Saturday, November 28, 2009

Time Flies

Time flies when you're having fun, they say. Well, time also flies when you're busy. And since my last post I've had just one day without "extra" activities. There's been a quilt club meeting, two days of quilt workshops, another 8 hour quilt club meeting (just sewing), and another 9:30 to 4 p.m. quilt club day. Probably so much activity because I belong to two quilting groups. It's all fun, but sometimes gets to seem like too much.

Especially when the same stretch of time included two string ensemble rehearsals, two Messiah orchestra rehearsals, a wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and a wedding plus reception. Fortunately I didn't have to play at the reception, just the rehearsal and the wedding. By the way, it was a lovely wedding. Our pastor commented to me, "This is one wedding I'm just happy to be part of!"

After a very mild November we had a beautiful snowfall yesterday, big, fat, fluffy flakes. And today the sun is shining brilliantly on the clean new snow. What a gorgeous sight!

I started one new project yesterday and a second today. Dear Son #2 has two daughters who each celebrate a December birthday. I usually make something quilted or knitted for them. There was a very attractive "Aran Waistcoat" pattern in Mary Maxim catalogues. When it disappeared from the most recent catalogues, I thought I'd better order it before it was no longer available. It came a few days ago, and yesterday I had time to begin. The first version is for
the younger girl, whose birthday is on the 17th. I'm changing the pattern in a few ways: I'm knitting the two fronts and the back all at once up to the armholes. Then I'll separate them and finish the fronts and back separately. Saves sewing the side seams when the vest is finished. So this is the smaller vest, taking up both needles. It's a light blue/dark blue twist, but comes out looking mainly light blue. It had to go down a half size in needles ( 4 1/2 mm rather than 5 mm) because the kntting seemed just too loose on the 5's.

In following the pattern, the "backside" of the cast on became the right side of the knitting. I wonder why patterns are often written this way. The instructions were to knit 6 rows garter stitch, then a row of knit with increases, and then begin row 1 of the pattern. Following that makes the cast on come out backwards to my way of thinking.

In order to avoid that, I began with row 2 of
the pattern, and that puts what seems to be the right side of the cast on on the right side of the knitting. Don't you think the nice little stitches on the bottom of this second picture look better on the outside than the bumps of stitches on the upper picture?

Well, maybe it's not too clear in these
pictures. I had to use the "memory stick" on
my video camera to take these, since the
battery on the new digital needed to be re-
charged. The colour is pretty poor, and I
even lightened them up in the iPhoto program.

The last pic is a really neat needle for sewing up knitted items that I bought some years ago from "Philosopher's Wool". The needle has a turned up point that makes it so easy to slip in and out of knitted fabric. I took a class at a Sewing and Crafts Alive Expo on how to knit a "Philosopher's Fair Isle". It was great!!! Learned how to knit fair isle with one colour in the right hand, and the other in the left, and not just strand the colours, but actually weave them together behind the knitting. The wrong side of the knitting looks as interesting as the right side.

Ann Bourgeois and Eugene Bourgeois are the originators of "Philosopher's Wool" and their fair isle technique is available in a beautiful book, "Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified" published by Martingale & Company, ISBN 1-56477-311-6.

I'm using the "tapestry" needle as a cable needle, since I've never bothered to buy a cable needle. This sturdy needle for sewing together knitted fabric works just fine.

This morning I went to our local wool/fabric shop and picked up a darker blue for the older granddaughter, and started working on the one also, since her birthday comes up first, and I have to have this vest ready to mail by next week Friday. Wonder if I can finish it on time!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Outdoor Projects and F.O.'s

Our wacky weather this year included a very cool dry summer, hot weather in September (our first 30+C [85F] days), very heavy frost early in October, including several snowy days, and now FINALLY in November we're having lovely fall weather. Today we had a high of +15C [55F], when our average high would be only +2C. It gives us the chance to get our fall work done. But I wondered what Jim was busy inspecting down by the pond in the front yard. So I finally went out to look.

He had begun a project that he wanted to do
this summer, but never had time for. He's building a small waterfall in front of the spruce tree at the north end of a little decorative pond we dug in the front yard.

There was a rather boggy spot of low-lying land near the front of the property, and we decided quite early on not to fight that tendency, but to take advantage of it. We had a backhoe come in and dig a large hole about 8 feet deep, filled it with rocks, (to provide drainage), and then scooped out a shallow pond around it.

The first lining, two layers of black plastic, was all too soon pierced by deer hooves, so Jim did some research and found that the very heavy black plastic used to line oil tank containment levees would do the job. Since he installed that we haven't had problems with leakage. This past summer he saw a lovely little rock waterfall in some friends' backyard, and that appealed to him.

With this fine weather he was able to begin constructing his own little waterfall. At this point he was just running water over the rocks with a hose, to check if the positioning was good. Next spring we'll get a submersible pump, and circulate the pond water. It makes a lovely trickling sound that will be a bonus in the landscape during hot weather. It will probably also help the water quality in this small pond.

I've used the good weather to get some fall work done also. You heard about the window washing. Well, I also managed to get the icicle lights hung on the peak of the house, get the car washed, and get the garage cleaned up. Now I feel prepared for winter.

Here's a pair of wool socks I knit for Jim, to keep his cold feet warm during the coming winter. Socks make such a good knitting project to do in the car, so I was busy with these during our summer trip.

Last week I really wanted to finish some quilting projects, but only managed one F.O., the first of the two Christmas tree skirts. This is the one that I made the stupid mistakes on, but in spite of that, it looks very nice. The reds are a little deeper tints
than is evident in this picture. The "grout" is gold lame, left over from D.D.#2's wedding dress. I was having lots of trouble with it fraying, when one of the women in the town quilting club suggested using iron on inter-facing. It worked like a charm.

This week I'd like to finish the other tree skirt, and provided that turns out well, that's the one I'll send to D.D. #2.

There was lots of music going on lately also. Our string ensemble gave its first concert of the season a week ago Sunday. We combined with the chamber choir, each doing half of the program. We were missing two members, who were out with the H1N1, and since we are a small group, we really did miss them! But it went fairly well, and the audience enjoyed both groups.

Now it's time to work on the Messiah, which Rosebud Chorale is going to present the last Sunday and Tuesday of November. So on Saturday four of us drove to Rosebud for a rehearsal. This is the first time I'm playing the viola part, and I kind of miss the busy work that the violins do. I LOVE making music in a group!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Peaceful Scene

A few weeks ago the farmer across the road brought his cattle back from summer pasture to graze the remnants of the cropped field. There is something about watching cattle graze that is terrifically calming. They mosey along with head down, peacefully munching up whatever the combines unintentionally scattered. Once in a while one of them starts to amble away, and pretty soon the majority of them are travelling in a line behind the leader. Then they all settle down again in a new spot.

One interesting thing about this herd this year, is that there is a little coterie of 8 purebread Black Angus that were in the pens together earlier, and formed their own little hierarchy. These eight stick together and shun the "motley" newcomers, preferring their own company, and their comfortable, predictable "pecking order" that was established early on.
I find it so peaceful to sit knitting or doing some handsewing by the front window, looking up now and then at this lovely scene.

Jim designed our landscape in such a way that we have colour throughout the year. In the early spring the Larch are fresh green, and the tulips bloom. The Forsythia add bright yellow and the Muckle Plum sports beautiful pink blossoms. Summer time our landscape is covered with flowers, but in the Fall, we rely on the Asters, the High Bush Cranberries, the Amur Maple, the Burning Bush to give that spark of colour. This Fall we had a very heavy frost early in October, and the leaves all froze on the trees and bushes before they had a chance to colour up. The result was a very dull landscape, as you can see in
these two photos, taken at the same time of year, comparing last year's colour of the Tower Poplar at the end of our drive with this year's dullness. Very disappointing.

This month a lovely young couple in our church is getting married. I have the honor of playing string music for their wedding, and I'll use my viola, with its rich tones. Yesterday I got around to making a present for them, a "marriage banner" from a pattern that I've had for several years but never used. It was actually just a drawing, but since it is quite simple, it wasn't hard to translate into reality.

I made it quite small, just 8 1/2" x 13 1/2", so they can hang it perhaps by the shelf where they keep their devotional books. Not too big so that it's intrusive, but will fit into a little corner somewhere. I always think it's pretty "iffy" to choose something decorative for someone else's home.

The colours, except for the candles themselves, are all different from the pattern's suggestions. And the original had words on it. Rather than clutter it up with words, I printed out an explanation of the symbolism, as follows:

"TWO SHALL BECOME ONE 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.' Mark 10:7-8

This marriage banner portrays the union of two lives, blended in matrimony, becoming one with the Creator of that holy union.

The two pure white candles represent the lives of two pure(ified) children of God. The two distinct flames, representing the separate natures of man and woman, fuse into the greater, more richly-coloured flame, signify that the two have become one in Christ, and that their lives are enriched by the blending of the two. The circle encompassing the flames represents the eternal nature of married love as ordained by God. The deep purple background shows that the two are royal children of the King, our Creator. The small rings across the bottom of the banner represent the outward sign of the inward love, the wedding rings. The fact that there are three rings shows that you are not alone in your marriage--God is there with you. Three rings also symbolize the Trinity.

God bless you richly, P. and K. as you enter this union of your lives in Christ."

One thing remains to be done: the three bronze coloured rings need to be hung from the bottom hem of the banner.

Monday, November 9, 2009

R.I.P., Sam

There are tears on my cheeks right now. Our cat Sam was just put down. The last two weeks he struggled with pain. As long as he sat perfectly still he was all right, but getting up or down caused him to cry. For a little bit we thought he was getting better, but this weekend he took a sharp turn for the worse. His cries of pain were piteous. So we made the hard decision and had him put down this morning.

I will miss him! He was very attached to me, since his mother died when he was only four weeks old, and I took care of him after that. He hadn't had enough nursing, though he was able to lap up enough moisture and eat kitten chow. So for a while he loved to sit on my lap and nuzzle the little pads on my palms just beneath each finger. I actually had to wean him from that by hiding my hands for a while.

Wherever I went in the house, Sam soon showed up. He couldn't be denied when he wanted to go through his greeting ritual. But once he had enough petting and purring, he'd settle down somewhere near and keep me company. He was a good house cat, and never made messes.

Sam really hated wind, rain and snow, but in the summer he spent huge amounts of time outside, roaming around our acreage. When we first lived here I would call to him in the evening, and he would come running. At that time I wanted to keep him safe from the coyotes that come right on our yard during the night. But later both he and our dog Honey somehow knew how to stay outside all night and not tangle with the wildlife.

Sam was a beautiful cat and lived with us for fourteen and a half years. By far the longest any of our cats have survived. So here's to Sam, a beautiful, graceful creature who was close to my heart.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Didn't Plan To

I didn't really plan to wash windows today.
There was plenty of other work to do. The laundry was waiting, more loads than usual since it had been postponed for a while. I don't have a particular day to do the wash, just whenever it piles up enough to make it worthwhile.

But since it was such a lovely day, and the temperature rose to around +10C (+50F) I just couldn't pass up the opportunity. But I did the really, really quick method. With about five inches of hot water, laced with Palmolive dishwashing detergent, and several good big dollops of white vinegar, I quickly soap the window using the sponge on a stick. Blade off the soapy water, rinse with lots of plain hot water (a trick I learned from my friend M. who trained as a hair dresser), blade off the water, and wipe the edges with a dry rag.

Our house is built into a berm, so the main
living areas are upstairs with ground level
access at the back. Fortunately for me, a
balcony wraps around the front of the upstairs and I can easily reach most of the windows. Here's the lovely clean living room window, just sparkling in the sun.

And here's the dining room windows and door to the balcony on the other side of the room. These windows were washed inside and out. The rest of the upstairs windows
had only the outside washed. In the back of the house it was too cold to wash the inside.
I'll have to catch them some morning when the sun is on that side.

Nothing like clean windows to make a house sparkle. Sure am glad I did that this afternoon.

Earlier this morning I had finished redoing
this sweater of Jim's. I knit it for him in 1990, and it's pure wool. The edges of the cuffs had become frayed, so I removed the cuffs and reknit them. The ribbing at the waist was knit one, purl one, and there was just no elasticity left in it. So I raveled that out also and reknit it in a knit two, purl two. The whole redo turned out really well, and now the sweater is ready for another 10? years of wear. The elbows are getting a little thin, and I may need to either reknit them sometime in the future, or sew a suede patch over them.
I had saved a small amount of yarn that was left from the sweater as originally knit, and was also able to reuse much of the yarn from the cuffs and the waistband ribbing. Since the waistband was the last thing redone, I just knit until I thought I was running out, and then began the bind off. There were lots of stitches, and I worried that I'd run out of yarn before it was complete. Look at how close it came! I couldn't have done it closer if I had measured it all out. Love it when something turns out like that!

Well, the moon is coming up huge and yellow behind the shelter belt, and it's time to turn up the thermostat again. Have a cozy evening!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mini Holiday

Sometimes a little 24-hour jaunt feels as good as a whole holiday away from home. That was our experience yesterday. We had been invited to a fund-raising concert for King's Fold Retreat Centre and promised to come if the weather permitted. After weeks of cold, gloomy weather, the sun came out and the temperature moderated. Right now it's +11C which for the second of November is pretty mild.

We left Sunday morning around 10 and drove west to Airdrie, did a little shopping and then went on to Rock Pointe Church, which is on Hwy 1A, west of Calgary, but a little east of Cochrane. Tisha Murvihill, principal harpist with the Calgary Philharmonic, was donating her time and talent to raise funds for King's Fold Retreat Centre, a non-denominational Christian retreat centre in the foothills of the Rockies. She was playing excerpts from her new CD, "A Quiet Afternoon," for an audience of about 180 people. It was just marvelous. She's very talented and very personable. Meditations interspersed the music, which included "Change My Heart, Oh God," "Create in Me a Clean Heart," and "You are My Hiding Place." The entire two hours was just uplifting and satisfying.

Then we met our friends, who had recently moved to King's Fold where O. is the new director, and went to their home at the Retreat Centre for supper and an evening visit. It was dark when we arrived, so we didn't get to see the spectacular scenery until this morning. When we got up the morning sun had coloured the snow-covered mountains pink, but by the time I got out to take a picture, the colours had changed. Didn't get a very good shot, but this at least
gives you an idea of what it's like there.

O. gave us a tour this morning, and we were very impressed with how clean, neat, well organized and thoughtfully built the centre is. There is a main lodge with bedrooms, meeting rooms, a gorgeous dining room with large windows framing the view. There are several smaller outbuildings, including some cabins for fasting retreats, and a very beautiful small chapel. This picture of the
carved entrance door gives you a glimpse of the care that went into the details. A very peaceful place, surrounded by pines and inspiring views of the Rockies.

Google King's Fold, Alberta for some better pictures and information about the centre. If you live anywhere in the area, I recommend a visit or a short or extended stay. Their rates are reasonable, and breakfast, lunch and dinner are available. That is not "camp food" by any means. The meals are wonderful.

It was a treat to visit with O. and D. and their two little boys. They just recently moved to King's Fold from our small town, and we miss them.