Thursday, May 31, 2012

Organization for the Nation

Despite having been the teacher's pet many a time and graduating with honours, I despised school.  I was the one child who counted down the days until summer vacation, (do you want the count with or without weekends?) and then counted down the remaining days of summer vacation with dread in my heart.  Just thinking about Labour Day weekend elicited palpitations in my young chest.

Every single one of my first-day-back-to-school photos shows me red-eyed and sniffling, wiping the snot across my face while I waited for the school bus.  I can only imagine my mother, walking back to the house, confoundedly shaking her head and wondering what she did wrong to have been burdened by such an anti-social and non-conformist progeny.

One slogan from my skool daze remains indelibly etched into my gray matter:  Sanitation for the Nation.  That's what the toilet paper holders said in every school I have ever attended, and it's stayed with me to this day.  G. H. Wood. was a supplier of toilet paper, hand paper, and a variety of institutional sundry goods, especially within our school jurisdiction.  The logo could be found everywhere if one was observant enough.

It goes without saying that pretty much any word ending in -ation makes me think of G. H. Wood and Co. and their "Sanitation for the Nation" catchphrase.  Procrastination for the Nation - that's one of my favorites.  Another one is Organization for the Nation.  Having spent exactly half of my lifetime working in some administrative capacity or another, organizing is something I take pride in.  Being able to find the receipt for a 13-year old toaster is a skill (!), and implementing cohesive systems that even alphabetically-challenged coworkers can use efficiently is my forté.

One thing I didn't take pride in was my jumbled recipe file.  Rather, files, folders and binder.  Since the advent of the internet, I have so many favorite cooking sites (Taste Spotting, anyone?) and I have printed up so many recipes that I hardly use my cookbooks anymore.  Organizing all those recipes was my proverbial Waterloo, however.  I tried a binder with a handy A- to Z- index.  Turns out I filed so much stuff under C- (cakes, cookies and chicken anyone?) that looking for the Chicken Marsala recipe caused me to salivate over things like Blondies (should that have been under B?), and swoon over Carrot Cake.  My system lacked a certain efficiency, but I knew where everything was, and pulling the files out and reminiscing about tried-and-true recipes is a task I quite enjoyed, thankyouverymuch.

But I've been on an organizational bender these days.  With our on-going renovations upstairs, we've had to store lots of things, and cull clothing, books and knick-knacks.  The other day I went through the bedroom and ended up with a trunk-full of clothing to be donated to Hudson's community health care society.  I sorted through old books, and many of them ended up in the handy bin at our neighbouring War Memorial Library.  Household goods can be dropped off at the War Memorial Library as well, and are sold on Saturday mornings from 10-12.  Going into "The Bunker", as the basement is affectionately known, requires restraint.  The last time I went, I had to control myself from buying a tiny red table-top piano.  And I don't even play piano.  Go figure.

But back to the recipes.  The other day, I spotted a clear plastic accordion folder at my grocery store.  It was sturdy, it could be wiped clean, and my wheels started to turn.  I picked it up for $5.  If it didn't work for my recipes, it would work for my knitting patterns (again, blame the internet for enabling us knitters).

It took me a while to create my headings, trying to maximize the use of the 24 folders in an efficient matter.  Where do I file my Osso Bucco recipe?  What about my slowcooker recipes?  And those handy little booklets from Carnation Milk and Robin Hood Flour and the BC Salmon Fishing Council?   I needed a cohesive and intuitive system, and wanted to utilize the folder to its full capacity.  With a few Post-it notes and dry-runs under my belt,  I was confident enough to make permanent folder names with my beloved P-touch labeller.

Oh bliss:

I am enjoying my new filing system more than you can imagine.

Now, what's for dinner again?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rams and Yowes - A Progress Report

Sad but true, I am ashamed to admit that I fell out of love with my Rams and Yowes project.  This is the first time I've knit with Shetland wool, and if I were smart enough (which obviously, I'm not), I would have made a swatch and blocked it before launching into this project.  But I'm not interested in getting gauge - it's a blanket, after all - but what swatching would have done was still the nagging thoughts in the back of my mind that my knitting wasn't even enough.

When I looked at photos of blankets-in-progress on-line, I decided I must have been doing something wrong.  This blanket surely wouldn't block out perfectly, and with every passing row, my doubts and fears grew thanks to my very active imagination.

As projects are sometimes wont to do, it got put in its dedicated clear zippered bag, and placed on top of the dryer, not quite out of sight, but there as a mocking reminder of my knitterly short-comings.  Every time I went into the laundry room and did a load of laundry, there it sat, unrequited and unfulfilled.  It was the "nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah" of the wooly world.  And it was in the laundry room that my stroke of genius (I'm being kind, it was more of a lucid moment) came to me.  I'd just purchased a new state-of-the-art pressure steam iron.  A real steam iron - let me tell you - this thing ain't messing around.  And using said steam iron, I steamed my uneven stitches, and watched in joy and disbelief as each stitch relaxed under the steam's spell.  Suddenly, the knitting evened out, and I did a little jig.  If this were a relationship, well, we're back on again, as the saying goes.

So I'm giving the Rams and Yowes full attention these days, now that it's back on the front burner and the heat's turned up to high.  Since the above photo was taken, I've managed to finish the Rams in the middle section, and start in on the Yowes which mirror the opposite end.  I'm starting my third section of Yowes, so the end is in sight.  With a few more days of love, we'll be ready to steek and start the border, which involves picking up 700 plus stitches along all four sides.  I'll be sure to let you know how that goes.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

On Lilac and Lopi

The lilac is in full-bloom as evidenced by the above, and our weather has been balmy and sunny, reaching a high of 31C or 88F on Monday, May 21.
We've got all sorts of lilac growing all over, most of it where we don't exactly want it, but when they're in full bloom, we forgive them their location, and enjoy their heady scent and beautiful blooms.
These were all started from seed by a previous owner, so bonus points there, but eventually we're going to have to relocate some, and hopefully they'll take in their new location.  The ones above aren't perfectly white, but have a light, light lilac tinge to the blossoms before they open.  They are superbly beautiful.  This year I picked a few vases' worth, and the smell in the house was unbelievable.  It's just a shame they don't keep well as cut flowers.

Besides the great weather we've been enjoying, last Monday was a holiday, so all the better!  It gave me the opportunity to sit under our new steel-blue umbrella and enjoy its lovely cast while knitting a long-forgotten UFO.
I started this Védis Jónsdóttir design called Nú last October or November, right after I received my big batch of Lopi from Iceland.  It was supposed to be a quick knit - maybe a day or two worth of work - but through a bit of carelessness, I ended up making the wrong size sleeves.
Try as I might, I couldn't get the yoke decreases to work properly since I had 4 extra stitches, and since these decreases form an integral part of the design, I couldn't really fudge a "knit 3 together", although I gave it my best shot.  Bulky yarn is unforgiving like that.  The project was stuffed into a bag, and stuffed into a Rubbermaid bin, and clear out of my consciousness.

So the project languished until Monday morning.  Armed with a free day, sunny skies, and nothing on the agenda,  I sat outside and pulled the yoke back.  For some obscure reason, I had even proactively grafted the underarms already, and once I unpicked my grafted stitches, I could pull the arms back.
Working with 12mm needles is hard work.  The stitches don't flow, instead, they need to be pushed on the needles with coercion, every stitch requiring effort to load it on the needle, knit it, and push it onto the next.  (Note to self:  bulky yarn and fat needles do not a quick project make).
To top things off, I needed to use the dreaded magic loop method of knitting, because I couldn't find 12 mm double pointed needles.  I cannot fathom why anyone would knit this way, unless it's under duress.  Give me my 12 mm double-pointed needles, and no one gets hurt.

But spurred on by a gentle breeze, I had one sleeve knit back up again, in the correct size this time, of that I made doubly sure.  I was on a roll, and I know myself well enough that I needed to take full advantage of my mood, lest this project fall off the radar for another few months.  The next sleeve didn't exactly fly off the needles either, more of a push/knit/push slog-fest, but soon it was done, too.  I joined sleeves to body, and started in on the yoke, and from there on, the finish line was clearly within reach.

At 10:30 PM, with ends woven in, I called it a night.  I just had the underarms to graft, but even that was accomplished during my lunch-time at work the next day.

So, with one less thing in the UFO basket, my knitting resolution for 2012 won't exactly hold, but finishing one more UFO makes me feel infinitely better about the Sweet Georgia CashLuxe Fine yarn I just bought on-line to make a Colour Affection Shawl, known in knitting circles as the Colour Infection Shawl, because it's gone viral as some knitting patterns do.

Sometimes I amaze even myself.  And what I didn't realize, despite the dire remarks all over the website, is that Sweet Georgia is dyed-to-order.  Naturally, I am just chomping at the bit to get my eager little hands on that wool.  But what it's done is buy me some time (4 to 6 weeks?) to finish my Rams and Yowes blanket before my order comes in.  It's back on my radar with a progress report forthcoming.

Resistance is futile.  I will be assimilated. Of this I am sure.
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