Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Baby Bolero and Cuddle Wrap

These days, it's not often that I manage to drum up a Finished Object to show and tell! However, in between my 'kitchen make-over' tasks this month, I did put together a little knit and sew present for a little girl who arrived safe and sound in September.


Here is a little bit of information about the two projects that compile this gift.

Baby Bolero


Pattern: Baby Bolero – One Skein - Leigh Radford
Yarn: Dyed Cotton – Blue Sky Alpacas - 100% Organic Cotton (purchased from Urban Yarns)
Yarn Comments: I used the recommended yarn and I found the Blue Sky Alpacas cotton really lovely and soft to work with. Forgetting how knitted cotton goes when it is wet, I gave the bolero pieces a good 'Soak' before I seamed them together. Although it was all fine when it dried, I did have an alarming moment when I felt that I was trying to pin out a droopy, loopy dishcloth. If I need to block anything made of this yarn again, I must remember to use the spray bottle, damp-block approach!

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Pattern Comments: I did not modify the pattern but I did stray very slightly from the finishing instructions. I blocked the pieces before I put them together. Then I used a coordinating cotton sewing thread to seam the bolero as the garment is really small and yarn is comparatively bulky. I seamed the sleeves before I stitched them into the armholes (it just seemed to make more sense to do it that way). Also, I could only find 34 stitches, not 38, to pick up where instructed for the ribbed edging. This did not have any visible impact on the edge of the finished garment.


Now I have made this bolero before. I make it again because I remembered that it was a quick and easy knit. The instructions are clear and easy to follow and you can make it out of a single skein of Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton. This is how much yarn I had left over afterwards:


The only thing that I would bear in mind about this pattern, if you are considering making this bolero, is that the yarn weight is ever-so-slightly on the bulky side for such a small garment.

I found this when I made my first bolero. However, I put it down to my yarn substitution. Yet I struggled this time too. Although seaming with sewing thread did help, the seams were still a bit bulky. I think that this contributes to the garment pulling out of shape a little around the armholes. If you click here, I am hoping that the link take you to the Ravelry Bolero Projects page where, if you flick through a few pages, you will start to see the problem I mention in a number of project photographs.

Cuddle Wrap

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Pattern: Improvised but based on a flannel cotton kit that I saw at The Cloth Shop
Materials: 1 metre of white cotton flannel; 1 metre of a quilting cotton in a fun print (purchased from The Cloth Shop); sewing and embroidery cottons
Techniques Employed: rotary cutting; piecing; top stitching; hand appliqué and embroidery

Comments: although this project was very simple, it is the first gift that I have made on my own without any input. It is not perfect by any means, but it still feels like a milestone. I do not think that I would have had the confidence to attempt this project without the input I have received this year from the sewing club and quilting class I have attended. Even if I had plucked up the courage to work on it without this input, I do not think that it would have turned out nearly so well.


Honestly - if you are thinking of getting to grips with your sewing machine but are not sure where to start then I do recommend that you see if there is some kind of a club or class in your area. Even if you are familiar with your sewing machine, it will mean that you tackle a small project once a month - if there is one thing that I have learned from my knitting it is that the more you do, the more you learn and the easier it becomes to get a good result. (Mostly!)


The second thing that I would like to mention is that the shape of this wrap was totally inspired by Knitter Bunny's Baby Chalice Blanket which did not receive a prize in her State Fair this year.

You see, the judges commented that her blanket was an odd size/shape for a baby blanket. Well, it was rectangular. Now, as the overall shape of most babies that I have met has been fairly cuboid (or rectangular parallelepiped, if you prefer), it seems to me that their general shape lends itself quite neatly to a rectangular shaped blanket. So I have made a rectangular one too!*

*Notes: of course, if the parents of my gift recipient complain about the shape of my gift, I will amend my ways and make square or round cuddle wraps in future!


Although both of these pieces are really simple, I am pleased with the way that they sort of complement each other and combine to make a complete gift. I like this idea and I think that I will look for more opportunities to do it again.


In the meantime, I hope that my gift recipient and her parents will enjoy their present. I have requested a photograph for my project files but, as I have still not received one yet for the pink cardigan that I dispatched earlier this year, I am not going to hold my breath!

Monday, 26 October 2009

The View From The Rear

Yesterday, the alarm went off at a most unwelcome hour for a Sunday. I noticed that the Fella ignored it. Instead, he buried his head in his pillow and snuggled deeper into the duvet. If I am honest, he threw an arm around me and promptly went back to sleep.

I lay there for a bit and listened to a CBC radio programme (over the Fella breathing in my ear) - I heard one presenter commenting on how lovely the sunrise was and listened when the follow-up weather report forecast 10-15mm of rain, due shortly after sunrise.

I groaned and poked the Fella awake again, "We've got to get up. Rain is forecast - we'll need to take some wet weather gear."

His face was a picture of misery at the prospect of losing both his Sunday lie-in and going outside when it was due to tip down with rain - simply because I was determined to fulfil a promise to my sister. Now she lives in India at the moment and has probably forgotten what rain and 9 degrees Celsius (without wind chill factor) feels like.

Ok, my promise to my sister? To get off my backside and do some more exercise. My sister decided - in her infinite wisdom and after some googling - that participating in a 9.5km run around the Stanley Park Seawall would be the perfect way to kick-start my exercise programme.

In horror, I told her that I have never been able to run anything in my whole, wide life. She laughed (somewhat gleefully, I feel) and told me not to be so ridiculous. In the end, we compromised on me entering the 'walk' category...this year, at least. Plus I got a promise from her in return. If I do my walk; she has to fulfil a promise to me in India.

Now the problem for the Fella is that he tends to get roped into the things that I do. So if I am going to walk 9.5km on a Sunday morning in Stanley Park... then so is he. Hence the wretched expression on his face.

"Okay, tell you what," I said, "you make coffee; I'll make bacon sandwiches."

His face brightened and he rolled out of bed. I called out after him, "Although, in view of the occasion, I realise that I should probably give you a healthy bowl of cereal or a bowl of oatmeal."

He said something that I didn't catch but from the indignant tone, I think that it might have been something rude.

* * *

A short while later, the Fella sat at the dining table, one hand clamped around a hot mug of black coffee and the other gripping a substantial bacon sandwich. I was similarly equipped (albeit with a smaller portion).

Over our carefully considered pre-race breakfast, we discussed the improbable fact that we were up, dressed and about to take part in a 9.5km run (okay 9.5km walk). The improbability is probably summed up well by the fact that the Fella does not even own a pair of trainers, we have not done any practice walking and the fact that we are have this conversation while munching on bacon.

I can just tell that the Fella was really and truly trying to look on the bright side of being dragged outside on a cold, grey Sunday morning when he said, "Well....at least we aren't doing this for erectile dysfunction.*"

I reassured him that it is really only 9.5km; hardly a marathon. The expression on his face suggested that 9.5km may as well be 26 miles, as far as he was concerned.

*Notes: Film: Run Fat Boy Run

* * *

Now if you are any kind of serious runner, you will know that it is essential that you skip the bacon sandwiches and get yourself to a race venue early - at the sparrow's fart, preferably. Not just to avoid the intake of bad calories and do your pre-race warm up but also in order to park close to the race Start/Finish line. Otherwise you are just going to end up parking with the rest of us amateurs, quite some distance away and sad in the knowledge that you are likely to regret your tardy arrival later.

We were oblivious to this, of course. We simply rounded the last corner from our gentle 0.8km warm up walk from the car, saw the race registration tent and focused on the realisation that we had just arrived in a very strange land.

We were in the Land of the Enthusiastically Fit and Lithe. The land where lycra is your flattering friend and the toned body may run free. People were happy and excited; some were even in fancy dress. They were not hunched up against the cold, swaddled in raincoats like we were.

They had that happy glow of people who are familiar with, and happy to be, up early and about to do something that they love. There was even a DJ pumping out high energy versions of tracks like, "It Hurts So Good" while some competitors improvised warm-up routines that other runners were joining in with.

Now please excuse the expression but I cannot bring to mind a different one that would sum it up as well - we felt about as out of place and uncomfortable as a packet of sliced ham delivered wrongly to a bagel shop. Here is the picture that I snapped of the Fella, just after the majority of runners had left the Registration area to go to the Start Line:

Seawall Run_1724 01

When you look at this picture, you need to know that "The Eye of the Tiger" track was playing very loudly in the background. At this point, I think that I am just lucky that the Fella has not turned on his heel and headed back to the truck! As for me, I just started to giggle nervously.

Now this is the view ahead of us in the race line up, just before the start:

Seawall Run_1726

This is pretty much the same view, just after the start:

Seawall Run_1730

I would like to point out that this was about the last time that we saw the majority of these runners. Not only were we the last two people over the start line, we were walking. The only other participants visible in the distance ahead of us was a family group with young children.

As we left the start line and walked up the road, we became aware that we were being tailed by a woman on a bicycle (apologies that the picture is blurred). She peddled up to us and introduced herself as the race sweeper official:

Seawall Run_1732

The Fella voiced discomfort in my ear and asked why we hadn't just walked the Seawall on our own. To make matters worse, the cyclist was joined by a Transport Authority patrol vehicle (which looked like a police squad car, complete with emergency lights going) who wanted to reopen the roads.

After a bit, the patrol vehicle caught up with us and the official started to make small talk with us out of his passenger side window. First of all, observing our speed, he jokingly suggested that we cheat by taking a shortcut via the totem poles.

When we rejected that suggestion, impressed by our determination, he suggested that we seek to improve our efforts by joining his running group. It meets every Sunday morning at 08:30. This group, apparently, includes a lady of 76, who doesn't run when conditions are slippery.

We nodded like there was a cat's chance in hell of us taking him up on his offer and walked on, studiously trying to ignore him as he announced to other passer-bys and drivers that he had to escort us, the very last people in the race, safely off the roadway before he could open them back up to the general public. The Fella increased his speed, expressing discomfort and embarassment (through gritted teeth) at being followed by someone he kept referring to as 'the police'.

Plus under all this close scrutiny? It meant that he felt that he couldn't have a cigarette. Now if you know the Fella, you will realise that this is a serious, deal-breaking issue. It simply had not occurred to him that he might have to endure a 9.5km walk without a single cigarette. Luckily, we moved onto the Seawall footpath and lost the patrol car before he had a complete snit.

However, to his chagrin, we could not shake the woman on the bicycle. The poor love was doomed to spend the whole race peddling as slowly as she could behind us. In the end, she realised that she just could not peddle slowly enough without falling off her bike, so she tailed us the rest of the way on foot:

Seawall Run_1749

Seawall Run_1765

The Fella's mood worsened - her prescence eliminated any kind of cigarette stop. I noticed that his walk became very purposeful. To the point where I was almost jogging along beside him to keep up. After about 4km, I asked if he might consider slowing down a little.

He glanced over and said, "We cannot slow down. We are gaining on the kid."

There was a short silence while I digested this news. Then, "What kid?!" I asked, scanning the horizon.

"That one. The one with the fairy wings. We are gaining on them. I am not going to be beaten by a kid in a pair of fairy wings!"

Seawall Run_1748

Yup, one of the children in that little group ahead of us. After 4km, we had gained a few feet on the family group who had been ahead of us at the very start. Only a few feet, mind you. It seemed that in order to ignore his cigarette craving, the Fella had decided to focus on overtaking a child aged under 10 years old and adorned with fairy wings.

I thought that this might not be the best time to tell him that he was being ridiculous.

Seawall Run_1751

By this point the child had handed its wings over to a parent to carry. The race wore on and each time we crept a little bit closer to the family group ahead of us, I caught a glimpse of this little smile on the Fella's face:

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In the end though, to his credit, the pace that he set us did mean that we eventually caught up with them. Mind you, it took us about 8km to do it.

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Actually, I have to be honest and tell you that the real reason we overtook them is that they actually stopped in order to take photographs of each other at some rocks by the path:

Seawall Run_1780

However, the smile on the Fella's face was still like this after we passed them:

Seawall Run_1778Seawall Run_1779

Hmm, not a man who can hide triumphant joy very easily - I must remind him never to play poker!

The family group had been joined by two male runners somewhere between the 5 and 6km markers (one of them is the tall person wearing black and a bright red wig). Basically, they had run the race, finished it and run back to find their families trailing behind them - just in order to accompany them back to the Finish line. At one point, the guy in the red wig even ran back to us and offered us some kind of 'Power Energy Bar' that they were giving out to runners at the end of the race.

We refused them on the basis that we were only doing the race in order to shed a few pounds. In truth, I think that we were more worried that if we consumed any runner chow that originated from the 'Land of the Enthusiastically Fit and Lithe', that might be it! There might not be no return to the 'Land of the Sofa Bound Slobs' that we know so well.

At long last, the Finish line came into view and I was not at all surprised when the male runners plus the children, picked up their pace to pound past us down the home stretch - after all, the Fella might not have wanted to be beaten by a kid in a pair of fairy wings but can you imagine how the kid might have felt about being beaten by some old guy who doesn't even own a pair of trainers?!

Seawall Run_1783

Our official race time? The timer above the Finish line said something like 1:54 as we crossed it. I promised my sister that I would try to complete the race in under 2 hours and we just about managed it. Here is a shot of the Finish line that I took after we had passed through and handed in our ChampionChip timers:

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Our actual, personal times were 1:53 something. We came 946 and 947 out of 949 runners!

Ho hum. Well, race done, we stood there and looked at each other. The prize giving had long been held and most of the real runners had pushed off home. It was all a bit forlorn. It was probably at that point we realised that we still had to limp another 0.8km to the truck along Lost Lagoon.

It felt like a very long way. Mind you, it did provide the Fella with an opportunity to chain smoke a good number of cigarettes. The final part of our walk it was very peaceful - no race officials and no patrol cars. We came across a whole family of racoons and we made it back to the car just before it really started to pound down with rain.

Seawall Run_1802

When we got to the truck, I suggested a light lunch at Cardero's in honour of the race's Rear Guard Couple and I was rewarded with this tired but grateful smile:

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Fella: I love you for being just so bloomin' supportive. Last night and this morning, we even discussed working a good long walk into our weekend routine, rain or shine. Yes please.

PS, Little sis'? I did mine - now it's your turn. I believe that we agreed on something that might be a stretch for you? Now, wasn't it something like a 10 mile/half marathon run?!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Autumn Colour & Positivity

The rain seems to be settling in for its usual Autumn - Spring sojourn here in Vancouver but I have been nipping out between the raindrops to snap a few shots of Autumn colour before the rain strips the leaves from the trees and the plants all fade away for Winter.

Fall Colours_1406

While I enjoy all of the seasons, I have to admit that Spring and Autumn are my favourites. For me Autumn is all about colour, smells, rustle of leaves underfoot and the fact that it means that my birthday is on its way!


I have no idea whether it is apparent in my photographs but I have started two new classes this term: Design & Composition plus Macro Photography. This is part of an effort to keep my brain occupied and help me to stave off the rainy, low light induced dooms and glooms that swamped me out of nowhere last year. Also, I am also starting a new quilt class in North Vancouver next week and I am really looking forwards to it!


The other good news is that the Canadian High Commission in London is ready to issue my visa. So I am hoping that within another 6-8 weeks I will obtain Landed Immigrant status. Once I have that, I can start to look for work here. Not being allowed to work is the thing that has been really doing my head in over the past year. So I am looking forward to this situation changing. I just hope that I will be able to find something relevant and interesting to do.

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The coffee-shop incident at the start of this month really did knock me for six. Sorry about that. Suffice it to say that I have not returned to the cafe. Although it is a shame (I was sort of settling into a knitting routine there), I do not think that I need any more well meant advice for the time being.

Leaves on Sidewalk-Small

I am hoping that I will be able to share pictures of our kitchen project soon - we are just not quite there yet. If I turn my head to the right, I can see finishing panel clamped to unfinished cabinets. The reason for the delay is that the Fella (who is doing this bit) morphed into a Giant Human Biohazard this week and, having decided that he must have The Flu, spent the best part of two days on the sofa chugging back Ginger Ale, gummy bears and chocolate.

Luckily, 72 hours, some Contact 200 and a few boxes of tissues later, we have worked out that he's just had a cold (that he is pretty much over) so I have pushed him back out of the door to work! He did not take much urging, as he's realised that there is a very good reason that I do not ever bother to switch the TV on during the day!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Just when you were trying to convince yourself that you are okay...

...some well-meaning stranger happens by and pricks your bubble with a very sharp pin.

I was sitting in a coffee shop today. Minding my own business, sipping a black coffee and working on a little time-out project. I was relaxed as the kitchen is ready for the plumber to come tomorrow morning to reconnect our water supply, the sun was shining and my little project was almost finished.

I dunno. I was sitting there amidst the other Monday afternoon locals, quietly reflecting that it has been a year since I arrived in Canada. I was thinking over the past year, all of the changes in my life (the good things; the not-so-good things; the indifferent things) and wondering whether I should put together an anniversary post about it.

An older lady, who spotted me knitting over my coffee on Friday, comes into the cafe and ambles over to me. She is friendly and, in her very limited English, she enquires after my project progress. We exchange a few words, she goes over to another table, sits down and drinks her coffee. I knit on.

As she is leaving, she comes over to me again. I think that she is going to say goodbye, so I look up. She has not come over to say goodbye, she has come over to impart some kindly, well-meant advice.

She stands over me in the middle of the cafe - in front of all its staff and customers - and she starts to gesticulate. She tugs at the front of her top and she tugs at my side, pulling on my jean belt loops.

She is speaking quite loudly in very bad English. To start with, I cannot make out her words. So she repeats them, in a louder and in a more agitated tone. "Looser, " I make out from her words. "Look better, y'know?"

She smiles and leaves. The other customers are looking at me. I can feel the embarrassment flaming on my cheeks.

Well, I already felt awkward and uncomfortable about my weight gain in Canada. I know that hardly any of my clothes fit. It is just that I have been trying to address it through a revised diet plan so that I shrink back into my clothes, rather than giving in and buying new ones.

Clearly, it is not working and I am pouring out of my clothes in such an unseemly way, that complete strangers feel compelled to let me know that I am making a public spectable of myself by wearing clothes that are clearly too small.

Happy arrival in Canada anniversary to me.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Not-So-Domestic Way to Deal with Apples

Take one mystery, dwarf apple tree laden with apples:



  • Have a cook-off competition with the Fella to see who can make the best apple pie. Notice that this opens a debate on the best kind of pie crust. Discover that you have opposing views. In his view, it should be riddled with lard. In your view, it should not. Neither of you win the competition as your respective pie crusts are virtually inedible. (But at least yours does not have lard in it.)

  • Ask around for tried and tested pie crust recipes and find out that people either use frozen pastry from the supermarket or follow the recipe on the back of their trusty packet of branded lard. Realise that the easiest way to close the debate and keep lard out of your diet, is to avoid the production of any more apple pies

  • As apple pie appears to be off the menu and half of your kitchen is sitting in your back yard due to the kitchen reno - try to give the apples away. Note very happily that about 5 big carrier bags of apples leave in this way. Review the situation and realise that the removal of these apples does not appear to have put much of a dent in the abundance of fruit still hanging from the tree. Permit yourself a sigh

  • Try to ignore the tree


  • When this fails, make 5 family sized cinnamon apple crumbles (apple crisps). Eat one, freeze one and give the rest away to family and friends

  • Notice that the apples have started to drop and are killing the grass as they rot away. Feel a twinge of guilt at the waste. Find yourself racing outside each morning to rescue the windfalls from the slugs

  • Start to pile the apples on the front doorstep as you have no more room inside the house. Try to analyse why you are doing this and give up - it is irrational as you have no time or room to process the fruit during the kitchen reno


  • Observe to yourself that the pile of windfalls outside your front door looks quite 'harvesty' and hope that people will knock on your door to ask if they might take some away to make pie. Funnily enough, no one knocks

  • Compulsively, you continue to collect and stockpile the apples each morning. At least this is saving the grass under the tree. However, the pile of apples outside your door starts to get out of hand. If you were going to be honest with yourself, you would need to admit that it looks very much like a trip hazard and a serious apple disposal problem

  • Continue piling the apples and notice that you have started to grade them as follows:

    • Top step: Apple Pie/Crumble Filling;
    • Middle Step: Apple Chutney;
    • Bottom Step: Apple Sauce; and
    • Ground: Ones you would rather not use, like these:


  • Bizarrely enough, succumb to the mental pressure of the apples piled on your doorstep. When the Fella vanishes into his workshop to saw bits off some vital part of the kitchen, rush outside and bring in armfuls of apples. Peel a sink full of apples and make 6 lemon apple crumbles as you listen to the sound of enthusiastic sawing and drilling coming from the bottom of the garden. Freeze 3 down and give 3 away. Peel another sink full of apples and make a batch of cinnamon apple sauce for pancakes. Freeze it down too. Wonder, with a certain amount of concern, if you have started to turn into a Stepford Wife

  • Lost in your obsession, peel another sink load of apples when the Fella goes out to work the next day. Dig out a large pot and make chutney from this very easy to follow Apple Chutney recipe that you find on the internet

  • During this process, pop outside and review apples left on doorstep. In fact, take pictures of them from different angles and feel slightly weird about your apple mania




  • Phone your mum 8 time zones away to check how she sterilises jars and makes her chutney jars airtight. Realise that you do not have any greaseproof or parchment paper - so proceed without it, hoping for the best

  • Feel ridiculously proud of your efforts and take photos because the stuff inside your 12 x 250ml jars, actually does look like chutney!



  • Don't stop there though. While you are on a roll, peel a few more apples and use this Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake recipe to make two apple pan cakes which turn out to be delicious either hot or cold. (One eaten, the other given away.)


  • At this point, the Fella gets home. Recluctantly, allow him to prise the apple peeler out of your hand, lead you out of the kitchen and hand you a glass of wine. Express worry about the apples still sitting on the front doorstep. Allow him to tell you that it does not matter, that you have done enough and let him reassure you that he will have the tree professionally pruned this year, so it will not fruit next year. Spend the evening pretending that the apples left on the doorstep are not drilling a hole in your brain

  • The next day, when no one is looking, swoop every apple that you can find into the garden waste bin. Feel the apple burden lift and heave an enormous sigh of relief!


The End.