Catching Up

Dear Vi,

I’ve turned my chair to look North, where a thunderstorm is slowly working its way down the lake. I sat knitting for an hour or so while Kelly napped in the cabin and listened to thunder rumbling in the distance, wind in the trees, the snick of my knitting needles, the pair of baby ravens learning how to talk as they danced in the sky around their mother.

We have been in the Yukon about five weeks now, ensconced in our cabin at Fox Lake, totally off the grid and being quite antisocial, to tell you the truth.
But I shouldn’t say we. I spent more than three weeks of that time here completely on my own while Kelly was away having an adventure of his own.
He was hired to ferry this beautiful vintage airplane to the Yukon from Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. I’ll tell you more about that in the next letter, I promise.
As consolation for not being allowed to go, too, the day he left, I stopped into The Itsy Bitsy Yarn Shop  (yes, that is really their name) in downtown Whitehorse and treated myself to enough wool to knit myself a sweater in Heritage, from the Briggs & Little Wool Mill in Harvey, New Brunswick. The colour is called Fawn.
The pattern is called Mandolin from the latest issue (Fall 2018) of Knitty Magazine.
It’s coming along well, considering the only thing I really know how to knit is socks. In fact, it’s coming along so fast, I might just have to go buy more yarn and make it a two-sweater summer!
What are you working on this summer?
Posted in Flying, Knitting | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Bye, Sam! Leaving the dog at home

Dear Vi,

Every time we leave the house, we have a conversation with Sam first. Sam sees us getting ready and starts his little happy dance.

Sam: oh boy oh boy oh boy, we’re going somewhere!

Us: Oh, Sam. Mommy and daddy are going to work and you have to stay here. (“Work” means going away without Sam)

Sam: ears go down, slinks away to jump on the bed.

Us: (following Sam into the bedroom) You’re in charge of the house. Don’t let Spooky invite her friends in. Be a good boy. You’re a good boy, yes you are, yes you are. (Said with smooches)

Sam: ducks head to escape smooches.

Us: We’ll be back in a while. Two whiles. Okay, probably more like three. Three whiles. Okay? (Said in overly bright happy tones)

Sam: climbs into the pillows, digs himself a nest to wait out the long desolate hours.

Us: Okay, well. Bye.

Sam: follows us with his sad eyes.

When we pull out of the driveway, there he is, watching through the glass door. We wave. “Bye, Sam.” Then we sigh.

Sometimes I seed his toy basket with treats before I go , creating a sort of doggy Easter egg hunt. When we get home, he’s always found them all.

I know, I know. But I bet you do something similar. Am I right?

Posted in Blog Categories | 3 Comments

The Best Banana Bread in the World

Dear Vi,

Outside the snow is coming down fast and furious, and it’s just the perfect kind of snow, too. Light and fluffy. The kind that squeaks when you walk on it. Not, thank goodness, the heavy wet coastal snow that soaks through every layer and chills you to the bone. Nope! Right now, today, we’re in the Goldilocks zone as far as snow goes. And we’re predicted to get up to 10 inches of it.

Image result for harry potter snow fight gif

Ignoring all the shoveling that needs to be done, I decided to bake banana bread instead.

Do you have a bread machine? I don’t.

Well, I do, but it actually belongs to my son, so technically I don’t. But I have the use of one, which is just as good.

And just so you don’t mistake me, the only thing I use it for is making banana bread. All other bread (by which I mean yeast bread) I make from scratch with my own two hands, no magic allowed, if you don’t count the oven. Or the yeast. Yeast is a little bit magical, don’t you think?

Image result for hogwarts stirring potion gif

Right now, while snow fills my driveway, the wonderful smell of baking banana loaf is filling my house. Can you smell it??  Yup, I know. You’re welcome.

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So, do you have a bread machine?? If you do, here’s my advice: drop everything and go dig it out of the closet right now. Next, take a handful (that’s three) bananas out of your freezer. We both know you’ve got enough bananas in there to feed all the monkeys in the zoo.

I kid you not, the best banana bread in the entire world is made in a bread machine. I don’t know why, and I don’t care.

Here’s my recipe, which I have modified a bit from the original.

Nita’s Magic Bread Machine Banana Bread

In a big bowl, combine the following in the order listed:

  • 2/3 cup milk (I used lactose-free milk because of some dairy issues I’m having at the moment)
  • 3 mashed over-ripe bananas
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar (I use a scant cup because the bananas are so sweet on their own)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Stir together and spoon into the bread pan. Insert the bread pan into your bread machine. Select Quick Bread. If you get a colour option, select medium. Push start.

Yup. It’s that easy. You’re welcome.

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Posted in baking, Cooking, recipe | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Two Quilts for Two Sisters: warming the heart with hearts and chains

Dear Vi,

Last spring I made two quilts that I haven’t shown you yet, and since it’s getting close to the end of the year, and considering these are the only quilts I finished in 2017, I thought maybe I should get their pictures posted!.

The quilts were made for two adult sisters in my family.

I wanted the two quilts to share common elements while also speaking to the personal tastes of each sister, so I chose a versatile pattern: the Irish Chain with hearts.

The first quilt is made with sweet floral fabrics for a soft, comfortable, old-fashioned feeling.

It is the most basic of the Irish Chain versions: a simple 9-patch alternating with a plain square. Except instead of a plain square, I pieced a heart using the same fabric I’d sewn the 9-patches with.The quilt is finished with a mix of machine and hand quilting.

The center of the hearts are hand quilted, as is the looped row of hearts running along the bottom edge of the quilt.

The 9-patches are done in straight-line quilting, and I practiced my free-motion quilting by making loops and hearts in the borders. I’ve only tried free-motion quilting a couple of times and I really enjoyed it. The stitching isn’t perfect, but neither am I, lol!

The second quilt is a Double Irish Chain in a soft grey neutral palate.

I tried to enlarge this so you can see the print. It’s very sweet, and reminds me of France, for some reason. Perfect, because its new owner is bilingual!

I hand quilted hearts into the plain squares. The chains were done with my walking foot.

The soft, neutral tones in this quilt were a challenge to photograph. I apologize for the poor lighting.

It was a pleasure to make both quilts, and I know they are being enjoyed.

Now I think you’re all caught up, as far as finished quilts go, anyway!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours from me and mine. May you always have a warm quilt to warm you, body and soul. ♥

 

 

Posted in Blog Categories, Gifts, Hand Quilting, Quilts | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Head and Shoulders, Knees and…Elbows?

Dear Vi,

I hate to be a complainer, but I just have to tell you:

Too much hand quilting, knitting, typing, and gripping heavy weights at the gym have given me tennis elbow in both arms and caused the arthritis in my hands to flare up.

It’s my own fault. I let it go too far. I let it get away from me. I let it get to the point where it hurts to even pick up a cup of tea.

And that’s not all. Poor ergonomics in my sewing and writing life are affecting my shoulders, neck and back, which (not surprisingly) has worked it’s way down into the knees.

‘It hurts when I cackle!’

Because I’m a writer, I’m often at my laptop for several hours a day. If I want to continue, it’s imperative that I address the ergonomics problem.

Fortunately, I know what I have to do to fix it.

Yesterday I went to Staples and bought myself a properly adjustable office chair. My lower half notices the improved sitting situation already, but my shoulders are still complaining because the keyboard is too high.

In a perfect world, I’d buy a properly adjustable computer desk. But the reality is, we all have to work with what we’ve got and live within our means. Whatever modifications I make to my writing space cannot infringe on the rest of my very small house, and they also have to fall within my fixed-income budget.

Installing a sliding, adjustable keyboard tray (and new keyboard) under my sewing table and using my laptop like a desk computer may be the best solution.

The laptop can easily share real estate with the sewing machine. Both are lightweight & portable, and can easily be unplugged and set it aside to make room for the other. Mr. C will have the final say on whether or not the sewing table can be modified.

It may take a month or more, but getting back to my home yoga practice, doing physio & massage therapy for the elbows, and making these ergonomic fixes will hopefully take care of the worst of the problems.

Have you ever suffered repetitive strain injuries or dealt with ergonomic issues when sitting for long periods at the keyboard or sewing machine? Has knitting or hand quilting ever given you tennis elbow?

Do tell!

Posted in Blog Categories, Health, Knitting, Middle Age, Quilting, sewing, Writing, Yoga | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

All the miscellaneous bits and pieces

Dear Vi,

Today I sent out another query letter for Holding Space. That makes nine. Out of the nine, I’ve received two rejections and one request for a Full. That means the agent liked the query enough to want to read the full manuscript. That’s pretty exciting. Even if she decides it isn’t for her, it’s a huge boost to my writerly self esteem.

And I’ve got a short story out on submission, but I won’t hear for awhile yet.

Meanwhile, I’m working on two new manuscripts. This is a bit discombobulating –  I need to settle into one. Instead, I dither, going back and forth, unable to totally immerse myself in either.

I’ve been busy in other areas, too: I’ve got one quilt ready for binding and another one sandwiched and ready for quilting, and socks on one set of needles and a sweater on another set. Lots of busy going on in that area, as evidenced by the gawd awful mess of knitting and hand sewing paraphernalia next to my side of the couch.

And then, as if things weren’t messy enough,  I decided that most of the pieces of clothing I’ve made up to now are not acceptable. They looked good in the initial trying on, but once I started actually wearing them – out in public, like – their flaws started showing up. Three dresses have been tossed into the recycle bin. There’s enough fabric in the skirts to use as a muslin for a couple of tops I want to make. It’s all a learning process.

Sam and I have really been enjoying the autumn colours this year. Somehow, they seem even more vivid than usual.

What about you? Anything interesting to report?

Posted in Beauty, Blog Categories, Colours, Stitches, Sunnybrae | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments