Tuesday, January 9, 2018

First Weiner Roast of the Year

The Husband has a seemingly insatiable appetite for hotdogs, especially cooked over an open fire.

Me, not so much.

However, if that's what is on tap for supper, and if it is a nice day to be outside, I'll go for one. Just one. With sauerkraut, mustard and chipotle sauce.

Of course, at this time of year the first step is to liberate the fire pit from snow. It was drier snow when The Husband cleared the path and area around the pit. I'd burned spoiled boxes and other debris the day before (Saturday), so the pit itself was mostly snow-free.

The Youngest Grandson and his mom were over earlier in the afternoon, when the fire was built, and he enjoyed not only a walkable path (his legs are still very short) but packed snow to climb on and *mmm!* clean snow to eat.

It isn't a meal without merit. We do provide proper rehydration. And yes, that label says Wayne Gretsky. Don't knock it until you've tried it.

Although the morning hadn't been promising, the wind died down for a bit, and it was +2C outside, perfect conditions. Well, a little more sunshine would have been nice, but we'll take what we get and be happy for it.

See. All the condiments.

It's said that you should start as you intend to continue, or more accurately, 

“Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began, and let the Lord be all in all to you.”

Charles Haddon SpurgeonAll of Grace

This is a very good start to the new year.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Early January 2018

It's winter here. Of course. Lots of snow. Very cold for this region, and extremely cold over the past two weeks elsewhere in the country.

This is the time of year when I hunker down with the spinning wheel, find something to watch on Netflix, and shut the door on the world.

Well, there is also visiting, writing, curling and... drinking? Occasionally. But mostly spinning these past few weeks.

I love the juxtaposition of ancient craft and modern technology in this photo:

It seems to sum up a great deal of my life.

I'm spinning the second of two Bombyx silk dyed rovings I bought in Vancouver last fall.

It's hard to take photos that show the true colours in this fibre - I have an adequate but not professional camera, not-so-great lighting, and then there's the sheen of the silk that defies the entire photography process.

Natural light on the window sill seems to provide some accuracy in the colours.

When I spin rovings, I pull them apart into manageable lengths, and then further fan them out, so that the 'draw' onto the bobbin is as consistent as possible.

And when two bobbins have enough single ply of about equal amount, they are plied together to make a two-ply yarn.

The purpose of the wheel is to twist the fibre strands together, the singles in one direction and the plied yarns back against each other in the opposite direction. It's difficult (impossible, for me at least) to get the twist perfectly even. So when the plied yarns are finished and removed from the bobbin in a skein, it tends to twist upon itself.

No matter the fibre, I always take the next step, which is steaming the skein over a boiling kettle of water. It relaxes the overspun spots, 'sets' the twist and generally relaxes everything.

And this is what a calm, relaxed skein looks like. Never mind the colour - these were taken in the kitchen under bright lights.

My rough count is around 1400m of two-ply yarn (which is 2800m of spun singles) from 78g of fibre, so about 18m per gram. Not bad. My wedding ring puts the size into perspective.

Yes, there was also Christmas and New Year's recently past. Christmas was a somewhat boisterous affair at our house involving local family and friends, and included three youngsters under the age of 5, a couple of crokinole boards, food and beverages, liberally mixed with good humour.

It's never too early to learn to play crokinole!

Hoping you had a joyous holiday season, and that 2018 brings you health, happiness and love.

Currently reading "Solomon Gursky Was Here" by Mordecai Richler

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Mid-December Report

It's snowing tonight. Big fluffy elephant-sized flakes. Winter solstice is fast approaching.

So what are we doing these days?


You may notice that there are a lot of books in this corner of the house: on the end table, the ottoman, the window ledge (two piles), the floor. You can't see the ones on The Husband's end table to the left of the photo, nor the pile (or two) ... well, let's just say that there is a lot of reading going on.


The Husband has decided that this is the winter to finally finish the second bedroom in the basement. It was always framed-in but the studs were covered with fabric. There are only three walls to do in here, and then the hanging ceiling. The outside wall has been framed out past the concrete foundation and insulated (the styrofoam insulation is at and below ground level) and he's started installing the drywall.

There's one more room to finish when this one's done - my sewing/weaving room. There is no window in that area as the wall is completely underground, or mostly - you can see where the styrofoam insulation follows the ground level. The yellow fibreglass insulation is what's also behind the pink batt in the first photo.

The Husband mounting drywall onto the studs. You can see the wall he finished a few years ago, all tongue-and-groove pine. When the walls are all done, he'll install the ceiling tiles.


Meanwhile, it's that time of the year. What time is that? you ask. Why, time to decorate the ficus tree. Isn't that what all of you do in late December?

The ficus loves this house and despite repeated trimmings, threatens to overtake the house on a regular basis. We're expecting a houseful of company for Christmas dinner so decided to forego installing a fir tree in the interests of better traffic flow.

Every year I squawk about decorating a tree, and every year I'm glad I did. I unpack the box of ornaments and memories flood over me: from childhood, from our children's childhoods, of places and people and so much love.

The moccasins that Marilyn made 30 years ago, recalling both a dear friend and a life made in the north; they remind me of our Kookum who taught me how to make moosehide moccasins and how to do beadwork, who made our children's first footwear - Cree wrap-up moccasins. 

These are tiny - about 4 cm long.

Another Marilyn ornament - baby Jesus in a walnut shell.

An angel made from corn husk, one of a fleet of angels that live throughout this house.

A tiny stocking The Son made in kindergarten or Grade One, 25 years ago.

A really tiny stocking, about 2 cm long, whose origins are lost.

One of the many antique glass ornaments.

And another.

Two more that bring back memories of my childhood Christmases. I remember glass balls with the concave centres, somewhat larger than these (or maybe I was just littler and they looked bigger); I'd gaze into the reflected centres and see magic.

John's angel. Our friend and riding buddy who died far too young. He smoked too much, had appalling dietary habits and was a left-brained neurotic, but he was our friend and we miss him.

One of two tiny Egyptian glass perfume bottles my Aunt brought home from a trip through that region.

A tiny knitted mitten, 4 cm long, origins unknown-forgotten, but still cherished.

A letter pouch that's been on every tree for 35 years. From who?


Cookies. Oodles and oodles of cookies. Whipped shortbread. Sugar cookies. Pinwheels. Haystacks. Butterscotch crunch.

"Who will eat them all?" asks The Husband.

Who indeed.


Working on a new roving of silk.

I'm hopelessly addicted to spinning silk. Winter is the time for silk, alpaca, cotton, angora - the fine fibres. Summer is when I spin wool, when the heat of the day softens the lanolin and makes the fibre work better.

In the winter, my hands are not so rough from garden work, so the fine fibres move easier through my fingers.

Whatever. I truly don't need an excuse to spend hours working with silk.

Have you found something enjoyable to make the winter days go by?

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Physics of Curling

"Smarter Every Day" is a fabulous series of videos. I love how I can learn more about science and technology without feeling like I've been 'dumbed-down' to.

Not sure how I came upon this particular video, but it's great! Of course, being a curler makes it cooler for me. What is particularly interesting is that Destin Sandlin, the presenter, is from Alabama - a place not known for its curling prowess. That Destin is cute, smart and personable is all bonus.

Take a gander and learn why curling looks easy but those of us who play the sport know how darned hard it can be.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Date Night Roller Derby

We've been together for 35 years but that doesn't mean we don't go dating anymore. Friends of ours have regular date nights, but we have a long-standing tradition of deciding on the way to an event whether or not this counts as a date. Automatic disqualification is any trip that involves grocery shopping, medical appointments or visiting relatives.

Last weekend we went old-school for a date and took in the season opener of the regional women's flat track roller derby league: 

This isn't roller derby like you might remember back in the day on TV. 
Best comparison is that the TV show is to roller derby as WrestleMania is to Olympic wrestling.

Here's a primer video:

And here's some of the action in Armstrong when the Farmers' Slaughters took on the Kootenay Derby AF:

What can I say? It was a hoot! Next bout is Dec 20 - be there or be square.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Winter Quail Station

California Quail thrive in Southern BC, despite being transplants. We do, however, make sure that there is sufficient feed available to enable them to get through the winter with relative ease. Sunflower oil seeds are the best, but we also provide mixed seeds with them.

Winter has come earlier, and it seems the main flock has moved onto our property for the season. They used to hunker in at a place down the street, only visiting us on their rounds, but the elderly couple who lived there have moved to a place better suited to their needs. 

There are over 60 birds in this flock: several mated pairs and their offspring from this summer. The are a bit flighty but comfortable around people. And they're so darned cute, who wouldn't go to the trouble and expense of keeping them around! There's always room for more when it comes to birds at our house.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Autumn and Giving Thanks

Halloween is just around the corner. I have some carving pumpkins outside on the veranda, yet to be carved. Today, perhaps.

True to form, Mother Nature has decided that autumn shall be the season of rain. And while we desperately needed the rain to replenish the depleted ground reserves, it's making a cool season into a distinctly chilly and unpleasant one.

The colours are up to top standard, however, so we'll give Her that. 

The Husband is home again after six weeks working up north. We went for a drive yesterday, exploring some back roads in Spallumcheen, up towards Sicamous. The sun was shining, making the maples, sycamore and other trees glow in their brilliant red, orange and gold foliage. Won't be long and the wind will scatter them in all directions.

Friends from Alberta were out for the Thanksgiving weekend earlier this month. I took them to a few wineries that Saturday afternoon, and we found the rainbow (above) on the Okanagan Reserve. Dramatic skies were been the order of the day.

Waffles are a breakfast specialty around here when there is company. Loaded with sliced fresh fruit, yogurt, maple syrup (real maple syrup - this is Canada, after all), even jam or peanut butter, it's a friendly way to start the day. That and a pot of strong black coffee.

Thanksgiving Day really is a holiday for family and friends. It's our annual reminder to give thanks for the bounty we've been given: love, shelter, food. I don't think we do that often enough. I know people who keep a daily Gratitude Journal. Despite the fact that I make my living as a writer, I am a terrible journal writer. I just can't stick to a daily diary or journal. I try to be mindful, however, of being grateful for the blessings I receive. A lifetime of harvests, sometimes after very difficult - even disastrous - growing seasons, keeps one aware.