for which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past. (Sorry I do not know to whom to attribute this lovely ‘definition’.)
I’ve been busy with some of the committees on which I serve such as organizing ladies luncheons, local events (I’ve been working on setting up a tour of a local cannery for newcomers), our monthly supper club, etc. We’ve also been doing more entertaining though we’ve slowed down a tad in the past two weeks. Just as summer is fading so too am I in terms of needing a bit of a break.
I’m headed out to the interior of B.C. to go visit my dad who is again in hospital. When I return I also need to spend at least a full afternoon catching up on grooming the dogs. They’re looking quite shaggy lately. That’s one job I have never cared for but it must be done.
Oh hey, I have to do a post about books too — I have a couple good ones to recommend. I should also tell you about my little cry over some struggles I’ve had with the piano. See, life still has its bumps here and there.
Bumps happen and despite a few here or there, that Eleanor Roosevelt was so correct about a life well lived, was she not? It’s the bumps that make everything else look and feel so darn good.
Tell me, what are some of your favourite memories or experiences around autumn?
. . . We have been entertaining by having couples over for brunch — what a great way to entertain! Nearly everything can be made in advance so that the morning-of all that’s needed is toss things in the oven, pull the fruit/berry plate out of the fridge, brown the sausages, and wait for guests to arrive. Since everything is ready at once, it’s a matter of setting things out, sit, eat, and enjoy some friendly conversation. We’ve had three rounds of serving brunch so far and plan on doing another one very soon.
. . . At our last supper club (we do it potluck style with 6 other people) the theme was Thai food — what a great meal! And doing it potluck means it’s easy peasy since each of us only needs to prepare one dish to serve for dinner. Another great way to get together with friends.
Don’t you love receiving hand written notes and thank you notes?
. . . Book club. Well, I love my book club but I must admit there have been a few books that I’ve had to read in recent months that I truly do not recommend. So I’ll pass on those and move on to share my thoughts about the two most recent books I read (one was for book club and the other for pure pleasure) and give you my thoughts.
The Gift of Rain: A NovelI don’t have a photo because I read it on my Kindle. Before I mention the story itself I have to mention how much I enjoyed the author’s use of imagery and story telling. The story takes place during the invasion of Malay by the Japanese during World War II. This one is very unique compared to all other novels using WWII as it’s background or its main historical component. I found the characters well fleshed out. It’s a quiet sort of story despite what is going on but because I really enjoy an intelligent literary novel, this definitely rates high with me. Recommended.
A quote from the novel, “Like the rain, I had brought tragedy into many people’s lives but, more often than not, rain also brings relief, clarity, and renewal. It washes away our pain and prepares us for another day, and even another life. Now that I am old I find comfort, like the spirits of all the people I have ever known and loved.” ~ Phillip Hutton, protagonist in The Gift of Rain.
Gone Girl: A NovelWritten from the perspective of each protagonist. The chapters alternate between each of them with the story unfolding from each perspective. It has a real interesting twist part way through that you won’t see coming. If you enjoy a page turner with plot twists, you will enjoy this one.
. . . Knitting. As busy as summer is around here, I’ve been craving getting back to knitting. But before that, remember that pretty Saroyan leafy scarf I finished several months ago? It desperately needed to be blocked but I still haven’t been to the city to try and find a blocking board and pins or else those spongy interlocking things that people use in kids rooms (yes, they seem to make an ideal surface for blocking hand knits). I was browsing around YouTube looking for a useful how-to for blocking and one of the titles grabbed my attention. You can steam block if you don’t want to (or in my case don’t have the materials for) wet blocking. The video was brilliant so I got my steam iron out, ‘flattened’ out my Saroyan and began steaming and shaping. It turned out AMAZING! Brilliant. So now I can begin a new project without the guilt of not having blocked my last project.
And new on the needles:
I bought two beautiful skeins of hand dyed sock yarn from Yarn Indulgences in the colour “Water and Sprouts” a while ago. I gifted one to a lovely neighbour who knits beautiful socks. The other skein I am turning into a shawl — my very first shawl. I attempted another pattern before this one but had nothing but grief so turned to a real simple pattern and it’s so addictive that it’s really moving along. Mind you I haven’t yet reached the lace ‘feather and fan’ section though I’m sure I can tackle it. So here’s a peek at my Multnomah shawl in progress.
I know, it’s all garter in this section but I like that the garter will make it squishy and stretchy.
NOW YOU! What’s on your needles (for those who knit) … or … What book have you read lately that you recommend? … or … What’s your favourite way to nosh with friends (dinner, appies, brunch, backyard BBQ, or ?).
(Both photos taken on my iPhone)
It’s about time I do an update, don’t you think? Even if only to demonstrate that I really am still kicking. Next post I’ll share a basket full of updates/tidbits. It will include some knitting, a couple novel suggestions, oh and who knows what else may spring up.
In the meantime, I’m still in shock and saddened by the sudden death of Robin Williams. My favourite movie of his is still Dead Poets Society, though it was the man more than the actor that I admired. He was an adventurer, he cared about Mother Nature and all her creatures, and showed great humanity towards each.
“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” ~Robin Williams
As promised my good friends, a proper update ‘showing soon’ at an Internet screen near you!
characteristic of a good neighbor, especially helpful, friendly, or kind.
See what my dear neighbour is again sharing with us. Last year you saw the baskets full of lettuce, raspberries, and other garden delights. This year we are again the fortunate recipients of strawberries, lettuce of all kinds (eating lots of Chinese lettuce wraps!!), snap peas, and beets. And on the other side of our fence, the other neighbour has been sharing rhubarb, dill, basil, and strawberries.
And the other neighbour shares her great sense of humour, conversation over the fence, sending me little quips and delightful points of interest. Not to mention that they treat our dogs like royalty. Aren’t we lucky?!
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” ~John Holmes
I don’t have garden space except what I grow in pots so I share other things . . . homemade bread tends to top the list most of the time.
“If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!” ~ Shel Silverstein
I can’t help but hum that little ditty as I begin this post. It seems hard to believe I haven’t had time to write a post in ages. Don’t look at the date of the last one.
It’s been a combination of being busy plus summer relaxation, though far more busy than anything else. We’ve had our huge annual garden party, been invited out to several dinner parties, appy nights, and have been reciprocating as much as possible. Oh and did I mention we’ve joined some friends in a ‘supper’ club that gets together once a month, rotating between homes, for a themed dinner. Good fun.
I’m still making my home baked artisan bread. I can’t tell you what a hit that is when company comes over — or when I bake one as part of a hostess gift. It’s so simple yet so incredibly full of flavour.
I’ve also been playing piano daily — actually multiple times a day. Now that I’m able to actually make something sound nice, I spend a great deal of time at the piano. I’ve also got into the habit of sitting to play before going to bed, in addition to all my daily practice. What a wonderful way to end a day.
It’s a good thing this post is purely for letting you know I’m still here and doing well, otherwise I could write a tome about all that we’ve been up to since the last time.
I should possibly write another of my “currently” posts for you — let’s see if I can actually find another day in the very near future to share with you some of my soul-stirring moments here in our retirement.
Since this post is purely a basic update, I’m leaving you with a few of my new favourite finds/try outs: