Category Archives: Out and about

California stash expansion

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I always seem to buy yarn while on holiday. In much the same way as what I knit on vacation will forever remind me of that holiday when I wear/use it later, so too does yarn bought while away stay tied to that place. For that reason, I decided that on this trip I wasn’t going to buy anything I could get on the ground in Toronto. I also wanted to try and buy with projects in mind (even if they’re as general as this would be good for a shawl), which forced me to pay as much attention to yardage as to colour, and (hopefully) means I’ve come out of this trip with yarn I can make good use of.

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Our first stop was A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland. I don’t remember when I first heard about Verb, but it has popped up on blogs with enough frequency over the last several years to make it the one shop I wanted to make sure we went to. L, always happy to explore off-the-beaten-track placed, was happy to make a detour to Oakland, a city people actively tried to dissuade us from visiting. We visited Berkley in the morning and then walked to Verb.

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One of the things I knew I wanted to get was yarn to knit L a new pair of gloves. His old ones have had a good life, but there’s no way they can handle another winter, and after knitting Grace I thought Quince & Co. would be a good choice for new ones (though in the slightly heavier Chickadee). Verb had a great selection of colours, and after L chose what he wanted he left (there was a great café next to the shop) and I stayed to poke around some more.

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I could have spend quite a long time in Verb, but I was overwhelmed by the choices and conscious that L was waiting (he actually came in after reading for a while because he thought he might have to do some damage control! Haha).

I really liked the way the shop was laid out, with yarn in the front third and fabric in the back. There were a ton of samples, and I really liked the display rack, which both helped to divide up the shop and let you get a sense of how the various yarns knit up. There were also lots of Judys around, dressed in a combination of knit and sewn garments, which definitely inspired me to think more about the shop’s Seam Allowance ideal of making 25% of your wardrobe.

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Quince & Co. Chickadee in Winesap and Slate, and some lovely fabric! (I sewed my dress before I took these photos, so that double gauze is just the leftovers.)

In addition to the wool for L’s gloves, I picked up the Endless Summer Tunic pattern and some fabric: the double-gauze I used to make my Endless Summer Dress, a grey-blue cotton and hemp, and some 6.5 oz denim (destined to become this skirt, I think).

The other LYS we visited was ImagiKnit. I don’t like to push too much yarn shopping on L since it’s his vacation too, but ImagiKnit was pretty close to where we were staying, so on our last morning in San Francisco we decided to walk over after breakfast (this involved climbing/descending several huge hills, but it was totally worth it).

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What a great shop! ImagiKnit is huge — its two big rooms are filled, floor to ceiling, with yarn. The first room is all animal fibres and the second is all plant and man-made fibres, and both rooms are organized like a clock, with the thickest yarn at 12 o’clock (the front windows) and then getting thinner as you walk clockwise. Genius! I walked around and around, trying to take in everything, but it was a little shelf at the back that really caught my eye, since it housed all the locally dyed yarns.

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There were also a few baskets of yarn on the counter that drew me in. The owner said she had recently been to the Malabrigo warehouse/factory in Uruguay and picked up some experimental yarn. It looked just like barber-pole handspun, and was so gorgeous (and so unavailable anywhere else) that I couldn’t resist.

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Top: Aurora Yarns Acquerello Middle: Quince & Co. Chickadee in Slate and Winesap Bottom: Malabrigo Dos OOAK, and Tactile Fiber Arts Bolinas Sock in Spruce.

My total haul wasn’t too bad, really: three skeins of Quince & Co. Chickadee (for L’s gloves); two skeins of Tactile Fiber Arts Bolinas Sock, a fingering-weight BFL dyed in the Bay Area, in Spruce (for a shawl); a skein of Aurora Yarns Aquerello, hand-painted in Moss Beach (definitely for socks); and two skeins of one-of-a-kind Malabrigo Dos (who knows what this for — I’ll figure something out). All in all, some pretty excellent souvenirs I think!

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California, part 2

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Holy moly, the Pacific Coast Highway is not fooling around. Every time you turn a corner (and there are a lot of corners) you’re greeted with a new and stunning view. Honestly, it was all I could do not to pull over at every little off-road pocket. Stunning, stunning, stunning.

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Can you tell how happy I am to be on the road? This is the second big coastal drive L and I have done together (the other was on our Cape Breton trip) and it really doesn’t get old. We shared the driving, with whoever was in the passenger seat responsible for deciding where to pull over for great views. We left San Francisco in the early afternoon and drove as far as Carmel Valley, where we stayed for two nights. Having an extra night gave us more time to explore the area, and also to go for a hike. Our Airbnb was really close to a trailhead, so on the second day on the road we set off on foot. I would be lying if I said I enjoyed the first half of the hike (basically a continuous, and relatively steep, climb for two miles, in the heat), but as usual it was totally worth it, and once we were up, the hike along the ridge and then the descent were very pleasant.

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While I’m not sure Carmel Valley is every exactly lush, the drought was very evident there. The lower part of the trail had some interpretive signs, one of which talked about spawning fish in the river, but there was no river. The trail was sandy and very dry, and near the top there was a little plastic container with a sign asking hikers to donate some of their water to help the local wildlife, which we happily did.

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After the hike we were all geared up to swim, so we went back to where we were staying, took very quick showers, and set off for Carmel-by-the-Sea. Never was California’s micro-climate so stark: where the valley had bee hot and sunny, Carmel was cool and overcast, and too chilly for me to swim. L was debating whether he was going to swim and then we saw dolphins (!) so that settled that and in he went. Swimming with dolphins. It just about made up for our late arrival in Monterey — in what is becoming an unfortunate holiday tradition for us, we got there just a half-hour before the aquarium closed, which made the admission fee just a little too steep. Next time for sure, though (Audry recently went to the aquarium, so if you’re wondering what we missed out on, she has all the details.)

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Day three was another big driving day — Carmel to Santa Barbara, through Big Sur. We didn’t have the best weather when we started out (that’s the bridge right before Bixby Bridge, but of similar design), but once we got over a few hills we found the sun.

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We stopped at two beaches in Big Sur. We stopped at Pfeiffer Beach, which was bright and sunny, but also windy, for lunch. We had a little picnic, and I was napping in the sun when L came running over to tell me there were whales just offshore! All our photos are of the puffs from their blowholes, splashes from their jumps, and the rise of their tail flukes, but we think there were at least three, and our best guess is that they were Gray Whales, which migrate along the coast of California. We were too busy watching them frolic to take very good pictures, but they were amazing to see so close up. After Pfeiffer Beach we drove along to Sand Dollar Beach, which was overcast with no wind (or whales). The lack of wind was really nice though, so I finally went swimming (the water was really cold, but definitely worth it). Naturally, L swam at both beaches.

After our beach stops we really had a bust a move to get to Santa Barbara before it got too late. We were driving along and doing pretty well at not stopping for every view when L said, “You need to pull over.” I thought maybe he didn’t feel well, but when I pulled off the road he looked at me and said “Whales.” That man has eagle eyes. We were up quite high, but over the cliff and out in the ocean he’d seen them: four or five more whales, just playing. There were some German tourists stopped and watching them as well, and one of them said he thought they were Orcas, but I’m pretty sure they were more Gray Whales. L did quite a good job to get one in mid jump, I thought.

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After that we really had to get going. We stopped at Taco Temple in Morro Bay for dinner (Audry, thank you so, so much for the recommendation, it was amazing!) and drove abandoned the coast for a speedier highway to Santa Barbara where we spent the night. We wandered through a city a little in the morning and then got back on the road to drive the last leg to San Diego. Let me just tell you now that driving from Santa Barbara to San Diego (218 miles/350 kilometres) takes longer than flying from Toronto to San Francisco (approximately 2,500 miles/4,000 kilometres) and leave it at that. L drove, I knit, peace remained. San Diego was a bit of a whirlwind for me, and it was the only day of bad weather we had — not that we could complain about a rainy day in a state that so badly needed it. It seemed like a fun city, though, and I would definitely go back. There were a lot of restaurants I would have liked to try.

Such a fun trip. It’s almost hard to believe that I was there just last week.

California, part 1

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I got home Sunday night and have been debating ever since how best to write about our trip. It was so, so great: the perfect mix of busy and relaxed, with great weather and great company. We honestly saw and did so much in eight days that as soon as I started going through my photos (899, to be precise) I realized one post would be crazy. Instead, I think I can do it in three — San Francisco, driving Highway 1, and LYS visiting — and I’ll warn you now, they’re going to be pretty photo heavy. Ready? Let’s do this thing.

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We stayed in the Noe Valley neighbourhood, which was a great area but definitely not downtown. Although we started taking more public transportation later on, we did a lot of walking up and down – and then up and then down again – San Francisco’s hilly streets (my hips decided to pretty much fall apart while we were there, which has never happened before and was really inconvenient). The steepness is pretty much impossible to capture, but suffice to say that the street in the photo with the long view was at about a 45 degree angle (L is an engineer, so I trust his judgment on such matters) — we walked up it (on tip-toe) as part of the climb to the top of Twin Peaks, which we reached just in time for the fog/clouds to start spilling over the top.

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Our impromptu visit to the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park was on of my favourite things we in San Francisco. We packed a little picnic and wandered through the park to the gardens, which were really lovely. It was the closest we came to seeing big redwoods, and the California Natives garden meant we got to see a lot of the plants and flowers that weren’t flourishing because of the drought. Besides the dozens of succulents that seem to thrive in California, the other plant we saw a ton of on our trip was nasturtiums (the first, very orange, flower). It’s one of my favourite flowers, and to see it growing wild all over the place was such a treat, and added shocking blasts of colour to an otherwise fairly pale landscape.

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Of course, we did the touristy stuff too. Neither of us grew up watching Full House, but a trip to see the Painted Ladies just seemed right. And then, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge herself (himself? itself? what gender do we assign to bridges?) The bridge was covered with a tube of cloud for our first two days in the city (as in: the sky everywhere else was clear and lovely, but the there was a line of cloud low and over the bridge anyway), but on our last day somehow everything worked out and we had a clear view. We walked across it, and then back across it, and it really does live up to the hype. It’s a pretty fantastic piece of infrastructure, and the little interpretive centre on the city side of the bridge definitely added to my appreciation of its design and art deco details.

San Francisco was a great introduction to California and I could definitely have spent more time there. We even made it over to Berkley and Oakland — more on that in the LYS post. Next up: driving down the coast!

Hello, summer

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Summer is finally here. I know it’s technically been summer for a few weeks now, and it has certainly felt like summer for the last month, but I can’t quite escape the grade-school sense that summer starts with Canada Day. Add to that the adult reality that summer seems to be the season when every weekend is planned months in advance and, yeah, we’re officially there.

This year we kicked off the summer with a last-minute camping trip. L’s sister and her husband recently moved to Toronto, and since they don’t start work until today we decided to take advantage of their freedom to get out of town. It has been a few years since we were in Tobermory, but Georgian Bay was as gorgeous as ever, and I’m so glad we went. It was a quick trip, since I had to work on Sunday, but we took our one full day and made the most of it, spending the morning clambering over rocks at Halfway Log Dump/walking through the woods on the Bruce Trail, and the afternoon swimming in Cypress Lake. I even managed a few rows of knitting (plus a fair bit of knitting in the car to and from).

The water may look tropical, but let me assure you it was freezing. So cold it actually hurt. (Also, the colours in this photo aren't edited at all.)

The water may look tropical, but let me assure you it was freezing. So cold it actually hurt. (Also, the colours in this photo aren’t edited at all.)

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This bunny spent a lot of time hanging out in our campsite.

This bunny spent a lot of time hanging out in our campsite.

I was originally hoping to get these socks finished up in time to get some pretty pictures in the wild, but it was a bit too dark by the end of the drive up (I was getting very close to the toe decreases) and once we were there we didn’t do too much sitting around. I finished the second sock on the way home and then ended up ripping out the first toe and re-knitting it (for a better match/fit) anyway, so it was just as well I didn’t try to rush things.

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Details
Pattern: Basic 64 stitch socks
Yarn: Turtlepurl Yarns Striped Turtle Toes in Gatineau Fall
Needles: 2.5mm
Notes: There’s not much to say about these really. I thought about doing a contrast heel, but in the end decided just to knit from the other end of the ball, which worked out perfectly colour-wise and also meant I didn’t disrupt the stripe sequence at all. Ravelled here.

The colours in this photo are a little weird (both too dark and washed out) but it shows off the striping quite nicely.

The colours in this photo are a little weird (both too dark and washed out) but it shows off the striping quite nicely.

Going Coastal

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L and I had a great time in Nova Scotia last week. Mostly we spent our time hanging out with family and friends and eating really good food. It was a short trip, so there wasn’t too much sightseeing (unless you count various restaurant interiors and living rooms), but here’s a taste of our trip.

The famous lighthouse in Peggy's Cove. It was a bright and sunny day in Halifax, but when we got to Peggy's Cove it was quite chilly. The upside, of course, was there was almost no one else there.

The famous lighthouse in Peggy’s Cove. It was a bright and sunny day in Halifax, but when we got to Peggy’s Cove it was quite chilly. The upside, of course, was there was almost no one else there.

Besides the lighthouse, Peggy's Cove remains an active fishing village (lobster being the main catch, I think).

Besides the lighthouse, Peggy’s Cove remains an active fishing village (lobster being the main catch, I think).

This is the classic view as you drive into the Annapolis Valley. The tide is in and that long dark peninsula is Blomidon, a provincial park and legendary home to the Mi'kmaq god Glooscap.

This is the classic view as you drive into the Annapolis Valley. The tide is in and that long dark peninsula-looking thing is Blomidon, a provincial park and legendary home to the Mi’kmaq god Glooscap.

The beach at the base of Blomidon. The tide is somewhere between a third of the way and halfway out. That speck in the middle is L.

The beach at the base of Blomidon. The tide is somewhere between a third of the way and halfway out. That speck in the middle is L.

We walked along the beach for a little while and, despite the sun, it was freezing. The point up ahead is the very tip of the mountain (which looks like a peninsula from farther away).

We walked along the beach for a little while and, despite the sun, it was freezing. The point up ahead is the very tip of the mountain (which looks like a peninsula from farther away).

Crocuses! My parents have amazing gardens, but at this time of year all the glory goes to the crocuses, which offer a welcome riot of colour after the winter.

Crocuses! My parents have amazing gardens, but at this time of year all the glory goes to the crocuses, which offer a welcome riot of colour after the winter.

I mentioned before that one of the things I was hoping to do was find some yarn. Specifically, a match to this skein. I am thrilled (and, honestly, pretty surprised) to report success! The woman who dyed this yarn lives quite close to my parents, and she invited my mum and I over to see if she could find a match. She raises sheep and has a Suri Alpaca, spins and dyes yarn. Marilyn is amazing. I didn’t take any pictures, since we were in her house, but the big basket of handspun sitting in her living room was incredible. Anyway, it turns out that the yarn I was trying to match is a wool/mohair blend dyed by her but spun at the MacAusland woolen mill in PEI. The mill doesn’t use any harsh chemicals, so there is still some VM in the finished wool, but that doesn’t bother me. Plus, Marilyn explained that the chemicals actually weaken the yarn, so if that bit of VM means my garments will last longer, I’m doubly fine with it.

I think the grey is soft enough that I'm not worried about the bumblebee effect.

I think the grey is soft enough that I’m not worried about the bumblebee effect.

She had one skein left of the colourway I wanted, so I snapped it right up. She also had a few other colours – a really beautiful green, a variegated green/gold/grey, and some undyed skeins. I was really taken with the green, but I’m trying really hard not to buy single skeins unless there’s good yardage (or a plan), so I resisted and went with the two undyed skeins instead, which gives me just under 400 yds of each colour. I really like the grey/yellow combination, and am thinking this will either become the small version of Westloop (the leading contender) or the Great Divide shawl.

The full haul, l-r, top to bottom:  Two skeins undyed yarn from Marilyn; Swan's Island  Organic Fingering weight in Vintage Lilac, two skeinds Swan's Island Washable DK in Midnight (for a new hat for L), yellow/gold skein from Marilyn; Four skeins Fleece Artist Wool Tweed

The full haul, l-r, top to bottom:
Two skeins undyed yarn from Marilyn; Swan’s Island Organic Fingering weight in Vintage Lilac, two skeins Swan’s Island Washable DK in Midnight (for a new hat for L), yellow/gold skein from Marilyn; Four skeins Fleece Artist Wool Tweed

Of course, that isn’t all I picked up. I was in a bit of a mood I guess, and before I knew it there were 10 skeins of yarn to fit into my bag on the way home. The bottom row (above) is all from Gaspereau Valley Fibres, which had a ton of new stock (at least compared to my last visit) and is definitely my LYS-away-from-home (or at home, depending on how you define things). The Swan’s Island is from Loop, a yarn shop in Halifax that I’d never been to but had a chance to check out this time. The Lilac is for me and the Midnight is for a new hat for L. I have at least tentative plans for everything I bought, and have already cast on some of the Fleece Artist — spring knitting, here I come!

Weekend getaway

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I tend to look forward to the weekends as time I get to spend at home. After a long week (and some weeks are longer than others) the prospect of an unplanned, low-key weekend is really appealing. For me. L often has other ideas, since he recharges in a totally different way. He tends to draw me out and get me to do things I might not otherwise choose, and generally, I’m thankful for it.

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This weekend, which would have been my first full weekend at home in a month, I was ready to return to routine – farmer’s market, do stuff around the house, snuggle under a blanket and knit, etc. – when our friend Josh, home from Germany, invited us to to his parents’ place in the country to spend the weekend cross country skiing. It was an offer too good to pass up, even when I was wistful for a quiet weekend, so early Saturday morning we set out, along with Josh’s friend Anna. And you know, I’m so, so glad we did.

Wooly cows!

Wooly cows!

Josh is a good friend, and someone we don’t see often enough. He came to spend New Year’s with us, though, so that plus a weekend away was pretty fantastic. He’s an excellent host, and the weekend featured great food, new games (Tichu!) and lots of outdoors time.

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There was too much storm damage to ski through the woods, so on Saturday we set off across the fields. There was a thing layer of surface snow over hard-packed try snow, over a thick layer of ice, so tracks weren’t really necessary and we all skied together. I’m not a very experienced cross country skier, but we weren’t doing anything technical and it was nice to get out all together.

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It snowed Saturday night, making for much trickier skiing on Sunday. Neither Anna nor I are all that proficient, so after Josh’s binding broke we decided to go for a wintry hike through the woods instead. I’m so glad we got to do both – there’s something magical about the woods in the winter. It’s so quiet in there, and the colours are so stark. We were out for over an hour, and I’ll admit to being quite cold by the time we got back to the house. L jokes all the time about wanting a pair of knitted long johns, but I think I need them more than he does.

Stepping-Stones in Cosmos, with surprise toes!

Stepping-Stones in Cosmos, with surprise toes in Chestnut leftovers!

Speaking of knitting, I manage to get in a little bit in and around all the other activities of the weekend. I cast on for a pair of Stepping-Stones (for me!) on Friday night, and cast off the first one last night. I’m knitting these up in some stashed Tosh DK in the Cosmos colourway, and they’re ticking right along, which is a good thing, because the temperature is going to take a dive tonight (they’re calling for -25C, which is -13F) and I’m going to need another pair of thick socks.

A Swissmas miracle

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Thank you all for your crossed fingers and sympathy! I’m never sure whether to post about bad news, but sometimes you just need to talk to people who understand. Anyway, this is a story with a happy ending: I got my knitting back!

Holiday socks!

Holiday socks!

The day after it went missing, my dad, Jenny (my youngest sister) and I went to skiing at Verbier. We left early, so I didn’t have a chance to go into the village and look for my knitting. I was pretty sure all was lost (I’m optimistic by nature, but sometimes it’s best to prepare for the worst), so on the way home, we searched around for a knitting shop where I could at least get another set of needles. It took a while, but we managed to get to a Migros, which is sort of like a Swiss Walmart, and they had needles! The selection was limited, but I wasn’t in a position to be fussy, so I snapped up a set of grey 2.5 mm dpns.

When we got back, though, my mum and Connie (middle sister) had big smiles. They’d been into the village to make some inquiries. Their first stop was the ski outfitter, where I was sure my knitting had fallen out of my bag, and it was there! Apparently, when they owner had arrived in the morning, my little knitting bag was sitting on the windowsill. They were apparently totally baffled by magic loop, but thought the self-striping yarn was cheating!

I finished the first sock this morning and am a couple of inches into the second one. I won’t have a new pair of socks to wear tomorrow, but I suspect I’ll finish them before my flight lands in Toronto on Thursday.

Merry Christmas to you all! I hope your holidays are wonderful (and wooly)!

The view from the refuge (at about 3,000 metres) where we took a coffee break yesterday. (Photo taken by my sister Jenny)

The view from the refuge (at about 3,000 metres) where we took a coffee break yesterday. (Photo taken by my sister Jenny)