Tuesday, August 25, 2009

in Crete

We have a little internet access... we're staying at the Orthodox Academy of Crete. The professor has his conference every day. I knit, read, and look at this scenery... This is part of the view from our room's balcony.

This is where we eat meals--outdoors, on this shaded terrace. I can watch from our room and when everyone starts appearing on the terrace, I wander over to eat with the scientists....

There's a beautiful old monastery nearby. They have an interesting museum with icons and art that I went to see on my last trip here. This time, I watch the repairs to the dome. See the scaffolding? The dome itself has been repainted a very pale blue. There's a long history of Muslim/Christian interaction here (not all that friendly, since much of it was marked by invasion of one kind or another)...and in many Middle Eastern traditions, blue is an auspicious color. Maybe it's just superstition, but many people believe blue wards off the evil eye. I wonder if that's why the dome is being painted blue? (or was it always painted blue?!)

There's a rocky beach with a little shallow bathing area just below the conference center. I watch fishing boats, children, older people, and even surf fishermen come to enjoy the water. It seems like there is an unwritten schedule about who comes to bathe and when. The fishermen are never out while someone is swimming.

The sunrises are also worth seeing... (and since we're jetlagged, we see all sorts of things at odd hours.)

You may recognize that yarn in the sock photo, above. It is one of the hand-dyed skeins featured in Fiber Gathering. I finally decided, after 2+ years of admiration and desire, that this one particular sample skein just needed to be knitted up. It's going along very well and I imagine two completed socks will emerge soon!
That's the news from our holiday! I hope you enjoy the snapshots and have a little vicarious vacation... We're off to other locales in Crete later this week after the conference, but for now, I'm happy to stay put here and admire the view...

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

on to vacation...

It is very clearly time for me to go on holiday. Have a rest. Get away for a bit. Why? Today I've walked two dogs, gotten fresh corn ready for the freezer, done some work stuff, unpacked 3 large packing boxes, dealt with a small meltdown with the spouse, done laundry for the trip, including dodging rain showers to hang it outside...and it's just past lunch time. I'm pretty tired...and I've been on hyperdrive for so long with this move that it's hard to remember what normal feels like. Normal is, well, so far away that I've forgotten it. I've been in Winnipeg just a month. I've been packing, unpacking, travelling and moving things for about 4 months. I'm beat.

A couple of days ago, when I wasn't canning dilly beans or pickled cabbage, I washed a lot of handspun yarn to set twist and fulled some handknit mittens. (the mittens are plain old white wool, not that interesting.) The yarn, however? You may remember, I had some yarn I felt I must spin before I left Kentucky. It was oddly irrational. Well, I found that box, and I just started plying. Several skeins later, all the CVM yarn is plied. There's still one skein of Shetland left to ply, but it's been a nice slow transition into spinning in my new house. Here's some of the yarn--it's roughly fingering to sport weight, a 2 ply. I'm excited about it.

I promised a photo of the yarn I got at the Knit Out (held once a year, at a local park) yarn swap. I hadn't expected to come home with a thing, but this hopped into my arms without me realizing it. It's interesting stuff. On left, 2 skeins of ecoknit organic sage green cotton--stuff I enjoy knitting with and would have bought myself! In the middle, there's a lot of pink. That is a yarn called Lambada, a 50% cotton, 50% Viscose mix. The knitter/crocheter who did this made 80! flowers before getting bored and giving up with the project. I'm thrilled with it, I expect I'll use all her work and incorporate those flowers into whatever I knit or crochet. The "Boogie" box in the back is nearly a full box of white Viscose tape. Ideal for curtains, in my opinon, or a slinky top. (If you know me, I'll likely go for the curtains. Slinky isn't really my style.)

Now, I don't usually buy viscose. It's not all that environmentally friendly, and I'll explain a lot more about that in Knit Green, which will be coming out in just a month! However, free, secondhand yarn of any variety needs to be used. It was calling out to me to be used...re-using and revisioning something discarded is better than, well, discarding it. So, it came home with me. By knitting this, I'm not contributing to the production of viscose, and I'm not financially supporting it. I am, however, supporting the notion of a friendly yarn swap, and this was one of the best I've been too. Just wish I'd been able to get open enough boxes of stash to contribute! Maybe next year.

You may have noticed that I've put links to a variety of bookshops on the right side of the blog. I was encouraged by the powers that be to show that I support all bookshops, everywhere, (of course. I obviously support all books...) rather than showing preference to only one retailer. It would be just fantastic if you were to wander over there to one of those links (any book store is fine, really...no judgement call just now) and order a copy of Knit Green so it can arrive at your house hot off the press. commercial pitch now over...

In the meanwhile, I'm doing my best to plan for my trip, in the midst of acquiring dog licenses, (not) acquiring driver's licenses --a story for another time, and doing all the other myriad details of handling life in a new country. I'm pretty tired. Like Sally the dog demonstrates--we're pretty focused around here, and we've got a lot to point at and do. Sally, our resident pointer mix, does most of the pointing.

I'm going to focus, with the best of intentions, on resting a little more. In that vein, you may not hear from me for a while. (internet access will likely be thin on the ground as well on my trip.) I'll be back here in September, ready to take on lots of new adventures. Until then, imagine I am lollygagging in the sunshine. Resting. Trying to kick back and...relax. I may have forgotten how.
Note: Harry and Sally demonstrate--complete with gray sheep toy--how to take a break. It apparently can be done, even with highstrung bird dogs!
See you in a bit.... Take care.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

how the curtains go

Well, now everyone can feel free to look up without embarrassment as they walk along Stafford St. (whew!) We have curtains that really cover up the bathroom windows. (a big relief!) We went to Fabricland together, they had a big sale on. The professor's mother sewed a lot and he is well versed in both fabric stores and purchases, so I needed him along. We got 2 meters each of these decorating fabrics for $33 CDN, which seemed like a good deal when compared to finding pre-made curtains to fit these old windows. (If this was a terrible deal, I'm not sure I want to know right now!)

The bathroom windows needed a sheer that would match the rest of the room and allow in light. We found this light sage green embroidered fabric that I loved. I used the old hooks that were already mounted in the wall...and each curtain only took about 4 or 5 sewing machine seams, very fast to make once I figured out which boxes to open for sewing supplies and did all the math and measurements. I used very skinny dowels as curtain rods as the hooks were old and narrowed with age and paint.

I love how the knitted curtains look underneath the sheers--it looks a lot like the windows are wearing expensive, knitted lingerie!

The hall curtains were a bit more challenging. These hang on a small landing in between the first and second story of the house. Unfortunately, if our bedroom door is open (which it usually is), you can see Stafford St. from bed! The street, which is busy, includes a stop light that shifts green, amber,* red and some bright backlit business signs. Obviously, curtains were in order.

*Note my use of "amber" here. Some Canadians call a yellow light an "amber". That would be all new vocabulary for me!

We chose a beige eyelet for this staircase. Remarkably, the hardware store around the corner had a new version of the same hooks that were in the bathroom. I'd never seen this kind of curtain hardware before, but it looks great here, as I think long ago, these very same hooks were used. (we were able to put the hardware right into at least one pre-established hole.)

These do limit the daylight on the staircase but even with the curtains sewn double thickness, the traffic lights still shine through a little at night. It's a compromise, but I think it's an ok one. The curtains, in both cases, look clean and new but like they were always here, and that's a great thing in an old house, in my opinion!

We really like the old Craftsman woodwork on the windows in this house, so we'd like to avoid curtains in the public rooms. However, if it's drafty in winter, we will, of course, revise that decision...

In other news, I met a lot of really fabulous and friendly knitters at the annual Assiniboine Park Knit Out yesterday. It was pouring rain and about 64F. Chilly, but inside a roofed pavilion with a raincoat, I enjoyed myself! (no photos, I forgot the camera and it was raining hard!)

There was a yarn swap and I came home with some delightful goodies, but I will bring that up in another post...the short version? Everyone was so welcoming!

Many commenters thought I sounded very happy. I am, I'm really enjoying it here, but coping with all the details of this shift to another country is frequently overwhelming. It feels a bit like the TV and the radio are on (in my head) while I'm trying to cope with the daily details. Everything's just a bit (or a lot) different. It's exhausting.

Luckily--a vacation is coming up! The professor is going to a conference in Crete. (yes, that's in Greece!) I am going along for the ride. If you're read my blog for a while, you may remember we went last in August/September 2006. We're really looking forward to this repeat trip. I plan to eat, sleep, knit, read, and enjoy the scenery, not necessarily in that order. I'll likely get in one more post before our next travelling adventure begins.

So, what do you think about those curtains?! Comments? (it's not knitting or spinning but it's close!)

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm a lefty

Well, I can't let this day pass without comment. Yes, there is a day, once a year, for Left Handers. We're good folk. We're smart, creative, quirky and rare. (but that's just my opinion...)

It's sunny and hot here. I let the professor loose yesterday while we shopped and we came home with 4 lbs of British Columbia apricots and crab apples from a tree right near his university department. Yup. you guessed it. 17 or so cups of jam later, we've got our apricot jam and crab apple jam covered. We both sort of egg each other on when it comes to foraging for food. This winter, we will be happy. Today, I am so tired from this frenzied fruit canning thing that I'm getting worrid I won't be able to stand up again when I'm done with the computer.

Fun observations about Winnipeg?:
At a Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library gathering yesterday, I was welcomed to Winnipeg...by someone who moved here in May. It's never too early to be welcoming!

I was also invited to dinner on Saturday night by someone I'd met just a few minutes before. It's never too soon to be hospitable.

When we were picking the crab apples off a tree in a university parking lot? A groundskeeper came by. The professor and I both tensed, worried we'd get in trouble. "Ohhh!" he smiled. "those are going to be tart!" It's never too weird to forage for fruit or feel included in a little excitement about fruit and jam. (and no one thought we were doing something wrong or being weird.)

Today I stopped by Wolseley Wardrobe --a spur of the moment visit. In the back, there was a one on one knitting lesson going on, and I heard one young woman explaining how she met her boyfriend/husband/partner to the teacher. It was sweet and romantic, even if I shouldn't be listening. There was great clothing, a little artsy and over the top, things that I love wearing but felt too self-conscious about sometimes in Kentucky. That was including a brand new April Cornell blouse I came home with, for $20CDN. I was welcomed and spurred on by the clerk, who recognized who I was. It's never to late to encourage someone else into an impulsive and fun purchase...or to recognize kindred souls in the funky flowery clothing department... now I just have to find the big earrings again. :)

I walked straight by the Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company and I was so restrained, even with all those warm cinnamon buns in the window! I was so restrained that I rewarded myself with a warm cinnamon bun, sourced from my freezer, when I got home. (It's never too late to eat that cinnamon bun, and to freeze it to eat later?!)

Smile! It's sunny and hot in Winnipeg!

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

good and bad

The Good?: My friend Nic made me this fabulous tote bag and sent it to me as a housewarming present, complete with spiced nuts, granola, and other goodies. The strap is made of a fabric that I'd purchased for her as a small treat! Winnipeg is a place where everyone tries to bring bags for shopping. In fact, one is frequently charged per plastic bag if you forget your own cloth ones. This quilted work of art is so gorgeous that I haven't been able to bring myself to use it for groceries yet. I'll break it in soon, Nic. I promise.

The gelato is still marvelous. (Gelato is Italian ice cream or sorbet.) It is very good. Check out that link to Eva's Gelato and coffee bar in one of my last posts if you're interested. As it's right around the corner from our house, it's likely to be our favorite. :)

In other news, I've been knitting a mitten as a swatch for trying out a new yarn. I've been spinning a bit in the evenings, (gray Romney/Border Leicester Cross blended with gray mohair) and at least one of my wheels is spinning more smoothly than ever with a bit of oil and the jostling of a long distance move!

I've been trimming our hedge, canning up pickles and jam (12 pints dilly beans and dill pickles, 5.5 cups of Nanking cherry (from our yard!) and raspberry jam.

The Bad?:
Despite several phone calls to the appropriate authorities and every effort to make our cardboard conform to the local recycling requirements, we're still the infamous newcomers with the enormous tower of cardboard in the back lane. This is after 3 separate recycling days have come and gone. I'd like to say that I've stopped unpacking because the pile is so high, but sadly, I've just stopped unpacking because it's gotten sunny, I've gotten tired, and well,with the futon and beds set up, unpacking is getting less appealing. I'm thinking of making curtains today instead...or taking a walk. It's hard to stay inside in this sunshine!

(perhaps when it snows, we can use the cardboard for extra insulation and warmth? It may still be here...)

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Friday, August 07, 2009


Small things make me very happy.
About 5 minutes after we'd finished assembling the futon, Harry the dog was ready to start trying it out.
I am now able to unpack more of my office stuff...
To respond to some of the comments--I'm able to email some of you, which I've done. The short answers are:
1) I think the gelato place is open in the winter time, but we'll have to wait and see. Sadly, cream of chestnut appears to be a monthly special!
2) The Forks is a neat place, but it's only one of many very cool things in Winnipeg, in my opinion. For one thing, everyone is very warm and welcoming here. There are fabulous summer festivals, a ton of ethnic restaurants, and the entire city is very accessible...no enormous commutes or traffic jams, so far.
For those who haven't been, the Forks is a series of big buildings with food vendors, shops, and tourist stuff. It's right near the forks in the rivers, and there are water taxis, river paths, and a very cool First Nations gathering circle. There's also a world-class skate park, a prairie restoration park, and a lot of public art. You can see a few photos of it here.
3) Kristy is an amazing resource! Kristy, if you're listening? Could you drop me an email? Kristy has kindly explained the potholes, stinky smells, and other details in her comments on the last post... and I hope we'll be real "in person" friends soon.
And about Folklorama...we've now been to the Philippine, M├ętis, Greek and Israeli Pavillions....every single one of those was terrific!
We've also gotten a delicious farm share with Stone Lane Orchard and had our first dinner guests over last night!
So, it seems everyone is making themselves "to home" here.
(That would be Harry, Sally, and the sheep toy, sharing my bed. You can see their crates on the very edges of the photo.)

Now back to unpacking...Have a good weekend! Say hey in the comments, ok?!

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

For Want of a Nail

For whatever reason, a lot of things were broken on our move to Winnipeg. If not broken, then lost or misplaced. We suspect it's because our belongings were loaded onto a truck in Kentucky, driven south to Nashville, warehoused until they found a driver going to Canada, and then loaded on a new truck. That shifting might allow for more damage. While I wish this could have been avoided, there just aren't alot of people moving their belongings from Kentucky to Winnipeg, and therefore, it took a while to find a mover that would move us and even to find a truck driving in the right direction. (three households of belongings were on that truck, and their destinations were Calgary & Lethbridge, Alberta, and Winnipeg...)

That said, we try not to dwell on the downside of things...as much as possible. I've made the damage claims with the mover. We're waiting for the assessor to arrive. Mistakes happen, and these are all just things. Not people, and not live beings, so we're lucky. However, the most frustrating things are the little ones.

For instance, the futon and hardwood frame which normally sits in my office. It usually needs to be disassembled for any move. The movers somehow managed to move it out of our house in Kentucky without taking it apart. (this was done by slight of hand and mirrors, this thing is enormous!) Then, it was taken apart at the warehouse. Then? Somewhere in the move, we lost this:

(For those who care, that's called a "futon glide" or "futon roller." The metal thing is called a clevis pin. You need four of these jobbies for our futon frame, and one is missing.)

Sadly, futon hardware is not standardized. It isn't easily purchased at a hardware store, either. We know because the professor tried to find one at Home Depot yesterday. They suggested calling a futon store instead.

The first futon store was actually very helpful. The person identified the kind of frame she thought we had. (it's 12 years old, I bought it for the professor's bachelor pad the year before we were married.) She then suggested another competing store that might have the part. I call store #2.

"Oh, no problem," they say. "Bring the part in and we'll try to help." So, after dinner, we hop in the car and go to store #2. They don't have any spare hardware parts, but they're very helpful and send us across town to their warehouse.

At this point, I insist on a stop at a mall to buy some other essentials, like Body Shop sunscreen and a book. The book, Fingerweaving Untangled by Carol James, is very well done, and I've just met the author...but I digress. (take note, this was one of the few successes of the evening...)

OK, so off we go to the next store. At this point, I've given up on using the map and we're letting the GPS talk us through a drive across town. We arrive at store #2's other branch and warehouse. The people there are extraordinarily friendly. However, the warehouse manager is new and doesn't want to cannibalize a whole futon frame/set without permission from his boss. Totally understandable, as these frames are pricey... maybe $500 average.

He asks to borrow our sample piece (that would be part #3, since we took one off the futon to find a matching one) and I just about melt down.

"No!" I say, "I can't give you this. What if you lose it!? Then we'll be missing two of these!?"

The man is used to complete hysterics and is calm in the face of impending disaster. He whips out his phone, takes a photo of the piece, and hands it back to the professor. He promises to call us tomorrow. (that would be today.)

As we leave the store, we have an entirely congenial conversation with the salesmen. They do everything they can to help. I explain that unless the futon is set up in my office, I can't unpack the rest of the office. Without the futon, the dogs have nowhere to sleep...and then they bark. They do their jobs (helping me work) best when the futon is there. I like sitting on the futon too. We are lost. Bereft. Without the darn futon. I am completely aware of how crazy this sounds. Bear with me.

We promise the guys that we'll likely buy our next futon at Best Sleep Centre. I announce my need to drown my sorrows in a gelato. Preferably a big one. We leave.

The professor, meanwhile, has been a charming and patient companion through all this. He is easygoing and pleasant. We're enjoying a cool evening on the prairies. All is well. Then, we're driving back towards home...

And the GPS points us towards Gertrude Street. Gertrude Street is a 2 way street with parking on it. It has only about 1.5 lanes open at any time, and it clearly has not been resurfaced for the last 30 winters or so. While it may be the most direct way to go, no person in his/her right mind would choose this road as a good shortcut across town. (*Bump. bump bump. Dodge car. Dodge pothole big enough to swallow us whole. Bump. Dodge pedestrian. Try to cross insanely busy road with 4 lanes of traffic, rep from *.)

This is where the professor loses it. He becomes frustrated and deranged. He is fixated on gelato. He wants to hit the GPS, and settles for shutting it off. He is agitated in a way I cannot soothe.

Meanwhile, we note that the whole city smells like poop. Like manure has just been spread everywhere. No idea why. We are new here. We have broken stuff. And--we took Gertrude Street because of GPS directions.

We share a large waffle cone with "cream of chestnut" and "chocolate cheesecake" at our amazing local gelato place. We agree that all is not lost--if the futon place can't locate us this part, we can order it online from the United States. The parts will cost around $25 US plus shipping. That would be maybe $40 US, plus all that time, mentioned above.

I have now filed another damage claim with the moving company for a stupid piece of plastic. This is only ONE of the several smaller broken things we are trying to cope with. (the piano is a big fix and is entirely out of our purview) About the little stuff, we mean--not fix perfectly, and not replace, but just--you know--set up. Make do. Put our house in order.

This cruddy plastic stuff is getting in the way of our enjoyment of Folklorama, a citywide amazing festival. We are peeved. Tonight, we're dropping everything--but not breaking it--and going out to at least a couple of pavilions.

And yes, we know this would be very funny if it weren't so danged frustrating. After the gelato, the professor insisted I tell you all about this on the blog. He suggested, nay, demanded, that I call it For Want of a Nail.

Commiseration welcome in the comments. Oh, and if you just happen to have one of these thingees laying around, please, let me know!

UPDATE: Best Sleep Centre's warehouse has the piece! Oh! Hurray! Now we'll just drive across town one more time...and we'll be able to put up the futon. Life is good.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

August Long Weekend

We are celebrating our very first August Long Weekend. This three day weekend has a "civic holiday" on Monday. As best I can figure, Canadians decided that yes, everyone wanted to go to their cottages (or do home repair or enjoy the nice weather) so might as well have a designated 3 day weekend for it. I'm all in favor. Here's what's been happening...

First, we've been synagogue hopping...each Saturday morning, we're trying out a different congregation. This has been a pleasure--since everything is close by and folks seem so welcoming. No photos of that. :)

We went raspberry picking. This involved grabbing some tupperware, wearing older clothes, and driving out to the city limits. It took no time at all to be out on the prairie. We wish we'd remembered the camera (oops) but the end result was something in the range of 12 liters of berries. Think 3-4 of these cardboard trugs. Eventually we ran out of tupperware and used one of these instead.

Many of these berries became strawberry/raspberry and raspberry jam. We're up to something in the range of 32 jars in the basement, so far... We're also freezing some, and eating a lot of berries, too! It may seem ridiculous to be doing this just after moving, but summer is short here and we must take advantage of local produce as it happens! I'll love all that "summer" on the shelves this winter.

In a new house, there seem to be an endless number of house set-up tasks. We discovered a distinct lack of shelves. We had built-in bookshelves (but no shelves, just the framwork for shelves.) Off we went to buy boards, get them cut to the right size, and put them up. We'll stain them later. For now, the book boxes are unloaded. (Note half assembled spinning wheel in foreground; the flyer has now been located and it is set up for use again.)

All of our clothes (aside from, say, winter clothes) have been unpacked and put in the appropriate places. I have my very own cedar lined closet! Now that I've done the legwork, I even have a shelf at the top of the closet. This seems like a small thing until one has made two trips to the hardware store, measured, and installed said shelf...

Also accomplished? Little Gem spinning wheel has been located, set up, and put into use. I am consulting for a sheep farm that is interested in building value into its wool products; as a result, I am spinning with an eye towards future fleece improvement. It's a very fun consulting gig--and, the first wool I've spun on a wheel in our new home! I'll likely have more information on this later, as I learn more about the wool. It's good stuff.

Other new developments? Introducing....our fence! Our home came with a sturdy fence on two sides. The third side was enclosed with an old tiny wire fence, which did nothing in terms of dog containment. We had a fence built this week, and it is a major life improvement! Now we only take the dogs on, say, two walks a day. (instead of 4 or 5.) In order to make the fence level at the top, there were gaps on the bottom...which makes it somewhat useless for dogs. We've blocked these with old railroad ties and will add something more aesthetically pleasing soon. Also note that gravel...we were left with a lot of mud and muck in a shady area of the yard. Now, we've got approximately 550 pounds (250 kilo) of gravel there instead. The professor did that himself, with 55 lb bags. We'll worry about flower beds or gravel patios or whatever later. For now? We have fence. We have mud under control. Dogs are happy.

Our new yard has some small cherry plantings (sort of bush-like rather than trees) that we share with a neighbor. I'm looking forward to tasting those as they ripen. We've also got a young Rosybloom Crabapple tree. It's growing fruit! It's described as ornamental, but we're thinking that if the fruit actually grow to a decent size, I may try canning with it. Anyone know anything about the "rosybloom" variety? All the varieties are new to us here so we're happy to have any input you can offer!

Last, but not least, I've put in a very few rows on one of my "traveling" knitting projects, the Lady of the Lake cardigan. I love how this is turning out, but am having a hard time concentrating on anything by the time I sit down after dinner in the evenings. We're just falling down with exhaustion after a day of unpacking, home fix-it, and summer delights.

Oh, and have I mentioned emphasizing the positive in all things? I'm not going to discuss how see-through those bathroom curtains are. Annmarie's wise test idea suggests that I have a bit of work to do in the "making bathrooms private" department. Please, if you could stop all south-bound walking and driving along Stafford St. in Winnipeg, or avert your eyes for the foreseeable future? That would be great... Thanks!

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