Thursday, December 31, 2015

Say Goodbye and Hello

The best way to bid farewell is with an afternoon of cooking, no doubt culminating in 20 minutes of gluttonous eating. Trust me. And the best way to cook is with copious amounts of fat, preferably butter. Ask any chef and they'll tell you. If they don't, they're flat out lying.

Tonight's menu is a family fave: quiche Lorraine (Julia's recipe - though I make the crust recipe from The Joy of Cooking), asparagus with wild mushroom and brie sauce and, for dessert, apple pear crumble (with pistachios and almonds). I can't be sure there won't be cream on top of the crumble.

And for some food porn:

Prebaked Crust - Recipe in The Joy of Cooking. You've got to blind bake it before adding the quiche custard...

Seriously, is there anything better than bacon? Except lardons??

You line the blind-baked crust with lardons, just before adding the custard mixture (see photo below)...

This custard is a simple mixture of eggs, cream, salt and pepper. Takes 3 minutes to make.
And here's what it comes to, in the end:

We like a lot of space between the top of the deep-dish pan and the custard. Makes for more crunchy crust!
Seriously, people, if you are afraid for your arteries, do not make this meal. I have actually modified the menu items to remove some of the fat. For example, I cannot conscion adding 2 tbsp butter to the top of a quiche, the ingredients of which are these: lard, flour, butter (in the crust), lardons, 1 cup of heavy cream, eggs, salt and pepper. A girl needs to draw the line somewhere. I use whole milk, not cream, when making my mushroom cheese sauce.

But I do NOT skimp on the butter in the crumble:

See those little dots of apple/pear coloured something? Yeah, that's butter. And, btw, that's the secret to your perfect crumble. When it mixes with the collapsed fruit, vanilla extract, pinch of sugar, lemon and corn starch, it creates a perfect confit.

Add some hand-crushed pistachios, almonds, more butter, flour and sugar, and you've got yourself an awesome, crunchy topping:

Natch, this is pre-baking
And this just came out of the oven (which is why I've updated the post):

You'll have to trust me when I tell you that this is much browner than the pre-baked version and bubbling nicely.
You can see why we need to add some asparagus to the mix.

(I cannot be sure that there won't be a good bottle of wine for pairing.)

Bye-bye 2015. You've been all kinds of things. But I'll put my money on the future.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Work in Progress: KNUS Sweater

As anticipated (but sooner than I imagined), the weather has gone supernova winter. Fuck. (That's what my irises are saying right now.) Last night we had a few cm of snow which morphed into frozen rain for a few more cms and then culminated in a bunch of rain (ongoing). You cannot imagine the dangerous slush/ice fest that's right outside my door.

Needless to say, I'm sitting on my couch and knitting.

Here's the thing: I appear to be incapable of following a pattern, as written. I'm making the KNUS and I've been compelled to give it waist shaping. Why? Well, the Ravelry projects page is an invaluable resource. I've said it before and I'll say it again: If you see a bunch of finished projects and most of them reveal a particular flaw (my perspective, natch), don't imagine you can make the same garment, in the same way, without encountering the same flawed outcome.

In this instance, the body of the sweater is an unshaped box and most of the wearers look boxy. Not my scene - especially since I have to delineate adequately between my stomach (the place I store most of my body fat) and my boobs. Don't kid yourself - an intelligent pattern-maker will model the finished object on someone who can pull off whatever the finished object shape happens to be. In this instance, that model is a waif with no boobs. Of course KNUS looks proportioned on her. Most of the peeps making this garment will not fit that description because most knitters are not 20-something waifs who are 6 feet tall. You've got to make the garment to fit you. The drafting and pattern, as written, are no indicator of that possibility.

But here's the dilemma. The stitch pattern is a complex version of K1P1 (or 1x1 rib) called square rib. Good luck finding any evidence of what that is online. Alas, 1x1 rib does not lend itself easily to stitch decreases and increases (the mechanism by which shaping is achieved) because you have to retain the pattern and, the minute you get rid of one K or one P, you're left with 2 Ps or 2 Ks stuck together. It's a bitch.

I spent a good hour figuring a way to do this without obstructing the rib and eventually landed upon something that could work on the decrease (and complementarily on the increases I'll work thereafter to return to the width required before knitting the bust and arms). It's not as pretty as it usually would be - where one is able to leave a stitch on either side of the waist marker to give a bit of additional definition of the "seam". Instead, my decreases and increases have to abut the marker. Note: I "invented" this because I couldn't find any instructions about how to accomplish this online. There may be a more elegant way to do it but my brain didn't think it up.

Here's a look at the sweater so far:

It's knit bottom up in the round until the armholes. There's a temporary lifeline about an inch from the top which is why the pattern looks warped at that latitude. No way I was going to try this without a way of ripping back that didn't include redoing tubular cast on! Note: The fabric doesn't take on its square knit shape until it's blocked. I should have taken a pic of the blocked swatch to show that.
This represents 4.5 inches of length and I used 200 yards of yarn (exactly 1 ball) to achieve it. It produces a very firm fabric that weighs a ton. I have to hope that I've applied the waist shaping adequately i.e. in the right spot vertically or it's going to be rather observably contoured in all the wrong ways. You think I'd have done a lot of vertical measuring before I hatched my plan but, no. I used my intuition. Yeah, that's always a huge risk or, as I like to call it, lazy adventure. Truth is, I've been waist shaping on my own body for a long time. I do think I've got it right in a way that also respects the pattern instructions once I get to the section where the the front and back are separated to allow for the arm shawl and yoke.

I'm managing numerous engineering considerations concurrently with fit ones. I've got to take some chances. Which is why I inserted a lifeline (piece of contrast yarn to hold the stitches, should I need to rip back) right before I went off-road. Note: That's what's making the fabric look tight along one row. It'll even out when I remove the lifeline.

You can see how the waist is starting to take shape at the right of the pic. I'm actually going for a decrease of 16 stitches (almost 4 inches of circumference) over a vertical span of 3 inches. I'll add it back in over the next 3 inches (the 3 inches just below the bust which will well position me to create the arm/yoke unit over the bust without messing with the pattern overly. That's not negligible shaping.

As I mentioned in the caption of the photo, you can't get a sense of how the fabric will become waffley because it doesn't take that pattern until it's blocked. Also, that lifeline is messing with the apparent tension about 1 inch from the top.

And while I'm in the mood to disclose - I actually messed up the 5th row of the sweater (the one visible just above the tubular cast on hem). I thought the pattern was supposed to be nubby on the right side of the fabric (that's actually the wrong side) so I did a major wrap and turn in the round on the 6th row (to "correct" things) but, natch, that just made it wrong. Yeah, I created my own error with much forethought so I'm calling it a design feature.

Finally, here's a pic of the waist decreasing on either side of the orange marker:

The reason it looks terrible is because you can see the lifeline indent (that's not going to be there in the end) and there's no vertical channel between the decreases, as would normally be there, given that the K1P1 had to be preserved (see above). I'm also having to purl 2 rows down on every 3rd row which, in this instance, means I'm sometimes purling into a knit stitch 2 rows down. It's complicated to explain but I'm confident that, when blocked, this will look fine.

Monday, December 28, 2015


On Boxing Day I went to one store - Ewe Knit - with the intention of maximizing the sale. I walked out with a mere 2 skeins of yarn (the extra Sweet Georgia I'll need to make the KNUS). I'm a careful shopper but that was crazy even by my standards. By contrast, I sauntered past an artfully arranged display of lovely Madeline Tosh yarn in a gorgeous grey with a basket of Malabrigo chunky in cream. I started to pet it (baskets of yarn be pretty!) and a friendly young woman, wearing all hand-knit said: Um, sorry, that's my shopping. At which point I laughed and suggested that, when your haul looks like a shop display, you know you're in deep.

I was actually inclined to stock up on 900ish yards of bulky yarn required to make this. You know I'm having a poncho-moment... But when I realized that 9 skeins of bulky yarn would more or less take up its own room (okay, storage box), I couldn't do it. I mean, I don't really have space to store the garment that would result from that 9 skeins of bulky yarn.

I'm almost at the stage that I can only knit for others because who has room for more things? And I took almost a year off from knitting?!?

No doubt, my sense of space is encroached upon by the impending renovation. They're going to flat out pull off 2 rooms of my house (one of which is my sewga room - where all the things are stored) and excavate the basement*. I will have no access to my outdoor space. In fact, my garden is going to be trashed by this undertaking.** They need to move the excavation gizmos into the backyard in order to do what needs to be done. I will have no kitchen (not safe to use, even before the kitchen reno begins in earnest). I will have no access to the basement (see below). At some point, we'll only have one upstairs bathroom (while the other is being redone). The bathroom in the basement won't be accessible.

So, what's a girl to do?

Well, I've hatched a plan to use every skein of stash yarn while I'm managing the space-compromising stress of having my house cut in half for 6 months. Of course, this is hard to do at the best of times - there's never enough yardage left to make what one would choose - but my plan may just work because I've decided to give much of my stash knitting away. I may not need another pair of socks (knit in sport-weight gauge) but somebody will. And I have so many smallish remnants from larger projects that must be repurposed. It's too much yarn to give away on Craig's List and not enough to make something I might actually use for myself.

Speaking of sport-weight cable socks, here's my latest finished object:

Brigid Socks by Renee Leverington
They're a bit odd but they take way less yarn than the pattern stipulates. Had I known that, I could have made the cuffs half as long again - so that they'd have better proportions. As it is, they're a bit on the elfen side for my liking, though they do look nice worn (if short on the leg). Note: I went down a needle size from that which was recommended and I didn't swatch first. They fit perfectly.

I will say that cables are an eternal pain in the ass. I don't know how someone came up with the idea to put them on socks - the smallest-diameter application. But they're pretty and these socks knit reasonably fast because the yarn isn't thin sock-weight and the needle size is larger than one would often use for socks. Of course, the idea of extending the cuff (the cable part) by an additional 17 rows isn't exactly thrilling, but for an improved end result, I'll do it.

But how about you? Are you inclined to use the stash in 2016? Did you go out and buy all the pretty hanks of yarn on Boxing Day? (Hey - I'm not judging. Send me pics!) Do you like these weird little socks? Let's talk!

*I was not in favour of this expensive addition to the addition but, on forensic pre-work, we discovered that one side of the 125 year old kitchen (to be renovated and to which the 2 rooms being removed will be reattached) doesn't have an adequate foundation. I don't mean the kitchen structure is compromised, but it would be foolish to integrate a new space into an extremely old space without shoring up the old. And hey, it's only time and money (she says, sarcastically). People: the road to reno hell is paved with good design intentions. All I wanted was a new kitchen and some French doors...

** This has been one of the most difficult elements of the impending process for me to, well, process. You know I have more photos of my garden than I do of my kid. But there's no way around it. I intend to give away my happiest plants and to hoard the Japanese maple and the honey locust. The dwarf lilac is a wildcard. That tree is so freakin' happy to be alive but it's in the line of fire. In the end, I'll have a new deck, new fencing and a new design - hopefully including a well-lit, cantilevered wood awning over said deck to facilitate weather-protection during winter barbecuing (which my husband does faithfully). Did I mention we're running the gas line out there so we don't have to get our asses to the propane shop every 10 minutes to refill the tanks? When you have to take a cab, it's a pain. While I have loved my current garden layout, I'm confident that I can create a new one that will be at least as delightful. After all, I know much more now than I did 10 years ago.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Updated: Half-Way Through the Holidays

Update: It took me a freakin' hour to do that tubular cast on and then I was 4 stitches short (despite counting meticulously for the entire hour). Fuck that. To make up the 4 stitches I just increased a K1P1 in 2 random spots while knitting the first row (after the 2 row tubular cast on set up). It's not perfect but no one will notice. I wasn't spending another hour to - very possibly - end up with the same sort of problem again, particularly when twisted stitches (something I managed to avoid) are the likely outcome of this cast on. I can see myself using this method for hats and cuffs but I will do what I can to avoid a sweater hem in the future.

Just want to clarify that long tail cast on and long tail tubular cast on are 2 different things. I actually love long tail cast on - it's the one I use 90 per cent of the time. It's fast and it creates a nice edge (though not the world's stretchiest edge). But long tail tubular cast on is a 3 row experience yielding an exceedingly stretchy edge that's also invisible. It's as if the stitches waterfall away at the hem. (I'll take a pic and post it when I can bring myself to move.) I'm sure one gets better at it with practice but it's much more involved than most any other cast on I've ever tried. Can't say I'm looking forward to the long tail tubular cast off (instructions for which I haven't yet read!).


I don't know that sewing is going to happen this holiday. I've rarely been so low-energy and I'm having a bout of pain that I'm largely unfamiliar with (low back and knee). It's really limiting my desire to get active with the crafts. Despite yoga and other management techniques, the pain persists. I don't suppose I'm in a mind state to tell you about all the ways in which I've kicked pain's ass. The fact is that my condition seems to come and go. It's seriously aggravated by the dampness and cold of fall and winter - which is, frankly, a big issue (to understate things). High levels of cortisol don't do it any favours and inflammatory food and drink is a no-go. Too bad that the last 2 months have been unyieldingly stressful, full of celebratory events and constantly raining.

Scott and I have spent the last year on a semi-regular "research project". We look up crazy places that we intend to visit in the interests of verifying whether the place is retirement-worthy. Increasingly, my hope is to retire to a pied-a-terre Montreal for the summers (or stay in TO, but in a residence with a smaller footprint) and then to winter in a location that's warm. Yeah, it's not particularly novel but the places we're seeking out aren't standard. For example, ever been to Quito? It's a UNESCO site and the highest-altitude capital city in the world. It's also perfectly temperate (our first requirement) with blue skies. I'd love to retire half-time to Barcelona but I don't know if I'll be able to afford it (time will tell). I have 18 years to consider this so no rush. But when the pain hits, planning is a welcome distraction. There's nothing more invigorating than imagination.

(Sidebar: I do realize that it's insane to dream about retirement in foreign climes, at the age of 45, when I'm about to embark on a renovation of massive proportions - but whatcha gonna do? I won't retire till I have a full pension and enough funds to last me many years and my current life is in this absurdly-desirable city with half-time horrible, pain-exacerbating weather. I like to think I'm working all the angles.)

On the topic of couch-friendly, here's a look at my next knitting project (I'll show you photos of my last project - an uncertain pair of socks with cables - once blocked). I'm going to make this in that Sweet Georgia worsted yarn in "Riptide" aka a jewel-toned blue for which I visited Ewe Knit's sale yesterday, to stock up in the appropriate amounts (thanks Evie!!):

KNUS by Olga Buraya-Kefelian

It meets my latest criteria: sort of shawl/poncho-like with interesting, clean lines. It also mandates that I learn new things (another way to show pain the finger) - what better to take one's mind off everything than developing new skill?

But you know how I love to hate learning crazy new knitting things.

Lord - long-tail tubular cast on is not easy when you apply it to 172 stitches?! If I had a straight needle (rather than circulars) I could probably keep things in order but on a skinny cable, those stitches like to wind at will. And there are SO many of them to contend with. No mind, I've watched all the videos, read the posts, looked on the forums, downloaded the pdfs. I will prevail.

The other novel element of this design is the stitch pattern. It's a sort of fisherman's rib (not that I've ever done fisherman's rib) wherein you knit 3 rounds in K1P1 rib and then the 4th round is rib - but you work into purl stitches 2 rows below (i.e. on the 4th round you purl the stitches that correspond in round 2). It creates a nubby, waffley pattern and a fabric that's quite robust and firm. I imagine it's going to eat yarn for breakfast but, man, will it be warm.

Today's questions: How are you holding up this holiday season? Have you made KNUS? If yes, how did it go for you? Does long-tail tubular cast on aggravate the crap out of you? Any retirement plans you'd like to share? (I'm looking for great weather - dry, sunny, hot, culture, friendly people, beautiful architecture, awesome food and adequate health care. What? Retirees need good health care!) Let's talk.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bra Review: Curvy Kate Bardot Babydoll

I'm not a huge fan of Curvy Kate bras - not that I've had a ton of experience of the brand. I've tried a couple of the 1.0 styles (the brand originally designed in a shallower and wider profile than it does now). Those really didn't work on my very projected and narrow shape. Then, recently, I tried Scantilly (the sexy line) and I loved the quality and design. The model I tried (Peek a Boo) was also a bit shallow and wide, but less so than the CK regular brand.

At that point, my interest was piqued.

So, recently I ordered 2 more CK items: The CK Bardot Babydoll (known for being in the more projected category) and the Scantilly Surrender.

The results were interesting.

For starters, the Scantilly - ordered in my usual size (and the same size in which I ordered the Peek a Boo) was simply too shallow - moreso than the Peek a Boo, which fit a bit snug at the centre cup but not so much that it's a deal breaker. The Surrender, in my regular size, yields pillowing at the upper cup though the band size (32 - the size I'm wearing these days) is fine. So I returned the bra for one in a cup size larger. I also found the thong undies to be ridiculously loose, though I always order up a size because I hate cling. In this instance, I've returned the thong for a medium. Of course, I'll let you know what I think when I get the next parcel. What I will say is that the quality is lovely but the price is higher than that of the regular CK line, so it should be, IMO.

I didn't have much hope for the Bardot Babydoll:

This garment comes in a variety of black-based colourways. I got the one with lilac trim, largely because it was on sale - and it looked as appealing as any of the others. Needless to say, this isn't daily wear, though I could totally use it as a bra and slip. The unpadded cups are bra-sized. This style comes in a bra and undies set as well as the babydoll.

The site from which I purchased this didn't have my regular size in stock, so I decided it would be a good opp to see whether one cup size up would fit better than the Scantilly I already owned. As I discovered, the fit is utterly PERFECT. Apparently, I wear a cup size up from the usual in CK.

Note: I understand that the brand redesigned many of its styles (and its sloper) because it was becoming known as a brand that fit everyone badly. The early styles - now discontinued - are very wide, very shallow and they scaled badly into larger cup sizes.

I don't find the cup width to be overly wide in either Scantilly or CK 2.0 (the new bras, drafted with more cup depth). They are wider than Empreinte but I feel they're on par with Cleo. I do have to measure before I confirm this definitively, but that's my take so far.

It appears that this brand just isn't overly true-to-size vis a vis centre-fullness and immediate projection, which is why I had to size up to get the gore to tack and the upper cups to fit. What's interesting is that the shape of the Bardot (and the Surrender - and the Peek a Boo) is perfect for me which is why, I guess, going up a size works. The Bardot suits those with even breasts that are full overall. I would totally buy the bra/undies version because it provides a really round, front and centre shape that isn't in your face. It would be great under lots of clothing and, I suspect, invisible. The bra component is elegant and the band is nice and firm, with 3 hooks and eyes, but also very comfortable.

This bra set and babydoll are often available on sale at really good prices.

Now let's talk about the skirt of the babydoll: It's a bit cheap-feeling and it clings from static at the drop of a hat. The hem is made of the same satin as is used on the Peek a Boo (I believe) but somehow it doesn't come off in the same luxe and rich way that it does there.

Feel notwithstanding, I really like the look of the back of this garment:

This pic doesn't show it off to its best effect but the keyhole under the bra band is strangely sexy. You can see that they've simply taken a bra and added a skirt onto it.

All in all, I'd recommend this babydoll for someone looking for a non-matrix sized sexy but supportive garment. It is most suitable those with moderate breast projection so go up a cup size if you're on the deep side. I would buy on sale because, while it's cute and the bra portion is elegant, the skirt doesn't thrill me. It's just not up to my standards in terms of fabric. As with all garments of this description, the cut is, well, juvenile. Mind you, I've learned a bit more about CK sizing and I'm really impressed by the fit. The price point is also appealing if you want to have a bit of fun without breaking the bank. You can always find CK on sale. I can tell the Bardot bra would be very comfortable and, I suspect, durable.

Today's questions: Anyone tried the Bardot babydoll or the bra? Anyone tried the Scantilly Surrender? What do you think of this brand - or of these bras specifically? Do you go up a cup size when you wear this brand? Let's talk.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Today's Post is Brought to You by Global Warming

Holy freakin' hell, people. It's so absurdly warm here this winter that my front garden is starting to bloom. Think about that. I live at the 43rd parallel and my irises and grasses are emerging in late December. The real problem will occur if winter finally decides to arrive and then everything, half grown, will freeze. If that's the case, I may have no garden to speak of in the spring.

I've been getting my inner-Vancouverite on. I wear thin t-shirts under chic, all-purpose rain-garments, as it spits rain constantly (and deluges occasionally). There's no need of gloves, hats or scarves - but the umbrella is on high-alert. Gotta say, grey is infinitely more becoming with mountains and an ocean in the background. Somehow graffiti on industrial buildings doesn't do it justice.

We will most definitely have a "green" Xmas - and by "green", I mean brown. Defoliated tree branches and fallen leaves, as yet unmulched or covered by snow, dictate the colour scheme along with that dreary kind of grey you see in northern coasts.

So let's find a bit of cheer in flower-arranging:

Gotta love candy-striped mums!

I will happily take a long autumn for winter this year, but it can't change its mind in February or our plants are fucked.

Monday, December 21, 2015

In Which I Recount an Experience that No Organized Shopper Should Have to Live Through

Oh, Lord. I just got back from 5 hours at the mall. Yorkdale, to be exact. How could this happen?, I know you are mentally inquiring right now. Aren't I the one who's urged you all to shop from the comfort of your couch? With booze.

In my entire life have I never gone to the mall a week before Xmas. I mean, I won't go to the mall at the best of times, never mind after November 15. And yet, I spent the day there today. From 10 till 3, you know, the witching hours. (At least I assume them to be.)

I ate hideous food and stood on a 20 minute line at Starbucks. I got smacked into by young children and clueless men shopping with young children and was up-sold about 30 times. I did not capitulate. I actively handled the tried'n'true Kristin-anxiety triple threat: crowds, bright lights and noise. (Did I mention that I'm dealing with some ridiculous and recently-arrived, symmetrical sacral pain for the past few days - one of those kinds of pain I NEVER get.)

Really, I kicked ass - though maybe not according to my child, the reason I found myself at the mall 4 days before Christmas. You see, she wanted to go shopping for fun things she "needs". Note to reader: She needs NOTHING. In fact, her room is a tornado of all of the kinds of fast fashion she somehow manages to procure on an ill-deserved allowance. She won't even put anything away so it all lives in piles on the floor. Ditching the old and worn for the new and improved is not a thing that the little hoarder can get with.

I played hard and negotiated a deal: One thing in for one thing out. And then she somehow convinced me to buy her all the things at Sephora and half of the things at Top Shop. She even coerced me into some technical cashmere at a Kit and Ace pop-up shop. (Since when does the mall do pop-up shops??) I'll admit it. I caved. In addition to her loot, I bought myself a top (and I know I always say this, but it looks better on me than on the model in the link. Does every model need to be entirely without profile?). Moreover, what is the world coming to when you buy a glorified T shirt for a hundred bucks? For a teenager.

While we're on the topic, I've already bought her numerous LOVELY gifts that I know she'll enjoy. Those were the things I got while surfing on the couch.

But here's where it all went to hell...

We went bra shopping.

OK, we didn't so much go bra shopping as we went to La Senza (a store I'd eradicate from the face of the earth if I had superhuman powers for 5 minutes). And then we went to Victoria's Secret - a shop with some pretty sexy things (in the pricey section) if you happen to fit the the matrix sizing - which 5 people do. (Note: none of those things is padded or push up.)

I have to preface this by advising you that my child has the most gorgeous bust ever. I know it doesn't matter and that one's heart is the thing that counts and I'm not supposed to notice or care. But really, she won the lottery. Her boobs are self-supporting, perfectly symmetrical, truly high-set. She can wear a 32DD (sort of findable) though her size is more of a 30E (actually, it's 28F but she can't stand the tightness of the band as she has no fat to speak of). I would happily buy her all of the gorgeous things online, without question - just for the vicarious thrill!, but she refuses to comply.

Instead, she goes to the SHITTIEST stores and buys 34D bras with massive amounts of padding and it's a fucking crime. If I had those boobs I would be lavishing them in well-fitted gorgeousness.

Yeah, I know. They're not my boobs and I'd never heap this vitriol on a friend. Furthermore, who better to wear the wrong size bra than the person who doesn't really need one for either support or shaping.

And still, I felt utterly demoralized.

Don't you think that the one thing I should have passed along to my child is the gift of fit discrimination? The other day, I played a little trick on her. We were talking about something irrelevant and, all of a sudden, I quizzed her to name a sister size to 34F. By the way, SHE GOT IT RIGHT in 2 seconds! So I know she's not ignoring everything. But why does she hurt me so?

At any rate, I capitulated to one La Senza atrocity. Then I made her go to the Bay with me and we fought about every bra there. Every. single. fucking. last. one. I bribed her into trying on a few that I could get with (barely) by agreeing to get her a stupid bralet that's basically dental floss and lace. (In truth, she can pull it off so it didn't torment me as much as I'd led her to believe.) Every other bra I brought her to try (and I made sure to go with the B. tempted and all of that youth-market shit) looked fantastic on her. And yet she would only accede to this one (which is very cute on her - not mature at all):

Wacoal Embrace Lace Soft Cup Bra
Every week, on the sub-reddit A Bra That Fits, there's a post from some young girl who wishes her mother would believe her when she says she's not a 36C. These girls write plaintively about how they would so love just one bra in the right size but they simply can't afford it. Here am I, parentally committed to the gift of perfect fit (a promise I made to my child in her first days of life - though I know that sounds ridiculous to say) and she simply doesn't care.

First world problems. Huh?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

That's Better

Yesterday,  I left work mid-afternoon because I was feeling increasingly yucky. In truth, it's been coming. I've been working non-stop on every front. Not to mention that I've been eating every kind of rich food on the planet. I'm pretty well not interested if it doesn't have gluten, sugar, fat and alcohol.

Yes, I know that when one is as stressed as can be - when one is pulling 12 hour work-days and then planning a house reno, while preparing for Christmas - that's the time to pull out the health food. And if that's the kind of moderation you can swing while yet another person stops by with a homemade family-recipe treat, my hat is off to you.

Instead, I woke up on Friday morning - just on the cusp of the vacation I need desperately - feeling swollen, puffy, amorphously sore-throatish and my body hurt.

Classic, huh?

The diff between former Kristin and current Kristin is all attitude. I immediately set upon managing my illness anxiety. I drank a vat of water (though this is standard for me now). I meditated on my intrinsic healthfulness. I went to work to wrap up the loose ends and then, at my earliest opp, I came home. While I was in my office, I guzzled targeted varieties of herbal tea and took vitamins. I eschewed sugar. On returning home, I went to sleep immediately for 3 hours.  I would have extended that term but I had another party to attend at Portland Variety. When I woke, I did 20 minutes of a hybrid of MELT and Yoga-Tune Up, which was very effective at moderating the pain, if not diminishing it altogether.

Instead of walking to the party (would have taken 45 min in the cold), I Ubered it. And, man, it was the MOST fun ride. Randomly, we got the driver who brought Uber to TO. He's also a physio-therapist but he drives as a social experiment. It's how he met his girlfriend, a CEO of a tech company.  He commandeers a Tesla, a kind of stupidly expensive, electric car I've never seen in real life. Note: I don't care about cars and I wouldn't know one sort from another. But... This car had external door handles that pull out when the driver pushes a button. It had gorgeous leather seats. It was decked out with a large screen computer monitor on the centre dashboard. I felt a bit like Kim Kardashian!

I didn't linger after dinner and took another car home. Once consumed by couch-lock, I drank more water, watched an hour of 1938 version of A Christmas Carol and then went to bed.

I'm ok today. Yeah - I need to cool it. I intend to sit in my pjs, do some body work, drink water and eat light. I want to plan my holiday crafting projects - though, really, at this point it's all I can do to sit on my ass and knit a baby sock for a friend.

On the plus side - I have time and LOTS to talk about:
  • The new "fun" lingerie (Scantilly set and a Curvy Kate babydoll) I bought in November that just arrived from UK yesterday (from 2 diff vendors). My goal was to review these in time for peeps to buy if the outcome was positive. That ship has sailed - thanks postal service. I haven't bothered to open the packages yet (SO not me) because, really, I'm too tired. But I know my mood will change as the weekend progresses.
  • The reno. We've pretty well sorted out the model we intend to use - design-build with an independent architect to produce the plans (though iteratively with the design-build firm). We've got the peeps lined up - though we're still working through the scope and we hope to have contracts and to begin the design and permitting at the beginning of January. We're almost certain we don't have to go to the Committee of Adjustments again (we did that last time to confirm our gross floor area and we're not increasing the foot-print of our house) though this will be confirmed shortly. If we don't, that means we're on target to begin a serious renovation in May. Did I mention we're going to live here as they pull off a third of our house? Of course, forensic construction (we've been doing a lot of it because our home is more than 125 years old) has yielded a new, expensive glitch. But dammit, when I tell you all about what's going to improve, you're going to be impressed.
  • My latest pair of socks, made from cashmere, merino and silk. Yeah, they're not the most durable but they feel like a million bucks. I made them in, like, 3 days and I have no idea of how because I have had no time even to pee over the last week. I sense that the reason for this is that my flicking technique has increased my speed and efficiency multiple times as my ability to enact it has improved. I also highly recommend flicking for those who have repetitive wrist and arm strain because it's much more ergonomic than throwing, if you're a committed right-handed knitter.
  • The things I may sew over the hols. I'm not committing to this but there are a couple of garments I made during my last capsule stint - and they were great but the fit wasn't quite there. I want to remake those with improvements.
  • The things I may knit over the hols. As you can tell, my arms are not bothering me, even as pain is top of mind over the last few days. 
  • A follow up on pain management and what's up with me on that front. A few of you have commented or emailed me to request an update. I've been working to find my angle on this topic because, honestly, what haven't I done?? Furthermore, I sense that some of the improvement has been outside of my span of control (not that I'm undervaluing the many things I have done to precipitate improvement).  This topic is complicated but I started the discussion and I'm happy to continue it as soon as I can better detangle the many moving parts.
So that's me on a Saturday morning.

But what about y'all? Are you feeling festive? Are you "organized for the holidays"? (Like that's some kind of virtue that makes you a better human being?! Ugh.) Are you travelling soon and, if yes, is it to a fun destination? Are you going to craft your heart out over the hols?

Oh, and shout out to the peeps who have done major renos to unknowable century homes. Can you tell me about some good outcomes? Got any tips? Let's talk!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Time Flies

Two years and 9 months ago I started knitting this. It's a vintage "jacket" - more like a cardi - and the pattern is free online.

In my LIFE has it never taken me 3 years to make anything. Occasionally I turn my attention to the completed pieces - which merely require seaming - and then I shut it down.

Why haven't I finished something that was painstaking to create the fabric for - like, 1500 yards of fingering-weight yarn - when all I need to do is a bit of sewing?

Well, I've got some reasons:
  • I have no idea if it's going to fit at this point, and I really don't want to deal with yet another disappointment that focuses my attention on how I weigh a different amount now and my shape is not as it once was. I'm not being all self-loathing. But to be reminded of the current landscape, when I was pretty happy with the former one, is still not fun.
  • I went off road with the pattern, Lord help me, and I know I take great notes, but how long is it going to take me to remember exactly HOW I went off road. I believe I opted not to make the buttonholes because I wanted to use petersham ribbon on the inside edges of the sweater and then to machine in the buttonholes. Now I'm not so sure I want to do this, but the die is cast.
  • I went through this whole phase when I had to seam things using mattress stitch, under all circumstances, regardless of how difficult that might be (i.e. fingering-weight yarn stitches, circular seaming) and when it didn't look as good as I felt it should, I undid my seaming and just put everything into little ziploc bags. Perfectionism is so pointless. I think I'm going to seam with a back stitch, like 98% of the rest of the world's knitters, and call it a day. I mean, sure, that's how the perfectionist in 1952 would have done it, but she probably didn't have my career to worry about.
I'm not quite ready to take this project to the finish line, but I'm giving it some serious consideration, especially given that, if it does fit in the end, this garment would be worn frequently under most circumstances. What called my attention to it most recently - though I keep it in my knitting bag and force myself to reflect upon it every freakin' time I go into that bag (aka all the time) is the new Sweet Georgia yarn I bought in "Rip Tide". It is the EXACT same shade as the Quince and Co. Finch in "Peacock" that I used to knit the jacket pieces. Seems I'm in the mood to wear that colour, one way or another.

But what about you? Have you ever left a knitting project (or any other kind) to languish for nigh on 3 years? How do you / would you feel about such an outcome? Let's talk!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Not A Bad Looking Sock...

I'm not nuts about how much brown there is, in the end, but this yarn makes a great, strong (but soft) fabric:

They'll make a great gift for my friend Hilary. We're going to celebrate with her family on the 20th...

Socked In

I went back to Ewe Knit yesterday. Between my pain improvement (for which I am SO grateful) and the fact that the shop has moved up the block, I'm back to spending a reasonable amount of disposable income on yarn etc.

What brought me up there yesterday was broken circular needles (in use at the time, I'm making socks). I put my hand down hard on the bamboo and it broke in half. I was a bit miserable in the moment, despite the fact that I had an alternate needle (Addi Lace) because, as I've come to realize, I don't like Addis. The cables are too hard to maneuver for magic loop and the coating on the lace brand is designed to mitigate titanium slipperiness. I like slip and flexible cables. Note: I don't like the Addi Turbos either: The tips are too round (so they don't hit the yarn right) and the cables are just as shit as with the Lace version.

The needles I prefer to make socks with (at least right now) are Chiaogoo Premium Bamboo. They have a flexible metal cable (the same as that provided with the Chaiogoo metal needles - only those cables have a red coating). Apparently, the bamboo needles in the larger sizes have a plastic cables (not unlike Addi cables). But at least up to a size US2, the bamboos use the metal cable and it's perfect for socks.

I will say that the POINTY bamboo tips only get pointier as you use them (and you can get quite a poke if you're not careful). Furthermore, if you come down hard on the wood, you'll break it, as I've learned. But Chiaogoo bamboos are still my faves for socks, hands down.

Of course, while I was there, I got some more yarn. I'm not a stone.

I bought a brand I've wanted to try for a long time, though I'd previously resisted due to price. Since the dollar has tanked, the price of yarn has increased by about 30 per cent, so 420 yards of this (admittedly "boutique") fingering weight cost me $50 bucks (including tax).

Meet Shalimar Breathless in Gun Metal:

It's much more grey in real life and a bit marled - not the "baby" blue it seems here. And it's made of super wash merino, cashmere and silk. I'm going to use it to make socks. Cashmere isn't the best fiber for socks (which need more resilience than most other garments) but I don't so much care. I want to knit with a yarn that looks and feels like a million bucks. And this most definitely does. I've started my latest pair of socks and it's delicious!

I've just finished a pair of socks I started a couple of weeks ago, using this (Sweet Georgia in Riptide):

Photo courtesy of Yemanabanana
Alas, my sock isn't striated in the even manner shown in the photo above:

But isn't that the fun of patterned yarn?

While I was in the shop, Claudia gave me a lovely Xmas gift:

Doesn't it match my socks beautifully? And my new Shalimar breathless? It occurs to me (and maybe it did to Claudia) that everything I knit is in some shade of grey or blue - so this bag is a great complement.

(I'd link to it on the website, but it doesn't appear to be listed. Nonetheless, you can find the bag in-store. I believe it costs about 30 bucks and it's well worth it as it'll hold a moderately sized project, notebook, notions and yarn.)

As some of you have asked, be assured, I'm taking 2 weeks off starting on December 18 and I intend to do FUCK ALL for the entire time (except when I host Xmas day for Scott's family and, perhaps, friends on the 24th). It'll be cooking, knitting and (if there's energy) sewing through the solstice. Travel, my original plan, seemed imprudent given unexpected costs incurred in the fall and given that we're going to start a rather pricey reno in the spring. Part of me is bummed about that and another part could care less. I'm just exhausted and I need to chill. Don't suppose it much matters where.

Today's questions: Have you knit with Shalimar Breathless? If yes, what are your thoughts? Do you like my new knitting bag? Whatcha think of that sock pattern. In truth, it's not my fave, but I know the socks will wear very well.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Hand Off

There was simply no taking a good photo of these mittens:

Purl Soho Seed Stitch Mittens and Hand Warmers

Trust me, I tried.

They're an enjoyable, simple knit and I do like seed stitch. But something about the colour and the qualities of the yarn (that too-soft Rowan Super Fine Merino Aran), really preclude the prettiness from shining through.

Seriously, just avoid that yarn if you intend to use seed stitch. It needs a more sturdy fiber. And actually, avoid it if you don't like splitty yarn too.

I gave these mitts away immediately. For better or worse, I find all mittens juvenile. On wearing them, I couldn't escape feeling like a 4 year old, even if they are fitted and extend half-way to the elbow (so perfect for all of my 3/4 length garments).

I might have made the thumbs slightly wider and longer (but fit wasn't a deal breaker).

What I will say is that the weather this winter has been FANTASTICALLY warm. Yeah, it's grey, but it's nigh on impossible to persist with my weather-related complaints given that I don't really need to wear a coat. Or gloves. Or a hat. We've actually reached record highs (14C in the day time?!). So I think I'm cool without these for the moment.

Really, I'm more in a sock mood lately.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Lord, this month has been challenging. I keep waiting to have a) the time and b) the inclination to write about something positive, but I'm just not getting anywhere. So today, allow me to bore you with some information about a big-ticket stressor: the renovation.

I discovered, a year and a half ago, that the back of my house is falling off. Yeah, I'm being dramatic (though not inaccurate). It was only in discussions with structural engineers, which we engaged to circumvent any nasty surprises (while planning to do this reno), that we made the unpleasant discovery. It isn't the kind of news a homeowner welcomes. In truth, our house is needy. It is old. Really old. (Well, not I live in ye olde England old, but you get the point.) We did that initial structural review (which, btw, is still not finished) because we intend to live in our house as we undertake the following:

  • New kitchen, all the way
  • New back room (behind kitchen) - this requires digging out 
  • New sewga room (above back room)
  • Cantilevered awning over pre-existing deck
Possible additions to this (cost depending - and depending on pending structural feedback):
  • Digging out the basement between the front of the house (which already has a basement) and the new addition (which may get a basement). There's a section under the kitchen where the basement ends.
  • Redoing the bathroom that abuts the sewga room. It's in bad shape and has been for 15 years. While everything's a mess, why not get it over with? (Answer: Time and money, potentially)
Here's the trajectory of my days, lately: I get up and walk to work at some stupid hour to do a ridiculous number of briefings that require my constant concentration for somewhere between 8 - 10 hours. (I do mean constant.) I eat something at some point. Then I go home (also potentially at some stupid hour), do yoga, check emails / do more work, eat something. Then I discuss the important reno decisions with my husband (aka the most stubborn person on the planet) and we get into a big fight.* Then we drink half a bottle of wine, nurse our bruises and watch TV for an hour. Finish that up with very well-deserved sleep. Repeat.

You can see why I haven't been appearing daily. I promise to make my next post about the "fun" elements of renovation: getting lots of money from the bank! intelligent design! beautiful end results!

(OK, I don't know if I promise that, but I'll come back with something...)

PS: My husband and I are getting much better at fighting about renovations.

*Allow me to clarify: In a fighting contest, we'd be runners up to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in that movie about the spies who try to kill each other.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Seriously Quick Check In

Hey Peeps, I'm inundated with work from every corner: the day job, parenting, prepping for Xmas, the Etsy shop, a leadership course and an impending renovation (which takes up way too much time given that I haven't signed on any dotted lines yet). I expect things to calm down enough that I'll have the bandwidth to make some post appearances next week. In truth, I'm not very good company right now and I don't have much to recount.

I wish I could say I've got some sewing on the horizon. I don't.

But I do want to tell you - when next I write - about some new mitts I've made (they're blocking) and give you a run down of how my knitting process has become more refined (due to experience but also given that I have to be very selective about when and how much I knit - at the peril of inviting pain).

I might also go into some discussion about how the scope of the reno is shaping up.  Let's just say that it's good the bank seems willing to give us a ridiculous amount of money because, Lord...

Hope you are all well and that you're able to experience this time of year with celebratory intent.

PS: In that spirit, at least I haven't spent a third of this post complaining about the weather. Truly, I was tempted. xo