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Living and loving life in the beautiful Okanagan!

Day 7 – Feels Like Saturday All Over Again

Today’s Covid-19 numbers: As of 7:04 a.m. there are 741,030 total confirmed cases with 35,114 deaths and 156,838 recoveries, leaving a total of 549,078 active cases worldwide. I wonder how high that number will go before we start to see it come down.

Yesterday (Sunday) was a very productive day in the knitting department. I picked up a pair of socks that I’d started for John a few months ago. The first sock was already off the needles (still needed the toe to be Kitchenered closed) and the second had about 5″ of the leg knit. I managed to turn the heel and make it almost halfway down the foot by the time I went to bed last night. The foot is the completely mindless knitting part as it’s all just knit, no patterning at all, easy enough to do while watching YouTube videos on the laptop. If today goes anything like yesterday, he’ll have another pair of socks by end of day today.

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He’s so appreciative of his hand knit socks that I enjoy making them for him. I usually have a pair on the go as they’re a nice small project that can be worked on pretty much anywhere. Not that we go anywhere right now… you know what I mean. The best part is the pattern is so simple, I have it mostly memorized. There’s just one spot that I need to refer to my notes for – the first two rows of the heel turning. Apart from that, I don’t need to refer to the pattern, which also helps to make it a very portable project.

The days are beginning to flow into one another now. As the title says, every day feels like a Saturday. There’s no real routine right now. I do get up around the same time every morning and still have my usual morning routine – coffee and computer time until I’m fully awake. Then, it’s time to putter around here, do the dishes, make up the bed, tidy up… you know, all the stuff I used to do on a Saturday morning.

Speaking of YouTube videos, while searching for ways to block a large circular shawl, I came across a YouTube channel that I just had to subscribe to. If you’re a knitter, you might enjoy it, too. It’s Fruity Knitting (not sure about the name but, oh well) and each video episode is over an hour in length. I watched three episodes yesterday.

Andrea & Andrew are an Australian husband and wife team of knitters, living in Germany. In each episode, they share what they’re working on, go for a walk and some “Extreme Knitting”, and have segments with knitters from around the world as well as in depth interviews with crafters. I watched an interview with a couple of Shetland lace knitters, another with a woman who makes Dorset Buttons, and a third with a woman who teaches Peruvian knitting. All were fascinating interviews. It’s definitely something to check out if you’re at all interested in knitting.

I still haven’t found any information about blocking (or dressing) a large circular shawl, though, so if you have any information on the subject, please let me know.

Stay safe and wash your hands!

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Day 6 – Digging Through the Past

Today’s Covid-19 update: as of 8:15 a.m., 684,652 people have been diagnosed, 32,113 have died, and 145,696 have recovered, leaving 506,843 active cases worldwide.

Now, on to more interesting things. One of the advantages of cleaning out my spare room, including moving the bed into storage, is that I now have access to the trunk that contains some of my yarn and unfinished projects from years past. And I do mean years.

One of the bags I unearthed contained this…

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I blogged about it years ago (2008 to be precise). Yes, 2008!! You can read my post about it here.

It has been languishing since because I’d come to the end of the yarn and really didn’t want to wind up another ball. Normally, I use one of my lamps to wind my yarn but this particular skein is too big to fit on the lamp shade so I have to use two chairs. Like this…

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Winding up 600 m of single ply sticky (it’s fuzzy) yarn takes time! Now it’s done though and, once I finish John’s socks (one done, second almost half way) I’ll pick up where I left on this shawl. I remember it being an enjoyable knit and I’m probably about half way on the pattern. Speaking of the pattern, I could see in my previous blog post that I had printed the pattern and coil bound it into a booklet which should be easy to find, right? Well, you’d be wrong. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I even went back to my CD collection to see if I had it on disk; the CD drive in my laptop won’t read the disks for some reason (probably too dusty). I decided the easy way out was to simply purchase the pattern again. Thankfully, the designer is on Ravelry.

Oh, speaking of the pattern, it is the Orkney Pi Shawl by Liz Lovick of Northern Lace.

The yarn I’m using for this shawl is a Swedish yarn from Järbo Garn, a single ply yarn I’ve used quite a bit in the past. I really like it and still have another one or two skeins of it.

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Stay tuned. There will be knitting.

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Day 4 – Almost the Weekend!

As of 1:00 p.m. today, there are 586,140 confirmed cases but with deaths and recoveries subtracted, there are a total of 428, 417 active cases world wide. Here in BC, Bonnie Henry, our Provincial Health Officer has announced that it looks like BC is flattening the curve, slowing the rate of infection (click). I do hope the good news continues.

Around the house, things are pretty quiet. I didn’t sleep well last night; I kept dreaming I was in something like a spy story, trying to stay one step ahead of something, or someone, who was chasing me. Not hard to figure that one out, is it? Today, I’m not forcing myself to do much but I did get some laundry done and I did make a batch of soap, one that has a long cure, up to 6 months or more.

I also finished a book I started yesterday. I’m still waiting for Jean M Auel’s “The Painted Caves” but I had a David Baldacci book on hold at the library, downloaded and started it yesterday. I finished it just a few minutes ago. If you’re curious, it was “Two Minutes to Midnight” and was a suspenseful, quick read but then, I do read fast. Now, I’ll have to find something else to read. I’m always looking for suggestions so……

To get a bit of fresh air, I did get outside for a few minutes today, long enough to check on things in the yard. I took this picture of the honeysuckle a couple of days ago. It won’t be long before it’s in full bloom. The lilac buds are growing daily, too. I’m looking forward to being comfortably able to sit outside again.

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Today is a partially sunny, mostly cloudy day, with a temperature of about 13ºC today, nice but not quite sit outside nice.

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Day Three – Cloudy Inside and Out

First, today’s stats. The confirmed cases have now risen to 511,603 (as of 11:34 a.m. our time); total deaths have reached 23,067 and those who have recovered are now at 120,996, meaning a total of 367,540 confirmed active cases.

I’m finding it a little more difficult to get interested in doing anything today for some reason. The sky is clouded over and I’m feeling a little “cloudy” myself, not down or anything, just grey and a little tired (no, I’m not sick) I really don’t want to be sitting at my computer all day but there’s nothing I really want to do either. I finished the book I was reading yesterday, Book 5 in the Earth’s Children Series by Jean M. Auel and I won’t get Book 6 from the library for about two weeks so I had to find something else to read. However, I’m so into the flow of the series that I’m not really ready to jump into something completely different. I have knitting to keep me occupied but that entails sitting as well and I don’t particularly want to be sitting around for hours on end.

So I’m baking.

Baking has always been something I’ve enjoyed doing and I’ve been baking since I was about seven years old when my Mom taught me how to make a basic two egg cake and the butter icing that was on the back of the icing sugar box. Today, though I’m making some buns. The recipe is Heavenly Yeast Rolls. I’ve been making these off and on for a number of years and they always turn out great. Plus, they’re pretty easy to make.

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Ready for the oven

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Out of the oven and smelling amazing!

I think we’ll have these with dinner tonight. I took a tub of Dutch Pea Soup (Erwtensoep) out of the freezer to that. They’ll go together very nicely!

I thought I might even bake an old fashioned cake this afternoon. What’s an old fashioned cake, you ask? The Lazy Daisy Cake has been around for a long time, apparently since the 1940’s. I can remember baking it when I was still a kid in Winnipeg (we moved away from there when I was 12) and it was already a classic then. It’s a hot milk cake, which means you mix up all your ingredients first, then add the hot milk and melted butter. The topping is mix of butter, cream, coconut, and brown sugar which is poured on the cake when it comes out of the oven. Then it’s broiled until lightly browned. It’s yummy and sweet and just what we need (not) right about now. If I do decide to make it, I’ll post a picture tomorrow.

At some point today one of us will need to go out and get some basic shopping done. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get what we need. I’ve been hearing reports of some items (not necessarily toilet paper), like flour and sugar, being in short supply. I’m getting a little low on flour so it’s definitely on my list along with a few other things we’ll need to weather this storm. I was going to call it a crisis but, around here, I don’t think it is a crisis just yet, not like it is in some of the major centers. We’re happy to be staying around the house but we do need supplies in order to do that for any length of time.

 

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Day Two – Take It Outside

Day two; it’s a gorgeous day here in the sunny Okanagan. It’s about 10ºC and sunny, although there is a bit of a brisk breeze now and then. John and I decided it would be a good day to go for a walk through the neighbourhood. I’m glad we did. Now that the weather is getting nicer, we’ll be doing more of that.

So, looking on the dark side of things for a moment, there are now 454,398 confirmed cases of Covid-19 world wide with 20,550 deaths and 113,045 recovered, leaving a total of 320,803 confirmed active cases. That, obviously, isn’t an accurate picture because, as we all know, there are not enough Covid-19 test kits to confirm every case. I won’t dwell on it; I’m only posting the numbers for future reading.

I would rather focus on what we’re doing to stay sane in a world that feels a little insane right now.

Yesterday, I picked up a project that I had started before Christmas – a pair of felted slippers for John. I usually end up making him a pair every other year, sometimes every year, as needed. He starts out wearing them only in the house but ends up wearing them outside occasionally and that’s pretty hard on them. They’re usually a quick knit but concentration-demanding because of the construction. It’s fun to see the difference between the pre-felted slippers and the post-felting result.

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I used my flip flops for comparison.

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The “lint” on the slippers is from the insole of the canvas runners I used in the felting process. One of the insoles came out and it had a chipboard backing that completely disintegrated. They’re not so bad after a bit of a shave but the slippers did look a little disgusting at first, as if they’d been vomited on (sorry, but they did!).

Today, I’ll be finishing up a small knitting repair project for a friend; I’ll post pictures once it’s all done but maybe not until she’s seen it. I’m also working on a shawl I started earlier this year. Again, I’ll post pictures once I’m a little further into the project but here’s a little preview.

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What about you? What are you doing to keep yourself sane in this time of pandemic? I’m trying to turn the radio off as much as possible so we’re not hearing about it all the time and, instead, turning to other things. Let’s help keep each other’s spirits up as much as we can.

See you tomorrow!

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May You Live In Interesting Times

More than two years? Wow! I didn’t think it had been THAT long! Obviously, I’ve been far too busy to keep up with this blog. That all changed yesterday.

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was laid off yesterday. I’ve been working in my job since 2007. Was I surprised? No, not really. Ever since the global panic set it, we saw business declining fast. There wasn’t a option, as far as I or anyone else could see. We started out with about eleven employees. Now, there are (I think) four and perhaps a fifth working as needed remaining. The question now is how long can the shop remain open?

There’s so much uncertainty right now as to what constitutes an essential service; does a print shop qualify? You could argue either way, I suppose. The fact remains, though, that there just wasn’t enough work to warrant everyone remaining at work.

Today is Day One of my unemployment adventure. At this point, I’m just trying to figure out what I’ll be doing with my time. I always have projects on the go, whether it be knitting, baking, soapmaking (that will be on hold for a while), or another creative outlet. Writing is another outlet and that’s why I’ve decided to revive this blog. I can’t promise anything but I’d like to write a little every day, just cuz.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog in the past and still have me in your blog list, give me some ideas, things I can do to make my days feel productive and full now that we’ve been admonished to stay home. Thankfully, we live in a place where we have access to the outdoors (nice big yard) and it’s spring, a great time to enjoy that yard. There will be some gardening starting soon. There will be pictures to take… and share.

Why not join me as we try to get through this crazy time? Let’s get through it together…. separately.

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It’s Finally Spring

Spring has definitely arrived here in the Okanagan. Yesterday, there was snow in the forecast for higher elevations and we can still see snow on the hills around us but, here at the valley bottom, the forecasted temperatures call for 17ºC today and up to 25ºC in the next week. Once again, we’ll be going from winter to summer!

We’re throwing doors and windows open when we can to bring in some of that fresh air. Outside, things are growing and will be flowering soon. In the front garden, the lovage is already about 10″ tall, the poppies are even taller and the irises are following right along. The lilacs along the driveway are about to burst into leaf and flower and the garden needs tending. This year, we will be putting in a few things; the garden won’t be as large as it has been in previous years, that’s for sure, but we do want to put in a few things… peas, beans, a few tomatoes, some potatoes… things like that. I’d also like to set up a bit of a “tea garden” with a few plants I can use to make my own tea blends (i.e. chamomile, mint, and whatever else I can think of).

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In the interim, more fermentation has been happening inside. My kombucha and water kefir are both humming along now. I’ve changed my process slightly with the last couple of batches. Instead of a first and second ferment, I’ve added a step; after the first fermentation, I’m adding a flavouring ferment. The first fermentation is put into a mason jar large enough to accommodate the entire batch (a half gallon jar) and flavoured with whatever I want to flavour it with (i.e. blueberries and mango or blueberries and lavender, which I’ve done so far). I cover it and allow it to sit for a day or two before straining out the fruit and bottling the drink for its final fermentation. As much as I like the fruit, I really don’t like having pieces of fruit floating in my drink. I find I get better carbonation and the flavours mellow out better.

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Left: Mellowbuzz, made with bee pollen, chamomile flowers, and lavender flowers; Right: Black Cherry and Lemon Balm

This week, I also started a couple more ferments. I have another jar of sauerkraut fermenting on my sideboard and a jar of Beet, Cabbage, and Onion kvass in the spare room. Both were started yesterday and are already burbling away, doing what they do. On my kitchen counter, the jar of Cranberry Relish is ready to sample; I’ll be picking up some nice crackers and goat cheese to go along with it.

 

My sourdough starter continues to thrive and the bread I’m making is certainly appreciated around here. Yesterday, I made a loaf of Sourdough Raisin and Cinnamon Swirl bread; between the two of us, we’re down to half a loaf already. It has been declared a “Keeper”. It won’t be long before I make another loaf; I’ll have to pick up some Gouda cheese. One of my favourite snacks is raisin toast with Gouda cheese; they go together so well!

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I’ll probably be making another couple of loaves of Sourdough Sandwich bread this weekend; we both like it for our lunches.

Now, I’m going to get outside and enjoy the sunshine; it feels like it’s been a long time coming.

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Things Are Rotting Around Here… In A Good Way

I haven’t been blogging much lately, at least not here. That’s about the only thing, besides knitting, that I haven’t been doing. I’ve been keeping myself very busy; between soap making and things that are fermenting around here, I have little time for much else. This week, however, I’m on vacation. I’m not going anywhere; it’s my ME time, one week off while John is back at work.

Last September, I started a sourdough starter. I managed to keep it going long enough to bake some lovely breads and then I hid it away in my fridge and forgot all about it. Until a few weeks ago. I wanted to see if I could revive it and revive it I did! Over the past couple of weekends, I’ve been making sourdough waffles and bread, marvelous bread!

My favourite sourdough sandwich bread uses both yeast and starter. It’s a recipe I’ve been using for many years, since around 1975, and it has never failed me. This time, I adjusted the added sugar and salt and came up with a nearly perfect batch! According to John, I could increase the salt slightly more than I did and lower the sugar just a touch. However, it was deemed a rousing success. Thankfully, the batch makes two loaves because one loaf has already been consumed.

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Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Then, this past weekend, I made a batch of two loaves of true sourdough, leavened only with the sourdough starter. I only have a 12 ounce starter and the recipe I used, from the King Arthur Flour website, requires 12 ounces of starter. Obviously, I didn’t want to use all my starter so, over the course of a couple of days, I increased my starter until I had more than enough.

To say the bread turned out would be a definite understatement. It was, and still is, amazing. The bread has a nice tang to it, which is one of the things I love about sourdough bread, the crumb is moist and the crust is crisp. The only downside, if you can call it that, is that I should have slashed the loaves before putting them in the oven. They came out a bit misshapen but that’s minor.

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I now have one loaf from each batch in the freezer with plans to make more in the coming weeks. I think I can honestly say that these loaves equal what we can get at the grocery store and knowing that I made them feels really good!

In addition to the sourdough, I’ve also revived my water kefir and kombucha. The water kefir grains had been stored in the fridge since the beginning of winter; cold days are not the time for drinking cold, fizzy drinks. I wasn’t sure if they would come back because, honestly, I ignored them completely for nearly two months. However, a bit of sugar water and some warmth and water kefir production is back! I’ve even managed to get John to drink it on a somewhat regular basis. His favourite so far has been the cranberry kefir. Even 9-year old Ethan asks for it whenever he’s here.

I’ve just revived my kombucha and the first batch is nearly ready to bottle. I just haven’t decided how to flavour this first batch. All my frozen fruit, it seems, has been consumed by someone who likes it with his ice cream. No names will be mentioned.

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In addition to the fermented drinks, I’m also fermenting a small jar of carrot sticks. I tried a batch a couple of weeks ago but it grew mold after opening the jar. I think it was because I used dried dill and it all floated to the top; from what I could see, it was the dill that was moldy, not the carrots. I wasn’t going to take a chance, though, and tossed the whole jar. This time, I’m using fresh dill and it’s at the bottom of the jar, where the carrots are keeping it down. In another day or two, I’ll try one of the sticks to see how they’re progressing.

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I also fermented a jar of sauerkraut a few weeks ago and, this time, it turned out really well. I’m really happy with it and Trinity, our sour lover, has given her stamp of approval to the batch. Now, I need to find ways of getting John to eat it.

Today, just because I can, I’m starting a small batch of something called “Sima”, a Finnish fermented beverage made with lemons, sugar, and a pinch of yeast. It just sounded really tasty and I have all the ingredients at hand so…. why not? One recipe called it a type of mead and used honey in the recipe; the recipe I’m following uses white and brown sugar instead of honey. I thought about trying my hand at mead but the fermentation and aging times kind of put me off; it can take up to a year, according to some of the recipes I read. Around here? Not a chance! The Sima, on the other hand, could be ready within a week or two, depending on how long I allow it to age.

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I have to say, I’m really enjoying my experiments in fermentation. The fact that it produces a product rich in healthy probiotics is a bonus. Really, they just taste good!

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Year’s End

It’s the last weekend of the year, the last day of the year. I decided to usher 2017 out the door by making soap. I haven’t been making as much soap this year as I did in 2016 but I am still reading about soap and planning soap.

Yesterday, I made an experimental batch of soap that uses two kinds of lye, sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. In my reading, over at the Soapmaking Forum, I came across a post about a dual lye soap and how using both can increase the lather in a low coconut oil soap. I decided to give it a try.

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It is now out of the mold but still quite soft and not ready for slicing yet. I coloured this one with Aztec Gold mica and it’s scented with a combination of cedarwood, rosemary, and lemongrass. It smells wonderful!

Now, I am in the mood to make another batch of soap for the upcoming year. I’ll be making a batch of Lavender & Goat Milk soap, a lovely mild, skin-loving soap that smells amazing. It will help to use up some of the goat milk languishing in the freezer. And we’ll be set for the upcoming year.

And, just because, here are a few pictures taken over the last few days. It’s definitely winter here.

 

 

Categories: Christmas, Finished, Holidays, Making Soap, Soap | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Snow Day

It’s December in the Okanagan. We expect snow. We’ve had snow for the past couple of weeks. I’m okay with that. Honestly, I am.

However, overnight we received another 5-6″, with more still falling. I did make the effort to get out the door and try to get to work for a four-hour day. No. Just no. The roads are dreadful and people are driving way too fast for the conditions. At one point, I was driving at a 45º angle! Four hours of work is not worth taking my life into my hands.

And so, time will be spent working on a project I started in October of 2015 (yikes!), the Hidden Light Cardigan for John. The back is done, the front panels are done up to the arm scyes. And then, I got bored. Or my hands hurt. Whatever the reason, the bag with the pieces and needles has been languishing in my yarn stash. Yesterday, after work, I decided it was time to pull it back out, dust off the pattern (which I would have done had I been able to find it) and pick up where I left off.

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This picture really captures the colour very well.

And so, today I will be spending time listening to the weather news and working on John’s sweater.

Categories: Blogging, Cardigan, Christmas, Holidays, John's Sweater, Knitting, The Weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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