Summer’s One Last Hurrah

Today is Labour Day, the last long weekend for summer 2017. Here in southern Ontario, Mother Nature is being kind, as the sun is out, the wind is blowing, and the air temperature is just right.

Me? I plan on spending today outside as much as possible, relaxing, not worrying about what this week will bring, and of course, I’ll have yarn in my hands.

Enjoy today, wherever you are. Enjoy the moments. Enjoy what summer can bring.

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When a Knitter Takes Time To Bake

I love baking. Give me flour, sugar, butter, and an oven pre-heated to 350F, I’m a happy girl. I’ve talked about my baking hobby in a previous post, sharing pictures of Easter cupcakes from a few years ago.

When my boss started planning her May 2017 wedding, she asked me to make the cake – Red Velvet with a Vince Neil cake topper. (Side note, my boss is an amazing person whose interests span from cemeteries and museums to Motley Crue. She’s awesome.) Making the cake, easy enough. We looked at a few pictures online of other ‘rock concert themed’ cakes for inspiration, so I had a mental image of how it will all come together, but where I started to stumble was the Red Velvet Cake.

Like many home bakers, I start with a box mix then use my own add ins. My standard not-so-secret personal touches include milk instead of water and using butter instead of oil and doubling the amount called for. The richness given to the cake because of the butter is amazing.  My go-to cake flavour is vanilla. It’s my personal favourite so I make it a lot.  Chocolate cake has been made on occasion, but I had never before made Red Velvet. Challenge accepted.

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After a few Google searches on the best box-hacks to make Red Velvet and one not-so-successful attempt with using Devil’s Food Cake as my start (it is too chocolate-y to get a good red colour), I found the perfect combo.

Ingredients
1 box of Golden Cake Mix
2 tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup buttermilk (I wanted more tang with the flavouring – Buttermilk gave this!)
3 eggs
1 tsp Wilton No-Taste Red Food Paste*

Mix together the box mix and sifted cocoa powder.  Add the wet ingredients and follow the recommended baking times and temperatures set out on the box.

*This is important – NO-TASTE! If it’s not the no-taste, you may end up with a rather bitter and, well, gross, taste to your cake.

I did not try using liquid food colouring as I was concerned it may have also given that bitter aftertaste, and knowing this was for a wedding, I wasn’t leaving anything to chance.

Here is the batter:

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And here is the finished trial cupcake:

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Paired with a simple cream cheese icing, this recipe was a hit. The cake was rich and moist, and the colour was indeed red.  I could have added more colouring for a deeper colour, but I was happy with the result.

As for the final cake, once decorated with fondant and the Vince Neil topper:

 

My Great-Grandmother Was A Knitter

When I first started with my knitting obsession hobby, my mother would watch me work and comment,

“I know you didn’t get this from me. The knitting gene must skip a few generations. You’ve inherited this from Granny.”

My great-grandmother was a knitter. She was a knitting instructor many years ago in England, on top of raising eight children.  One of those kids was my beloved Grandad, and if there’s truth to the stories I’ve heard through the years of his, let’s say rambunctious nature, as a child, then my Granny certainly had her hands full!

Even though she lived on the other side of the Atlantic, my great-grandmother made a few pieces for me when I was a kid, notably my sister and I were adorable in matching sweaters with fruit on the front of them.

After one visit to England in the mid-1990s, my grandparents returned home with a blue toned sweater, saying Granny made it, but it wasn’t the right size for her. I can’t remember how, but the sweater became mine. I’ve had it for 20 years, and on particularly cool days, I break this sweater out and feel comforted not only by its warmth, but also by the skill in each stitch, somehow making me feel connected to the great-grandmother I was lucky enough to meet and with whom I share a passion and a craft.

Me wearing my Granny sweater, with 20 years between pictures.

 

Time Flies When You’re…

It is hard to believe that this is the last week of August! It really feels like 2016 is flying by!

The last time I posted, I was starting my week’s holidays.  I camped in Goderich in a lovely Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Huron.  It would have been a lovely few days away, that is, if Mother Nature didn’t save a summer’s worth of rain for when I was in a tent. Seriously, Tuesday was a hard day. Sleep wasn’t had due to the rain, and by the wee morning hours, my tent was wet, my sleeping bag was wet, and so were my pillow and clothes. I was miserable. My plan was to spend my camping days leisurely passing the time on a beach. The best laid plans of mice and men… All I can say is thank goodness Provincial Parks have clothes driers. Best $2 I’ve ever spent.

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Despite the rain, I had a lovely set-up for a few days.

The rain didn’t stop the reading. I managed to read two books, Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal, and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s All Wound Up (she’s also very well known as the Yarn Harlot. She’s amazing), and I finished reading Us by David Nicholls, one that I had been reading intermittently since January.  Granted, the reading took place either in my dry car, or sitting on a camp chair under an umbrella, but I was able to blissfully lose myself in a good story.

While in Goderich, I (surprise, surprise) visited a yarn shop.  Signature Books and Crafts is located just off Goderich’s historic Courthouse Square.  It had a good selection of yarns, conveniently organized by weight, and the owner who helped me was friendly and good to chat with.  There was another lady in the shop, as I had arrived after a knitting circle had finished, and together the three of us ‘oohed and aahed’ at this skein I bought:

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Sheep Uy Colors, 100% Merino Wool, Vikings colourway

And I bought two balls of this dusty rose colour for my Travel Afghan.

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Diamond Luxury Collectiom, Fine Merino Superwash DK

My shopping was cut short due to ominous black clouds that did, indeed, pour down that Wednesday afternoon.  Apparently, Mother Nature felt she didn’t get it all out of her system the day before. It was perfect timing, actually, as I met with my university roommate and had a lovely time catching up and eating yummy Chinese food!

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Right before the downpour

While my mini-getaway plans may not have gone off as hoped, I still had a good few day, a nice chance to escape and recharge.

Oh, The Places I Have Gone…

When you travel, do you buy yarn? Do you make yarn shops planned stops on road trips? Do you ensure that stopping at a LYS is as important to your trip as cultural stops and other tourist attractions? Since delving deep into the Knitting lifestyle, local yarn shops are as important to me as which museums I’ll visit. I buy enough yarn from each shop I visit to make afghan squares, which one day will be complete and a lovely keepsake to the places where I have travelled.

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In 2013, I took a few day ‘staycation,’ and I drove to Ottawa – The Museum of History, Bytown Museum, walks around Parliament Hill, every Canadian history dork’s dream. On the way there, I took a detour off the Highway and stopped in Kingston. Along with re-caffeinating at Starbucks and visiting Sir John A.’s gravesite at Catarqui Cemetery, I visited Knit Traders of Kingston and bought a lovely ball Diamond Luxury alpaca in a ‘Typical Me’ pink colour.

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When I finally arrived in Ottawa, between walking, sightseeing and Museum visiting, I went to a small LYS east of the Rideau Centre. I was very saddened to see that it had closed when I returned to Ottawa a year later, but on my first and only visit to this shop, I bought a lovely blue skein of Diamond Luxury Collection Fine Merino Superwash DK.

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In 2013, my knowledge of yarn was low. I didn’t appreciate the difference in DK to worsted, material content, or brand recognition; I did, however appreciate the colours of these balls of yarn, their softness, and that they made me happy. I also didn’t have a project in mind, as the idea of a keepsake afghan hadn’t quite materialized, but I knew they were going to come home with me, souvenirs from a well needed getaway.

When I visited Quebec City in 2014, I had knit the Ottawa/Kingston yarn into happy squares and was anxious to buy more yarn to help the blanket grow. Quebec City is such a lovely place to visit, steeped in history and rich with Quebecois culture. The handy Ravelry ‘Road Trip Planner’ informed me that while there wasn’t a yarn shop in the old part of the City, there was one on the other side of the St. Charles River. After I walked the 20-25 minutes to get there, I found a lovely LYS where women were buying yarn and sitting in the comfy chairs knitting. I found a skein of Briggs and Little softspun in a fun melon green colour; I knew it would work well with the bright blue and pink I’ve already knit with, so I bought it, along with a pair of handcrafted birch needles, made by River John Needle Company, based in Nova Scotia. I didn’t speak much French, and the LYS woman didn’t speak much English, but I thought back to Grade 9 French, remembered my “s’il vous plait” and “merci boucoup,” and the woman smiled a kindly smile at my while I paid for my purchase. I Googled the shop, so that I could get the name and recommend it if you were ever in la Belle Province, but Google has told me that Softi is ‘permanently closed.’ Again saddened to hear that a lovely little shop, with kind staff, has closed.

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In 2015, I went on my fabulous cruise with my best friend, where we went to Miami, Key West and Cozumel. We couldn’t find any open yarn shops on the day we spent in Miami and was informed in Key West that it was too hot there to be knitting (they are doing knitting wrong in Key West), so I wasn’t able to buy any souvenir yarn on that trip, but in September of that year, my sister and I took a day trip to Kitchener, where I went to Shall We Knit and bought a vibrant purple skein of Cascade 220. It may not have been a true ‘Vacation,’ but my sister and I had a fantastic day together, I called the KW home for four years as I completed my undergraduate degree, and the purple reminds me of the purple of my school colours. I may have bent my rules for this yarn to be a part of the afghan, but I think they were bent for many good reasons.

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This summer, I’ll be camping in Goderich, visiting a dear friend and, you guessed it, visiting museums and yarn shops. In late August, I’ll share my Museum stories and yarn purchases.

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

I’ve been a bad blogger again. Another post, days late… and here comes another excuse: my life is now controlled by a blinking light on my wrist, aka, my Fitbit. You don’t realize how sedentary you’ve become until you have something that shows you exactly how many steps you take (or, well, don’t take…).  And let’s be honest here, knitting isn’t exactly an active hobby (oh, but I love it so!).

Because of this constant reminder, I’ve been walking more and truly loving it. I get out on my lunch and take advantage of the fact that I work in a beautiful park on a lakeshore. I’m also walking in the evening and exploring my neighbourhood.  I live in an older part of my city, and every night, I take a slightly different route. What if I turned right instead of left? What if I walked longer to the next street north? What if I take the trail path rather than follow the streets?

One night, while enamored with my surroundings, I took pictures along the way of what I found interesting. I hope you do too.

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Found on a random lawn – it makes me smile every time I pass it
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Lovely line of trees in this small parkette
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This park may have been one of my favourite discoveries – it feels out of place where I found it, but perhaps that’s why I like it so much
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Now why, oh why, was this beautiful brick house ever covered with that ugly mint green siding?? 
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Semi-detatched housing is a common sight; this three unit attached structure isn’t. They are three different houses with unique numbers, but to see a building like this isn’t common. Along with my archivist friend, we were able to date these to 1927-8.
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Finally, my front door. Because, of course I have a yarn wreath hanging out front…