Sunday, November 06, 2011

Schparkle!

It was the end of daylight savings time, that lovely time of year when we can all make like Cher and turn back time. Despite the advent of 4:30 sunsets, I was thrilled to have an extra hour on Sunday to dedicate to blogging. Blame seasonal affective disorder (NOT seasonal affected disorder) on my inability to finish the post for two whole weeks. Can I get some love and understanding? Do you believe in life after failure to blog? Can the beat go on? How do I fit gypsies, tramps and thieves into this? Maybe I'll just turn to something else Cher is no stranger to: sequins!


In what must be a record-breaking turnaround, I have managed to knit souvenir yarn into a finished object within a month of purchase. 30 days! That's like, standard invoice turnaround!


Pattern: Made 'er up.
Yarn: Sequin-spangled cotton yarn I brought back from Germany, striped with wool sock yarn picked up ages ago at a thrift store.(I guess you could call it a half breed?)
Needles: 3mm and 3.75mm circulars (magic loop)


This yarn was screaming beret and I listened. I figured the sequins would be pretty scratchy around the 'ole noggin, so I opted to use wool for the ribbing. When a co-worker suggested striping the wool in with the sequin yarn I thought it was a bang-up idea. It's a good thing I listened too, because by the time I started the decreases that little cone of yarn was looking mighty thin. I finished the beret with just a few meters to spare!


I'm thrilled to have a shiny little whisper of a hat to wear before the real warm woolies of winter are needed. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to like it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Honeymoon Part 3: Germany

Ich bin ein Berliner!

Arriving in Berlin to see a Marimekko store directly across the street from our hotel, I knew I was in trouble. I'm convinced Berlin is the birthplace of "hipster". I saw a guy walking down the street in a full mechanic-style coverall - Somehow, he pulled off this look without looking like an extra from Grease. If you like a 5 shoe stores on every block (I do!), the Scheunenviertel may be for you.

So what does a young couple do in a European capital dripping with history? Visit museums of course:

Clockwise from top left: The Ramones Museaum repro CBGB's style awning/
Outtakes from the Ramones album cover shoot showing Dee-dee stepping in poo/
Promo needles and pins-uh/Leaving our mark in the guestbook.

Why there is a Ramones Museum in Berlin and not NYC is beyond me. Of course, we couldn't leave Berlin without checking out some local history too:

Clockwise from top left: The Trabant: East Germany's sexiest ride!/
Re-creation of a typical east German apartment at the DDR museum/Bits of the wall/
The un-monument at the site of Hitler's bunker and "grave": a low-key sign in a parking lot
/
The very monumental holocaust memorial


But wait, didn't we visit yarn and record stores? Of course we did. Who's vacation do you think you're looking at?

I should mention my husband's affinity for collecting extends beyond records. On the left is his happiest place on earth, the Taschen store. On the right, compulsive flea-market purchases leave the collector sad at the prospect of hauling 10 tonnes of books and records back to Canada. (I had considerably lighter baggage, but only after curbing my appetite for giant European fashion magazines)

Handmade Berlin had a couple of Ruth Marshal's knitted animal pelts on display - cool!

Somehow, shopping in Berlin left me with very few actual German souvenirs. I bought yarn from Italy and Japan...

At left: Italian cotton/sequin yarn. Right: Laceweight Japanese yarn
(yes, it's Noro - a cashmere blend - yum!)
...fabric from Finland...

...and boots from Spain.
Fabulous handmade Vialis boots!

My only truly Berlin souvenir? A couple of tiny Ampelmännchen ornaments for my Christmas tree.That's a wrap folks! My "honeymoon". Two weeks, 3 countries, 6 planes and a whole lotta fun.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Honeymoon Part 2: The Netherlands

For some, Amsterdam brings to mind tulips, windmills and wooden shoes. For others, marijuana, prostitution and Harold and Kumar. Me? Amsterdam's allure was it's geographical location directly in between our other vacation stops, Ireland and Germany. Don't get me wrong, I was very interested in seeing Amsterdam, it just wasn't at the top of my list. Now having been there, all I want to do is go back to our little houseboat on a canal!

This was our floating oasis for 3 nights. It was directly across from Anne Frank house
- you could watch the queue from the bathtub.
Sirrussly, you guys!

While reading your morning paper, you could also feed swans
out the window. Sirrussly, you guys!

Amsterdam really blew me away. I found myself walking around just groaning; "Waah! It's so beautiful!".
The medieval city centre looks like a postcard at every turn.
Sirrussly, you guys!

Some highlights: Bikes!

Special traffic lights just for bikes!

As
a cyclist who has to navigate busy city streets riding between traffic on my left and parked cars on my right (ready to open a door in my path at any given moment), the dominance of bicycle transit in Amsterdam made me want to cry. We rented bikes one day and it was so refreshing and fantastic to ride along dedicated, separate bicycle traffic lanes - with their own traffic lights! The only downside? Getting lost on a bike happens a lot faster than on foot.

Beer!

Now y'all know I'm a wino at heart, but Holland is beer country. The Arendsnest serves exclusively Dutch beers - 120 bottled and 30 on tap. You could have a different brew every day for almost 6 months!

Food!

Moeders (Mothers) is plastered floor to ceiling with pictures of people's mums.

While herring doesn't exactly appeal to me, let's not forget the Dutch like to serve french fries with mayonnaise (sinfully yummy!). I did give the old' hutspot a try at Moeders.

Shopping!
True to form, where He purchased records, She purchased yarn. I made a point to check out De Afstap. The store was very cute, though the majority of the yarn they carried was Rowan, which I can get anytime in Canada. I didn't find any Dutch yarn (does that even exist?), but picked up a nice skein of Swedish lace-weight wool. I also picked up a couple of really cool Dutch stitch dictionaries.

It's a good thing the books have readable charts because one thing
I didn't pick up in Amsterdam, was Dutch.


Warning: If you feed those canal swans once, they come out of nowhere,
Terminator style, every time you open your houseboat door!


Since returning home, I find myself sounding like a pretentious Gweneth Paltrow; "Oh, you really MUST go to Amsterdam, it's simply DIVINE!". I need to go back there someday! Sirrussly, you guys!


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Honeymoon Part 1: Ireland

Despite the fact the b.f. and I planned on taking a European vacation before we planned to get married, everyone is calling our recent vacation our "honeymoon". I'm not sure why I feel strange about the word "honeymoon", but then again, I'm also having trouble using the word "husband". What it all really boils down to, is that no one gives a rats-ass that I don't want to call my trip a honeymoon; it's the first vacation my boyfriend husband and I have taken after our wedding therefore, it must be our honeymoon. ("If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck").

Honeymoon Part 1: Ireland

Fiddle-dee-dee and such! My boyfriend husband's extended family is from Northern Ireland, so we spent the first half of our trip in Belfast and the surrounding area, with a quick stopover in Dublin.

Things you may know about Ireland:

1) It is green and hilly.

I refused to leave Ireland without visiting a caste. This one on the right
is in Carlingford, a name for whatever reason, we had infinite trouble remembering;
"Where was that castle again? Carlington? Carlsberg?"


2) There are lots of pubs.

The Crown Bar in Belfast is the epitome of Victorian decor.
The pub is such a historical monument it's owned by the National Trust.


3) It's damp.
4) There are a lot of (natural) red-heads.
5) U2, James Joyce, the Pogues, Frank McCourt, Van Morrison, Sinead O'Connor, Colin Farrell

Things you may not know about Ireland:

1) The Republic of Ireland (the one with Dublin) and Northern Ireland (the one with Belfast) are two different countries. (Seriously, a lot of people don't know this).
2) George Best is a very famous Northern Irish footballer (soccer, that is). I'm the moron that landed at George Best airport and asked; "So who is this George Best anyway? A politician?"
3) The "Peace walls" have stood longer than the Berlin wall. Irish political history should not be taken lightly.

4) English currency is the pound sterling, Irish currency is the Euro, Northern Irish currency is a different Irish pound. You can use English pounds in Northern Ireland, but you can't use Northern Irish pounds in England. This results in a wallet full of confusing bills.
5) Thin Lizzy, Liam Neason, the Titanic, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Before Ireland, all I knew about Thin Lizzy was "The boys are back in town".
Now the entire "Lizzy" discography is sitting in my living room.

Sprinkled in with the family visits and pints of Guinness, we managed a little shopping.

Him: records.

Her: yarn.



Some hobbies are easier to fit in your suitcase than others.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION STAY AT HOME: PART 3

D.I.Y.!

During one of our lunch-hour conversations, me and my ladies at work coined a new term; "Borderline pioneer disorder". Loosely defined, if you have conducted, or had the desire to conduct any of the activities you may know from Little House on the Prairie, you may be suffering from this malady. Make a quilt? Borderline. Can your own homegrown tomatoes? Borderline. Raise a sheep, shear it, wash it, card it, spin it into yarn, knit it into a sweater? Well, that's full-fledged pioneer territory.

My "pioneer" efforts this summer were decidedly more Martha Stewart than Laura Ingalls Wilder.


Bourbon Poached Peaches
. This was an amazing year for Ontario peaches, so I decided I should preserve some of the bounty. Unfortunately, peach season coincided with the ongoing heatwave we call July in Toronto. Nothing makes you feel more pioneer-y than slaving over a giant pot of boiling water in 40 degree (104 F) heat.

After an afternoon of sweat, I produced exactly one and a half jars of peaches. Sigh. Despite following the recipe to a "T", something went awry and my peach-to-syrup ratio was seriously unbalanced. So what did I do with all that extra peachy-bourbon syrup?

Nothin' beats a heatwave like a Mint Julep.

Martha may have let me down at the peach party, but she came through like a champ in the cut-and-paste category.
As a renter, I can't say I've ever put much thought into my light fixtures. When we moved in (10 yrs ago!) we covered the bare bulbs in each room with cheap and cheerful paper lanterns from Chinatown. When I saw this idea in Martha Stewart Living, a light bulb went off (har-har!).

If you'd like to make a lantern yourself, I used regular white craft glue
instead of double-sided tape with great results.






I'm sure Martha did not intend for these paper-crafts to be used as permanent indoor lighting solutions, but hey - I'm not Martha. I also hope to move out before these lamps (I made two, one for the bedroom and one for the kitchen) get dusty and yellow. A friend told me the lamp shade looks like a swan's ass. Swan's asses are pretty, so I concur!

Last but not least, I broke out the spray-paint. Not very "pioneer" at all, but Soule Mama is terribly pioneer and she did it too.


After scoring some frames leftover from a photo-shoot, I gave them a cohesive look with a coat of turquoise spray paint. Spray painting is messy, but I love the result. Behold the new hallway gallery!

I finally found a home for the funny brass peacock decorations I thrift-ed years ago!

After a stinky hot summer in the city, I'm finally taking a vacation. The new hubby and I are packing up a heading to Belfast/Amsterdam/Berlin. Stay tuned for tales of European adventure!



Saturday, August 27, 2011

WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION STAY AT HOME: PART 2

Gardening!

Slowly but surely, I've turned my self-proclaimed "black thumb" into something close to a shade of green. Each year I learn a little more about gardening, and here I'll share with you some of the knowledge I've gained.

1) Some annuals are really "biennials".


Last years pansies and alyssum(s?) showed up for another patio season. This has not only taught me a little bit about those specific plants, but I've learned a little lesson in "just go with it" gardening. I didn't plan on these guys showing up, but it's not like I hired a landscape architect. If the plant can survive the desert-like blazing sun of my patio, it is more than welcome to hang out with us.

2) Not all unexpected garden guests are weeds.


Now, I'm not talking about neighbours or long-lost cousins showing up unannounced, I'm speaking strictly of the flora variety. Sometimes the unwillingness to pull weeds in a timely fashion, coupled with the inability to recognize plants unless they are in flower can yield a few extra blooms in the garden.

What's that purple thing in the nasturtiums?

A pansy - Surprise!

And who invited Iris? Surprise!

This is an iris, right?

I think of these plant pop-ups as a little reminder that flower don't exclusively appear in the tightly controlled environment of a nursery. Mother Nature knew what she was doing long before greenhouses and "Miracle Grow".

3) "Organic" gardening is hard work, or, "pests suck".

When faced with garden pests, you have two options: chemicals or elbow grease. Despite the fact I'm not growing food in my garden (I learned that lesson last year), I have a real aversion to using pesticides. For that reason, I learned a lot about slugs this year:

-How did I get garden slugs?
There were probably eggs in one of the plants I purchased.

- How did I discover I had slugs in my garden?
Dahlias are slug filet mignon. After a week or so of "what's eating my dahlias?" I finally asked google. Because slugs only come out a night, they are hard to discover unless you're really looking for them.

- How does one get rid of slugs?
Ugh! Dedication and determination. Without chemicals, you basically have to just pick them out of the garden and squish them. I tried beer traps with mediocre results. Waiting for the sun to go down and picking the little suckers worked best. I think oats helped a little too (they eat them and then the oats expand inside them and kill 'em - muah-ah-ah-ah!). Drunk on the power to eradicate garden infestation, I started to play god with #4...

4) Resurrection is possible.

Buying a few dahlias this year has apparently been quite educational. I'm not sure if "real" gardeners would classify dahlias as finicky plants, but they seem to be fussy babies to me. What's wrong, dahlia? You don't like being eaten by slugs in the scorching July sun? Suck it up, princess!

Princess Dahlia shortly after her rescue from the desert sun.

After their near death experience in my full-sun planter box, rather than throw them out, I re-planted the sorry-looking Dahlia stubs in pots and placed them in a slightly shadier corner. A few weeks later ...

Ta-da! Back from the dead!

5) Pay attention.

This is probably the single most important thing I've leaned about caring for plants. If you don't ignore them, they don't die. What a crazy concept! People that claim to be horrible with plants don't have some kind of recessive gene for plant-killing, they just aren't interested in gardening. If you don't look at your houseplants more than once a month they will probably die. If you simply cast your eyes upon that philodendron once a week, you may remember to water it and therefore, sustain it's life. It's not rocket science. Anyone can keep a plant alive, you just need to have an interest in doing so.

Thus concludes today's lesson. I think I'm still light years away from being a great gardener, but perhaps I'm on the right path?

WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION STAY AT HOME: PART 1

It appears most of the summer has elapsed without a single word here at good 'ole Knitteroo. Let's catch you up in installments shall we? Think of them as a collection of "what I did on my summer vacation" essays. Try to ignore the fact that I have neither taken a vacation, nor do I intend to write a formal essay.

WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION STAY AT HOME: PART 1

I got married!

After 11 years of coupledom, we decided to get "serious".

The dress:


From "Vintage Mix 1" , Ossingston, Toronto. $30!

The Shoes:

From "Original" on Queen St W, Toronto - Don't ask $$$!

The city hall cermony:

The guy who married us was named "Gordon Brown".
I'm fairly certain he was never the prime minister of England.

The dash to the restaurant:

Okay, nothing much special going on here, I just love this picture!

The dinner:

La Palette: We sorely miss their Kensington market locale,
but the food and service was no less spectacular on Queen Street.

There you have it. No horse-drawn carriage, no 200 of our closest friends, no chicken dance, just family and a nice meal. I couldn't imagine it any other way.

P.S. All photos by Jennifer Rowsom. She's amazing!