Sunday, 30 December 2007

Clapotis? C'est fini!

On Thursday, we got on the road to Ottawa at about 10:30am. As we were driving through Cobourg, it began to snow and continued pretty much for the rest of the drive. Near Brockville, traffic completely stopped just before an exit so we decided to take the exit and drive on a lesser highway beyond whatever stopped the traffic. It was a slippery road parallel to the big highway. We didn’t actually see what stopped the traffic but were able to get on the highway at the very next exit. By this time so much snow was falling that we stayed in the right lane for it was to ‘slithery’ to try to get into the left lane to pass. I drove until we started up the 416 - the highway up to Ottawa from the 401. We switched drivers and continued on our way; quite surprised the road had not yet been plowed even though there was quite a bit of traffic, this first business day after Christmas.

We gratefully arrived at my cousin, Jeannie’s at about 5:15pm - just in time for dinner! We were both very glad to get off the roads. I don’t have snow tires and was unable to back up the hill to get into Jeannie’s driveway. I attempted to go around the block but was unable to get up the hill one street over and ended up sliding backwards down the hill with the ABS grinding. There were no cars on the street so I just turned the steering wheel and back up to the curb and then was able to turn and go down the hill. I returned back to Jeannie’s street and was able to get enough momentum to get into the driveway.

We had a lovely dinner - a variety of leftovers from previous dinners. Yum. Jeannie and Robert went to a Senators’ hockey game and my aunt, Margaret, Skip and I stayed in and watched “The Queen”. I finished the clapotis (pronounced cla-po-TEE) with only 1 inch (2.5cm) to spare!













Here's a closeup:



Then I noticed that I hadn’t dropped one of the stitches and had to frog it back to redo it. I wanted to frog it back one repeat further so I wouldn’t have to sweat the last few rows.

This morning we slept in but finally got going just before lunch. We headed to Bank St. to the Indian Restaurant we had eaten at last time we were here - the New Nupur Restaurant on Bank Street in the Glebe. After the buffet lunch, we went to the yarn store next door, Yarn Forward. I bought 4 skeins of Bernat Cottontots yarn for the modular baby blanket for Carrie’s baby.

We then went to the War Museum which I was able to enter for free with my Ontario College of Teachers card. We had toured the cramped, old one a few years ago. The new museum has all of the old artifacts and more but more spread out and impressively displayed. We had to rush through the post WWII section because the museum was closing. We didn’t get to see the War Brides exhibit so may return tomorrow. I can also get free admission to the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, QC (formerly Hull, Quebec).

Back at Jeannie’s I recommenced the finishing of the clapotis. This time I remembered to drop all the required stitched and still only finished with 1 inch to spare again! I must not have ripped back one repeat as I hoped to. I was getting really nervous for the last few rows. I wove the ends in too soon to get a picture. I will block it when I get home but for now, it makes a very fetching scarf.

Yesterday, we walked over to the Rideau Centre and had lunch at Richtree. I had rosti and a Napoleon pastry. Yum. We then wandered over to Chapters for coffee at Starbucks and just to browse. They didn't have any "Hairspray" DVDs. It was a nice day for walking - temperatures just above freezing and sunny. The wind dried up a lot of the melting snow.

Last night Margaret treated us to ordered-in Chinese food. We then just relaxed after dinner. Skip watched football, Jeannie and Margaret read the paper and I knit. I started a mitered square baby blanket for Carrie's baby, due in February. We know she's going to be a girl so I selected 4 different colourways of pink and white yarn. The squares are about 7.5" square. I will make 16 in a patchwork quilt pattern. I knit 3.5 squares the last couple of nights and almost two squares in the car today in only 2.5 hours.

Here it is to this point:

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

"Let Nothing You Dismay"

Well, it's all over but the leftovers.

Monday, Scooter opened his gifts at about 4pm - his mother was coming at 6 to collect him. He was pleased with all his gifts. I forgot to give him his gift from Lorna so he'll have something else to open when he returns on New Year's Day.

Scooter and his new golf clubs.














After Scooter left, Skip and I went to Norm and Lena's in Scarborough (West Rouge, actually) to enjoy their Swedish Christmas Eve feast - our second Christmas dinner. There are usually several family members and a few friends in attendance.

Pictured are Lena, myself and Marion, Lena's sister-in-law.







We enjoyed glogg (mulled red wine with raisins and almonds), dried Swedish ham, beets and cabbage, an apple salad, Mr. Johansen's Surprise (a potato and fish dish), boiled potatoes, cheeses and rye crisp crackers, Vienna sausage-type sausages, ribs, and for dessert, wonderful rice pudding and lingonberry sauce and caramels. Mmmm. I restrained myself and didn't go for seconds but I sure could have.


Norm and his brother-in-law, Gord.








Christmas morning, Skip and I got up and had a leisurely morning. I put the burning log channel on the TV and we opened our gifts and had breakfast. After lunch, we dropped in at Skip's brother's house and visited with his wife and family. We then dropped in to visit Skip's mother in the nursing home and then drove on to Lorna's for our third (and last!) Christmas dinner of the season with her two kids, Scott and Megan. She served a delicious stuffed turkey,cranberries, scalloped potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, cauliflower and broccoli casserole and a delicious raspberry ripple for dessert.

This morning we slept in and after breakfast, Skip went back to bed for a wee nap. After lunch he had another nap. We're not sure if he was hung over after his glass of wine last night but he sure was tired. Today we just puttered around. All in all it was a wonderful series of holiday celebrations.

Tomorrow we go to Ottawa until Sunday. I decided to start the CeCe sweater but am having some 'issues' with gauge. I'm going to re-knit it with needles one size larger. I finished A's socks and will send them next week when we're back home.

They're ribbed and striped with alternating yarns left over from other sock projects.






I need to finish the hedgehog I'm sending his mother. I just need to attach the eyes, stitch the nose and stuff it.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

One Down, Two to Go

I spent most of today preparing a Christmas feast. We are celebrating early because Scooter will leave us tomorrow to spend Christmas with his mother. We'll see him again on New Year's Day for the rest of his winter vacation. I did zoom over to Canadian Tire to pick up some more light bulbs for the new chandelier. It poured rain all day - bleah! I'm not happy with the light bulbs. The lights flicker. I'm going to have to test the chandelier with other bulbs to see if they flicker. If they don't, I'll know there's something funny with the new bulbs. If they do, I'll know there's something wrong with my wiring.

Lorna arrived in time to eat chicken, cranberry sauce, green beans, scalloped potatoes, turnip, plum pudding, pecan tarts and cookies. We had a very nice dinner.













It sure was a good excuse to get the house cleaned up.

I spent most of the day on my feet so I'm going to take it easy tomorrow. We go to Norm and Lena's for their Swedish Christmas dinner, Swedish dried ham and all the fixings - a tradition we've participated in since Christmas of 1995. Skip and I will have a lovely quiet Christmas morning and then go visit my MIL in the afternoon on the way to Lorna's for her Christmas dinner. Mmmm - turkey.

Life is sure good.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

"Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat"

Well, the capon is pretty fat. We picked it up from the butcher today. That place was a zoo!!!

We met Skip's brother and his wife for lunch near my MILs nursing home where they had been visiting. After lunch Skip, Scooter and I dropped in for a visit at the nursing home. Jennie was in a pretty good mood and didn't snipe at Skip. We dropped in at the butcher (the zoo) and the liquor store. After we dropped Skip off, Scooter and I went Christmas shopping for Skip's Christmas gift. I then dropped Scooter off back at home and headed out to try and find more light bulbs for the lovely new chandelier I installed yesterday. I got the bulbs home and RATS! They're not the same 'colour' as the ones I bought the other day. Back I'll go tomorrow and try and return them and will have to go back to Canadian Tire and buy the lower wattage bulbs.

I went out, yet again, walking this time, to the IGA to finish up the grocery shopping. I started to get checked out and realized I hadn't even brought my purse with me. By some miracle, I had my cell phone in my coat pocket so called Skip to bring it to me. Oh brother.

After dinner, I scurried around and started some of the food preparation for tomorrow's Christmas dinner: chopping celery and onions for the stuffing. Lorna's going to join us so it's a good excuse for me to finally get things done around here and make the house (at least the main floor) presentable. I don't know why I never have motivation to do it for ourselves. Then I got the dining room all organized for our dinner tomorrow.

On the electronics front, I figured out how to hook up the DVD player to the new TV. However, I haven't figured out how to run the signal through the DVD player to the TV so we can either watch TV or we can watch a DVD. That's doesn't sound like a big deal but to go from one thing to the other, I have to change the cables behind the TV. I'm relieved because now we'll be able to watch DVDs which is something I like to do this time of year - especially the Christmas DVDs.

I only knit a couple of rows on the black alpaca ribbed scarf. I have to find the rest of the yarn because I'm almost finished the first skein.

Tomorrow (after I get the light bulbs) will be dedicated to preparing our Christmas feast.

Friday, 21 December 2007

4 Days to Go!

Today was a day to get lots of errands done: pick up a Purolator package, exchange something at WalMart, return something to Canadian Tire, pick up groceries, help Skip take the 20th Century 80s TV to the car so he could take a load to the dump, put up a new light fixture in the dining room (it took three tries before I got it right) and clean up after myself. The house has been a complete disaster area this week with the new TV and home theatre system coming in and moving things around. Last night, every room on the main floor except the kitchen was in disarray and it was making both Skip and me crazy!

Order has been restored. Skip went and collected Scooter from school in The Big City this afternoon. Scooter will be with us until Christmas Eve and will return on New Year's Day until the 6th.

While I was up on the ladder putting the chandelier up and listening to the local classical FM radio station I was reminded of the Sing-Along Messiah this Sunday. Rats! I had planned to go and I completely forgot that I am hosting a Christmas dinner then. Pooh! I even have the ticket. Oh well, it's more important to spend time with friends and family - maybe next year - sigh.

Tomorrow we're meeting Skip's brother for lunch near my MILs nursing home. We'll visit her after lunch. I have a couple more errands to run in the afternoon.

I was thrilled last night to get a comment on my blog from the gal who created the now famous (at least among my knitting group) Rolo Pretzel Turtles, Jaden Hair. She is quite the Internet personality and blogs about food. She creates and photographs delicious fresh Asian and fusion cuisine. She also KNITS! Again, I am not a confident cook, however, I have printed out her recipe for German Oven Pancakes and Spam Fried Rice to try out on Skip and Scooter. Here's a link to a video of a radio show she appeared on. She certainly makes her dishes sound easy to prepare.

I am also posting a link to the garterlac dishcloth from the Criminey Jickets website. I knit it back in the spring to get more confidence with knitting entrelac patterns. I called it the 'Neapolitan Ice Cream' garterlac dishcloth.













I then modified the pattern to 16 stitch diamonds for lovely, sunny yellow bathmat.













Once the technique is mastered, there are lots of patterns using it. For example, in the winter Knitty.com catalogue is the Quant headband and these very cool Annetrelac socks from Interweave's Knitting Daily store. There's also this soft Danica scarf from Knitty.com and Pam Allen's Lady Eleanor Stole from "Scarf Style".

I haven't knit a single stitch today. I'm going to take another stab at getting our new big-ass TV hooked up so we can at least watch it; forget the DVD/VCR player and the home theatre system. I'm really tired. I think I'll go relax.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Clean as a Whistle

I had my screening colonoscopy today and it went fine and everything looked 'normal'. The consultation beforehand was very easy - just filling out forms and answering all the questions. The doctor was very cute and the sedation very effective. Last thing I remember was rolling over on my left side and then waking up afterwards. Skip dropped me off and then went to visit his nephew's wife, Linda, who just works 1 block away from the clinic. He was there to collect me after I was OK to walk down the stairs. We went and had Mexican food in Ajax at Mexico Lindo. I'm sure my guts will rebel but it sure was good.

The 'clean out' last night was not so pleasant. I had to drink 2 litres of a solution in 250mL (1 cup) portions every 10 minutes. Before the second litre was finished, I was 'cleansing' my colon. Of course, this was the time Skip and I chose to move our very heavy 20th Century TV to make room for our lovely 21st Century TV in the family room. It was comical actually; every time I tried to lift the old TV, I'd have to put it right down and run to visit the 'loo'. We finally gave up and the TV is still sitting on the TV stand in the front hall. The new TV is sitting on the floor in the family room and I'm unable to get it to find channels. Arggghhhh!

I remembered after 6pm that I was going to make some treats for tonight's Sit 'n Knit. I had bought the ingredients for the Rolo Pretzel Turtles a couple of nights ago so I whipped them together and threw them in the fridge to cool down. Now, I'm not the most confident person in the kitchen but this recipe is a snap. I don't even use Rolos, I get the generic caramel chocolate cups at Walmart and I'm pretty sure you can buy them at Bulk Barn as well. And to make cleanup easier, you could use parchment paper or cheaper yet, aluminum foil on the cookie tin. I then just slide the entire batch on the aluminum foil onto the cooling rack. Once cooled (I use the refrigerator for 20 min. or so) I just peel the treats off. Then I recycle or throw the aluminum foil away and put the cookie tray away - no washing! It's the easiest treat to make and has always been very well received.

The Rolo Pretzel Turtles were a big hit again tonight at Martina's festive Kniterary Sit 'n Knit. Lots of people were there, too. I met Shawna (below on the left) who was allergic to what she was knitting; yet she soldiered on.

It reminded me of when my step-mom (who later legally adopted me) joined our family and she was trying to win over my teenaged brother by knitting him a Mary Maxim sweater (it was the early 60s so they were ubiquitous - now they're 'vintage') . It had a motorcycle on the back and goggles on the front with checkered flag pockets. I think my sister has it. It was 100% wool and Mom was allergic to wool. It didn't bother her eyes and nose until she had knit for a couple of hours but the wool irritated her hands and arms so she wore kid gloves that went up to her elbows (gloves were big then, too). The sweater was a big hit with my brother, thank goodness.

I sat beside Kathryn tonight and she was knitting the ribbing of a hat with some lovely Norwegian yarn. I introduced her to the magic loop method (third technique under Small Diameter Circular Knitting). She has the same aversion to dpns that I do and instantly saw the merit in using only one circular needle. Here's a link to a webpage that describes the crossover join method, however, I usually just cast on one extra stitch and move it over to the other needle and start the round by knitting the first two stitches together.

Lisa (in red above) brought the Christmas cardi for us to admire. We all remarked that we didn't realize that it was a child's sweater - it looked full-size in all the pictures.

One of the gals showed us the comfort dolls she is knitting.

They get sent to Malawi and are handed out to orphan children (many of whose parents died of AIDS no doubt). It is a project with ICROSS (International Community for the Relief Of Suffering and Starvation). The 5" tall dolls get shipped among medical supplies. Several of us took patterns. The pattern is also available here. They were SO cute, particularly the ones with black Afros. And they look like they have their hands in their pockets! She has 122 done and will sent them once she has 150.

I really enjoy my time with this lovely group of women.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Counting Sheep ...

I guess I shouldn't have had that latte this evening. I ordered a 'decaf' latte but I think they slipped me a high test 'caf' latte. Rats! I hate lying in bed trying to relax and breathe deeply to try to fall asleep and nothing works. I gave up and got up and did a few semi-productive things. I wrapped a Christmas gift for Skip, I threw some more stuff out from my desk, I searched for some cardigan patterns online and now I'm blogging. It's 4:30am and I'm sure going to feel like crap when I get up in the morning.

I have also begun my fast as step one in my 'clean out' (for the lack of a better phrase) for my screening colonoscopy on Thursday. I made a double batch of lime jello (anything red is verboten) which will be one meal and possibly a snack. I thought there might be a trace of red in orange and grape jello and I didn't see any blue jello - whatever flavour it might be. Also on the menu is some chicken broth and black tea and coffee. Step two involves drinking 2 litres of a solution in 250mL (1 cup) dosages every ten minutes starting at 6pm tomorrow to accelerate the process, I guess. Then for 'breakfast' on Thursday I have to drink another 2 litres of the solution with the same dosage starting at 6:30am.

I do not have any concerns which warranted the screening test. But I am getting 'of an age' and my maternal grandmother died from colon cancer so I thought I'd get checked out. When Skip picks me up after the procedure on Thursday (which should be complete sometime around noon) I hope I'm feeling well enough to go eat.

This afternoon I was smugly thinking I'd had my Christmas shopping done for some time now but realized I needed to pick up a couple of things for Scooter. He finally submitted his Christmas list (I got it as a Facebook message which he wrote me in Business and Information Technology class. What! Facebook's not blocked? It sure was at the school I taught at as well as Hotmail, Yahoo, msn messenger, etc. etc.) Anyway, while at an electronics store this afternoon, I asked a very cute and charming sales person about a deal he could get me on a 42" LCD 120HZ TV with a home theatre system in a particular price point. Luke - who sported a Nick Lachey hair style but with some blue gel - seemed very knowledgeable and taught me a couple of things that I didn't already know about 21st Century televisions. I learned that if the TV is 120HZ, it doesn't blur with motion. That is a good thing as Skip gets motion-sick when there is too much motion on the TV. Heck, he can't even look down in a car or he feels queasy. That's why I always navigate when we're in unfamiliar surroundings. Anyway, I told Luke I'd have to bring my husband in for the final decision.

After dinner I returned to the store with Skip in tow. We hooked up with Luke and did the deal which ended up costing about $600 more when all the required cables, extended warranties and taxes were factored in. To his credit, Skip only blanched a little bit when Luke rang up the total.

Then came the task of fitting the two enormous boxes in the back of my small, hatchback car. We ended up having to take the boxed components of the home theatre out of the main box and stuffing the separate boxes into the car, just barely fitting so I could put the hatch down. Luke came out and told us he forgot to sell us a couple of additional cables. There went another $100 or so. With the satellite provider we use, we'll get 6 months free HD service and rental as they currently are running a promotion. Woo hoo! We just might have HDTV in time for the bowl games!

So, while I'm fasting tomorrow (today, actually) I'll run out to the TicketMaster outlet to pick up our International Bowl tickets (we're sitting on the Ball State side - go Cardinals!! The Rutgers side was sold out - waaahhh!) and then I'll be trying to get the new TV set up. If I ever get out of bed, that is... Merry Christmas to us!!! Ho ho ho.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

"Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful ..."

Today it is snowing and blowing. Brrrr. I bundled up and braved and went out in this:

and walked over to the postal sub-station and mailed my Christmas cards and picked up some groceries.




Skip spent about an hour snow-blowing out the driveway and sidewalk.

















We then cozily holed up in the house and lit a fire. I made a nice roast beef dinner and Skip watched football.

Friday, Skip and I attended a Christmas potluck staff party of the school I used to teach at. It was nice seeing everyone. I sure didn't mind hearing how fresh and well rested I looked either.

Yesterday, we went to a dinner theatre with Skip's golfing buddies. The buffet dinner was very well done and the show, "Sin, Sex and the C. I. A.", very entertaining.

On the knitting front, I decided to re-knit the striped socks on one size larger needles. The first one was just too tight. I've just rounded the heel and I think it'll fit much better. I hope to get them done this week. Then I'll tackle another UFO.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Happy Birthday, Skip!

Today is my husband's (aka 'Skip')'s birthday.

Phone calls have been flooding in. Unfortunately, Skip has gone to visit his mother and is not home to receive them. However, I have been enjoying taking the calls and chatting with family and friends. One friend, Joan, always remembers the day Skip was born because there was a terrible blizzard that day in 1944 and her mother made her trudge through the snow to write her Grade 13 Chemistry exam. Once when Joan, her mother and Skip were in the same room, Skip mentioned this and Joan's mother remembered the incident quite differently - that Joan insisted that she be permitted to go to school that day.

Today we hope to have lunch in Port Perry and stroll down the main street window shopping. That is, unless the blizzard that has been forecast sets in. Whatever the weather, Skip will have a very nice day.

Last night I attended my first meeting of the local knitting guild. It is an eclectic group of ladies including Martina, the proprietor of Kniterary and Stephanie, the proprietor of Ferguson's Wool Shop. A young gal sat beside me and proudly showed off her first completed project, a lovely multicoloured headband with a nice soft wool lining. I was really impressed with the intricacy of it - especially so early in her knitting 'career'. We also watched a segment of a Lucy Neatby DVD outlining a method of grafting a toe using a toe 'chimney'. It's very similar to the Kitchener stitch but just another way of doing it. I like learning different techniques - especially ones I can use in my sock knitting.

I'm almost finished the third hedgehog. I want to finish it to take to the Sit 'n Knit tonight at Kniterary. I will also take the two that are still drying. I gave Skip his birthday scarf - the ribbed scarf with Patons Bohemian chenille yarn in Beatnik Blues. I gave up trying to knit him a matching toque - mostly because I didn't have enough yarn to knit it tightly enough to keep out the wind. So, I'm going to lengthen the scarf another few inches.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

All That Cuteness and Talent, Too!

I forgot to write about this the other day after Scooter's piano recital.

Scooter studies piano with a very fine teacher in The Big City, Frank Horvat. Being a music educator myself, I couldn't be more pleased with Scooter's progress under Frank's tutelage. Frank's composing and performing is taking more and more of his time now so he has pared back the number of students he teaches. Skip and I are grateful he has continued to keep Scooter as his student.

At the recital of Frank's students last Friday, I couldn't help but notice the young lady in the pew ahead of us was knitting a rather large scarf.

She, Susan, is also a very talented piano player and has performed in two competitions that Scooter has performed in this fall. Susan's mother (sitting to her left) is also a piano teacher who had a few of her students in the recital as well. When I commented on Susan's knitting, her mother said Susan has got her knitting again. Susan told us she was knitting a scarf for her friend for Christmas. Yes, she's sitting on a pretty snazzy mink coat, too! Such style at such a young age.

I told Susan's mom and dad that I feel like a 'knitting missionary' (akin to the term 'yarn missionary' coined by 'Joe' the Yarn Harlot's husband) sometimes - that I'm always trying to convert people to knitting. It does my heart good to see a young person enjoying needlecrafts. I like to think it's as good for their stress management as it has been for mine.

Oh yeah, and here are Skip and Scooter posing by the piano:


Happy Birthday, Scooter!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Hedgehogs

Last night I braved the cold and snow to try to find some more brown Fun Fur-type yarn to make more hedgehogs. I went to Michaels and to Zellers - no dice. They had that type of yarn but no brown. What is it with the brown yarn? Why is there a big run on it? Is everyone making the fake fur stole in brown? What's the deal? I went home disgruntled and began knitting two more hedgehog fronts in preparation for their furry backs. I read in someone's Ravelry notes that they knit a smaller hedgehog using the exact same pattern and smaller needles so I knit one of them with 4.5mm and 6mm needles rather than the 6.5mm and 8mm needles.

Today I had a lovely lunch with Anne Marie. Afterwards, I drove to NE Oshawa to Michaels to see if they had any brown Fun Fur or the equivalent. Strike 3. No luck. I then slogged through the slush to the WalMart next door and lo and behold, they had brown Red Heart Foxy yarn - a very acceptable equivalent for the hedgehog 'prickles'. It was also an exact colour match for the Patons Classic Wool Merino I had purchased to use for the hedgehog backs - a modification from the original pattern. I bought two skeins.

Once home, I began knitting feverishly and finished the smaller hedgie. I felted it with the larger one I had completed the other night. While at Kniterary on Saturday, one gal who was taking Martina's felted pear class suggested I use flip flops in the washer for the required agitation. I put one pair of flip flops in the zippered pillow cover with the hedgies and another pair in the washer outside of the pillow cover. It took about 15 minutes for them to felt. I'm not able to get them to felt as thoroughly as a top loader with an agitator would do but I'm happy with the result. I squeezed out as much excess water as I could and stuffed them with grocery bags, shaping the backs, tummies and faces.

Here's a before picture of the little hedgie:



















And he and his big brother drying after felting:

The one on the left has brown yarn and fur on the back - my modification.

The one on the right has Aran yarn and brown fur on the back as called for by the pattern.

You can also see the difference in sizes just by using smaller needles.

I have a third one to finish - regular size with brown yarn and fur on its back.

My sister, Valerie, and my friend, MaryAnne, each want one. They're so easy and fast to knit. I think there will be a couple more in the making.

As they say in Japanese - Kawaii! (ka - wa - ee = how cute)

Monday, 10 December 2007

Go Lightly?

Today I dropped into my doctor's office to pick up the pre-colonoscopy instructions. There is a substance that I am required to consume starting the day before the procedure that will 'clean me out' - Klean Prep. An equivalent substance is called 'Go Lightly' - oh brother. It is an over-the-counter medication but if I get a prescription for it I can claim it on my drug plan - which I pay quite a lot for now that I am retired. The doctor wasn't in the office yet so I went to run a couple of errands and investigate the cost of the Klean Prep. If it was only going to cost $10 or so, I wasn't going to bother getting a prescription but the pharmacy I went to quoted me $27. So back I went back to my doctor to get the prescription.

My doctor's hours are 2pm - 5:30pm on Mondays. I arrived at about 2:20pm and sat down in the waiting room along with about 7 other people who were waiting for her, too. After a few minutes, I realized no one was going into the examination rooms and no one was coming out. The doctor hadn't arrived yet! Finally at about 2:50 she arrived - not by the same door we peons come in but by a back door (that way we can't hiss at and berate her) . I was the third person to see her and finally got out of there at 3:15. I am always annoyed at having to wait so long to see her. Even if I book the first appointment in the morning or after lunch, there is no guarantee that she'll show up on time. Fortunately, she travels a lot and her stand-in is really efficient AND punctual. Grrrrr.

I got my prescription and got out of there - went to my local pharmacy, got it filled and came home. Sheesh! A whole afternoon shot. Man, I hate that. One bright shining light in all of this was that I did have some knitting with me during my wait - crazy socks using two different blue colourways of left-over sock yarn and am knitting bands of 10 rows in each colour. I turned the heel at the doctor's office. They pretty much stay in my purse for unexpected delays in my schedule.

Now I'm knitting on the Sirdar Funky Fur Snowman. I'm using a Fun/Funky Fur equivalent (JoAnn Fabrics generic Sensations Cello yarn) and 3 1/4 mm needles. Reading the pattern closer I realized the finished object is supposed to be 19" tall! Sheesh! I don't think I'll be getting it done for this Christmas.

I started a ribbed toque-like hat for Skip last night with the remaining ball of Patons Bohemian yarn. I've had to rip it out three times because I can't seem to get the gauge right. I may or may not get it done for his birthday this Thursday.

Tonight? I'm going to felt the hedgehog. Here are some before shots:










































Stay tuned for the 'after' shots...

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Fa La La

Thursday, Valerie and I crossed the border to Port Huron, MI to shop for knitting stuff. I was looking for Fun Fur or the equivalent to use for the fuzzy part of the hedgehog. I bought some Patons Classic merino yarn and 9 balls of Cello white yarn (Fun Fur equivalent) at JoAnn Fabrics. The Cello yarn is for the Sirdar knitted snowman. We also went to Mary Maxim, lunch at Los Cuatro Amigos Mexican restaurant, and then Birchwood Mall to get a book with my Borders discount coupon at Waldenbooks. Back in Canada, we went back to Country Yarns and I bought the Huggable Hedgehogs pattern and some brown 'fun fur' type yarn for the bristles.

Valerie cooked a delicious meal of veal medallions, potatoes and corn. After dinner I perused her Knitters magazines. I also started the hedgehog. In no time flat, I had the front done and started the back.

The next morning I had an enjoyable breakfast with 10 retired ladies from the school I taught at for 11 years from 1978 - 1989 at South East Café. They get together the first Friday of every month for breakfast. Knowing that, I try to schedule my trips to Sarnia/Petrolia to coincide with the event. I drove back home after that arriving at about 3pm. Skip and I headed into The Big City at 4:30pm for Scooter's piano recital at 6pm. Scooter played very well. Once back home, I finished the hedgehog. It is adorable.

On Saturday, I whipped into Kniterary to show Martina the hedgehog. Just as I pulled into the parking lot, I realized she was having her 'felted pear' class. I had also been to the bead store, 'Bead It!' to buy the beads for the abacus row counter and showed Martina the picture and the beads I had purchased for Valerie to make the bracelet. I hope to go to the knitting guild potluck this Wednesday and the Sit 'n Knit on Thursday.

Today, I baked a birthday cake for Scooter's 14th birthday celebration. His birthday is on Wednesday but we won't see him again until the 21st - the beginning of his Christmas holiday. I made a 2-layer chocolate cake with Reese's Pieces in it with chocolate frosting. It was really good. I'm going to make the same thing for Skip's birthday celebration on Wednesday with more Reese's Pieces. For Skip's birthday, we're going to go to Port Perry and have lunch at "The Front Porch Bistro" and stroll up and down Queen St. window-shopping. We had lunch there a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it so Skip thought that would be a good way to celebrate his birthday.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Happy Hanukkah! (Day 1)

I tried to give an update yesterday but was unable to log into Blogger. Some technical glitch, no doubt.

I am feeling much better. I've been dragging my butt around since last week and yesterday I finally had a surge of energy and ran around tidying up, decorating the tree, paying bills, etc. Whilst surfing the Internet for something or other, I stumbled upon a latke recipe and thought, "Oh yeah, at sundown, it's Hanukkah!". I found an adapted recipe that uses a fraction of the oil and substitutes a sweet potato for a regular potato. I realized we had everything in the house but the sour cream so as Skip was heading to the grocery store, I added it to the shopping list. They turned out great! I was so proud of my self - actually making latkes for my first time. Personally, I do not adhere to the tenets of any faith, but I certainly enjoying the traditions and especially the cuisine of any faith or ethnic group. I just realized I broke every Jewish dietary law (aside from not keeping a Kosher kitchen) by serving pork chops with the latkes. It was kind of nice and gave me an opportunity to think about my Jewish friends who would also be eating latkes last night for dinner - WITHOUT the pork chops of course - LOL.

After dinner, Skip and I met friends, Nancy and Rick at a church in a neighbouring town to attend a wonderful concert of Christmas music performed by the Foothills Brass. They played some lovely arrangements of some standard and not-so-standard Christmas tunes. There was also a sing-along near the end of each 'set'. Skip and I actually arrived 1/2 hr. early because I screwed up the start time so we walked 3 doors over and had a power-visit with Skip's former neighbour, Joan Grignon. After the show we trouped downstairs and enjoyed the 'church lady' treats awaiting us - shortbread cookies, chocolate delights, peanut butter and chocolate treats, etc. etc. We bid farewell to Nancy and Rick and headed home so I could finish packing for my trip to visit my sister today.

This morning, I got up early and got on the road a little before 9am (after the usual u-turn after my first attempt to go back to the house to get something I had forgotten). I purposely did not have any tea at breakfast (Earl Grey decaf) so I would be able to drive all the way to the service centre near Cambridge without a comfort stop. I ended up having to stop 3 times before arriving at my final destination because I drank a litre of water while I was driving.

After lunch Valerie and I drove to Country Yarns, a very neat and tidy yarn shop on the way into Sarnia. There was a good assortment of yarns, sundries and patterns. I bought a very cute pattern to make a knitted snowman. We then dropped in on my niece, Ana, and I met their new dog - a weimerarner - named Oscar. We had a visit with Alex (age 4) and Melisa (age 12). We brought Ben (age 10) home with us so he could attend his activities club at the school next door at 6pm.

Valerie has tons of Knitter's magazines that I will be perusing during my visit. Perhaps I'll see some patterns I'll want to scan.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Still Sick

The doctor tells me my throat thing is viral and it just has to run its course. I got a refill on my ventolin inhaler so that should help the congestion somewhat. I also got an appointment for my screening colonoscopy for Dec. 20. I'll be glad to get it over with.

On the knitting front, I'm knitting fuzzy pink mittens for one of my former students. I finished the first one tonight and have cast on the second one. I just want to get it done so I can start the alpaca scarf I'm knitting for Skip.

I slept in today and felt pretty cruddy all day. I didn't do much except have breakfast, do the crossword puzzle and have a shower. I rested on the couch all afternoon. I didn't even start knitting until 5pm!!!

We've been watching NCAA football all afternoon. I'm bummed out that LSU beat Tennessee. I like to root for the underdogs. The BIG game is Missouri (#1) vs. Oklahoma (#9). I SO want Mizzou to win. I have been wearing my Missouri shirt to bed every night this week to give them good luck and washed it today to have it clean for tonight. Mizzourah rah rah!!!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

I'm Siiiiiiiiiiiick! Waaaaaaaah!

Last week, I could feel the bit of a scratchy throat starting. I got through the weekend and my MILs 90th birthday party OK and don't think I infected anyone. However on our shopping trip and particularly last night, my throat was quite sore and I was beginning to get laryngitis. I'm not convinced I have a cold but I do have irritated sinuses (moisturizing nasal spray is keeping my nose pretty clear), my throat is still sore and my voice is shot. Waaaah!

I made an appointment with a doctor for tomorrow. I will also inquire about being scheduled for a screening colonoscopy and this thing on my face. It looks like a burn - raised and red. It hasn't really changed in a couple of weeks. I will also mention my sore hip and see if she agrees with my lay diagnosis of arthritis. I also can't find my ventalin inhaler - which may have bounced out of my backpack this morning when I picked it up before I had it all zipped up. The cartridge in it was dated 2005 and was almost empty so I was due for a new one. Sheesh!! This aging stuff is not for sissies!

We had a lot of fun shopping in Buffalo these past three days. I got lots of nice loot including a ball of Mega Sock Stretch yarn at Elmwood Yarn Shop on Hertel Ave. There was a nice assortment of yarn but not very conveniently labelled. The proprietor needs to put signs up rather than hang several descriptive tags from a hook. She also was quite taciturn. She looked like she had a bad headache. Anne-Marie tried to engage her in conversation and was just given abrupt answers that did not lead to further discussion. Another customer was in the store seeking information about knitting a particular sweater. Any skilled salesperson would have run around suggesting all kinds of appropriate yarns that could be used. This gal sat on her behind and pointed to general areas where one kind of yarn might be found. I certainly did not get a 'warm, fuzzy' feeling in there and don't feel the need to return.

I did find a wonderful Nordic 100% wool sweater at Marshalls for $30. Not only would I probably never knit one myself, I couldn't buy the wool for that. It is white with various shades of blue in the design. It looks fabulous with any colour jeans. I also found a pair of Clark's open- back, black shoes with 2" heels for $30 as well. They are very comfy and look smashing with the dark blue jeans I bought at one of my favourite clothiers, Christopher and Banks.

The border crossings both ways were uneventful and the lineups not long at all. Today's drive was precipitation-free and due to taking the toll road - the 407 - practically traffic free. I was home by 1pm. Next week, I'm off again to my sister's for a quick visit with her and I also hope to have breakfast on Friday with the retired ladies from the school I taught at many years ago.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Ollie

We have a wonderful cat, Ollie, who is 8 1/2 years old. He is very affectionate and at times, demanding - particularly around feeding time. Ollie spends a lot of time sleeping in particular spots around the house. This is his favourite daytime sleeping spot:



in the crack of the sofa.














He also likes to sleep on the carpeted landing of our house so he can keep an eye on what is going on:













When we go away, the neighbour comes in and feeds him. However, the last couple of times we've been away for a week, Ollie has gotten kind of stressed out and we've discovered that he gnaws the fur off the backs of his front legs. Skip and I are going away for about a month in the spring. I've been trying to find someone who would look after him in their home the entire time we're away. I've asked practically everyone I've run into. Today at my mother-in-law's 90th birthday festivities, I asked Skip's niece, Michelle, if she would like to be a foster parent for Ollie and she said yes!!!! Yay!!! I'm so relieved. I sure hope he behaves himself at her house.

Friday, 23 November 2007

I Love A Parade

Today I got to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV for the first time ever!!!! I've been in school for the past 47 years (either as a student or a teacher) and have never had the day off before! Except for the two years we got American Thanksgiving off when I attended an American school when my family lived in Tampico, México. But we didn't have US television channels there to see the parade. We in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving the 2nd Sunday in October and only get a 3-day weekend and there aren't any big parades. Our Thanksgiving tradition is more of a harvest festival and although turkey is the traditional fowl consumed, there certainly aren't any pilgrims involved. We were settled by French explorers. Anyway, I REALLY enjoyed watching the parade this morning. I particularly liked the drum and bagpipe band that played Queen's "We Will Rock You". You've gotta love those bagpipes.

Skip and I finally made our 'romantic trip to the dump'. Let me explain... We've had two computer monitors in the garage between our two cars for about 3 months. Skip has been hinting that we've needed to take them to the dump (he wanted me to help him heave the stuff into and out of the car). To make it more enticing to me he began referring to the activity as the 'romantic trip' to the dump. Well today was the day. We got our courage and made the trip. WELL were we ever surprised at how easy it was! When we drove up, a woman at a booth asked what we had to unload. She told us where each item should go and then weighed the car. We then drove to the appropriate places and unloaded. We got rid of the two computer monitors, an old CPU, a dot matrix printer (my first one that dates from 1989), a REALLY old TV that showed everything in 'greenscale' (kinda like greyscale you'd get on your computer printouts but green), a broken growlight and 4 cans of paint. Then we drove up to the exit booth where the car was weighed again and were levied a $12 fee. We then gleefully drove off high-fiving each other feeling lighter than air. Holy crap! If we'd known it was going to be THAT easy, we'd have done this months ago. Now we're walking around the house looking at stuff to take to the dump. It wasn't that romantic but it sure felt good to get rid of that stuff.

I had a lovely dinner this evening with a former colleague, Suzanne. We went to Lake Grill in Whitby, just south of Victoria/Bayly/Baseline (or whatever it's called). I had yummy veal piccata in a white wine sauce with a simple potato and lovely broccoli. Suzanne enjoyed her stuffed salmon. The presentation was exquisite and the food delicious. After dinner I drove northward to Kniterary for the weekly Sit 'n Knit. A few of us brought stuff to show off. I call it 'Bring and Brag'. It's interesting to see what everyone is working on and hear about what challenges they've encountered with their projects. We also discussed possible 'field trips' we may take in the spring as there are several yarn destinations in southwestern Ontario that would be interesting to explore.

I do also want to remember to join the local knitting guild which meets the second Wednesday of the month. The Downtown Knit Collective (DKC) meets the 3rd Wednesday of the month in The Big City as well. I hope to get there sometime, too.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Giving Thanks à la USA

I just now read reading the blog of my friend, MaryAnne, who lives in Georgia in a town which she refers to as 'Hooterville'. At her reading group this week, with Thanksgiving as the theme, they discussed the 10 things they were most thankful for other than the usual husbands, kids, homes, friends, etc.

Here is my top 10 of 'things' I am thankful for: (sorry to be such a copy-cat MaryAnne)
1. My computer (PC) and laptop
2. Central vacuuming system
3. Online banking, shopping and msn messaging
4. My medical plan which allows for $400 of massages and chiropractic yearly
5. Bathroom cleaner with bleach and 'scrubbing bubbles'
6. Miller Chill beer (Miller Light with lime and salt - available only in the US)
7. Austermann Step sock yarn
8. Addi Turbo circular knitting needles
9. My passport
10. My iPod and all the gadgets that go with it

I guess it's fitting to publish my list today as it was also the airing of Oprah's 'favourite things' for Christmas show from Macon, GA.

Today I had my bi-annual mammogram - woo hoo! Skip was very sweet to come with me and wait in the waiting room. I only got a couple of rows of knitting done before I got called in and finished in 10 minutes. We then went shopping for some necessities for my MIL who resides in a nursing home - socks, slacks, coat, etc. We then went for dinner at Durham Region's only Mexican food emporium, Mexico Lindo in Ajax. On the way home we stopped in at A & P. I had espied some large print copies of the Reader's Digest there a while back and hoped one would still be there to get for my MIL. Let me digress for a moment...

I ordered the large print edition of Reader's Digest for my MIL back in August. The first copy was to arrive in 4 - 6 weeks. I received a bill in the mail but still had not received the first copy. I noticed the wrong postal code was on the bill. I corrected it online and was advised that a copy of the magazine would be shipped. Now, a month later, there has still been no delivery. I didn't buy the magazine at the A & P when I first saw it because I thought it would come in the mail. It didn't so today I did.

We then stopped in at the liquor store to pick up some wine for our neighbours who looked after Ollie while we've been away. I saw a New Zealand white wine called "Cat Pee on a Gooseberry Bush" and a NZ red called "Sally Cat" and thought those would be good selections for thanking people who had looked after our cat. We hope to deliver the wine tomorrow.

It felt good to get several errands done in 'one swell foop'.

I then began composing our annual Christmas newsletter and got most of the text done. I just have to insert some photos and I'll be ready to start my Christmas cards.

Monday, 19 November 2007

I Found It!

Last June, Skip and I went to Erie, PA on a shopping trip. We went to Millcreek Mall in Erie and also drove down to the factory outlet mall at Grove City. Whilst in Erie, I visited Cultured Purl and bought a skein of Cherry Tree Hill Supersock merino yarn and a ball of Trekking XXL yarn in a nice multicouloured green tweed colourway (298). I also bought a nice navy leather purse at a factory outlet store.

Back in the summer I went looking for the Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn and couldn't find it anywhere. I hunted high and low. I ended up buying some more of the yarn on eBay. I always wondered what happened to that yarn I had bought in Erie.













Yesterday, I went looking for the new leather purse that I had not used yet, and found it where I thought I had stashed it and what do you know? When I opened it up, there was the sock yarn! I guess I had cleverly stuffed the sock yarn in the purse in an effort to compact my purchases. Sheesh! I had also forgotten I had even bought the Trekking XXL yarn.













I love it when I find something I have misplaced. It is especially like it when I find something I didn't even remember I had lost (like the Trekking XXL yarn - hee hee).

It seems the Christmas season is galloping closer. This would be a good week to get the tree up and get the house organized for all the decorations. I have all kinds of grandiose plans to do some baking and a bit of shopping. This year, Skip and I are going to buy a big-ass LCD TV and home theatre system so we'll be paring back the gifts. We don't do a lot of gift buying for others and I have already obtained the gifts for my friends so we're going to blow the whole wad on the new TV. I hope I can get the home theatre system set up without a lot of muss or fuss. I guess we'll also have to investigate getting HD satellite service as well.

I am going cross-border shopping with my fellow retiree, Anne Marie, next Monday - Wednesday so hope to get a lot of things done this week. I'll have to fit these activities in between my mammogram at 7pm tomorrow, Scooter's festival piano competition on Wednesday afternoon, a baby shower on Friday afternoon and a social outing on Friday night. Saturday, we'll be in and out of The Big City with Scooter's hockey game and his piano scholarship competition in the evening. Sunday we're having a little celebration for my MIL's 90th birthday at the nursing home in the 'Gathering Room'. And what am I doing now (instead of getting my extra activities scheduled in)? Blogging while watching "The View", updating my flickr pictures, updating my Ravelry photos of my stash and moving paper around in my office/guest room. I think I'll go have lunch. :-)

Sunday, 18 November 2007

More about Cuba

My visit to Havana, Cuba last week really left an impression on me. I feel so sad for the wonderful citizens of Cuba who barely get by - barely get enough food to eat.

I checked a couple of sources and got more specifics about the food rationing system each person lives under.

From wikipedia:

"The vast majority of Cuban families rely, for their food intake, on the Libreta de Abastecimiento (literally, "Supplies booklet") distribution system, instated on March 12, 1962. The system establishes the rations each person is allowed to buy and the frequency of supplies. Most of these products are distributed at the local bodega (convenience store specialized in distributing these rations), and in the case of meat, poultry or fish, at the local carnicería (meat store). Other industrial products are also included in the libreta, such as cigarettes, cigars, matches and cooking fuels (liquefied gas, acohol, kerosene or even charcoal, depending on each person’s means for cooking). Other products can also be distributed through this method, such as light bulbs and other home supplies.

Products vary according to age for example, children up to the age of 7, the ill, elderly and pregnant women also get 1 litre of milk per day.

Here is a listing of the rationed goods, the weights allowed per person per month and the cost in pesos (25Pesos = approx. $1 USD):
Rice 6 lb 0.70 / lb
Beans 20 oz. 0.32 / lb
White (refined) sugar 3 lb 0.15 / lb
Dark (unrefined) sugar 3 lb 0.10 / lb
Milk (only children under 7 years) 1 lt / day 0.25 / each
Eggs (September to December)
12 0.15 each
Potatoes/bananas 15 lb

Meat (each portion is per person every 15 days):
Beef 0.5 lb 0.70/lb
Chicken 1 lb 0.70/lb
Sausages 225 gr 1.70/225 gr
Ham 0.5 lb 3.00/lb
Ground beef 0.75 lb 0.60/lb
Fish 1 can/425 gr/month

Citizens are issued the ration book each year. This booklet contains pages indicating the exact number and age groups of persons composing the family nucleus (typically, one booklet is released per family nucleus), as well as eventual dietary indications. Persons can only get goods from the bodega in their area, which in Havana would be a few city blocks in area. Meat is distributed every 15 days. Allocations are 1/2lb. of beef per person every 15 days, 1lb. of chicken per person every 15 days. "

The prices are very low for these goods as they are subsidized by the government however, the system was imposed in 1962 as a "temporary palliative to a crisis" and has lasted over 45 years. The government is also capable of preventing and punishing dissidents by resorting to the fear of being suspended from the distribution of rations. The government claims humanitarian aid is distributed to the people but there is no evidence that this is true.

We walked by a bodega when we were in Havana and the shelves were virtually empty.

Here is an interesting article a writer from the Boston Globe wrote about trying to live on Cuban food rations: Living On Cuban Food Ration Isn't Easy.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Highlights of My Cuba Trip

I have a lot to catch up on so will try to do this chronologically. This will be fairly long.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6 Skip and I packed like fiends and did all the things necessary to prepare for out trip to Cuba the next day.

The next day we attended the afternoon matinee of "Sweeney Todd" at the Princess of Wales Theatre. It was well staged although a very strange musical. I was most impressed with the actors who also performed all the music and did the singing. Wow! I can't even imagine how challenging it was to find instrumentalists that also could act and sing that were suited to the respective parts.

After the show we went for dinner at "Nawlins" a restaurant and jazz bar on King St. Then we took the subway up to Yorkdale where we had parked the car. Then we drove to the EconoLodge on Airport Rd. Our flight to Varadero was scheduled to leave at 6:30 the next morning so we were supposed to be at the airport three hours ahead - at 3:30!!! We went to bed as early as we could and set the alarm and asked for a wakeup call at 2:30. Of course, no one was at the counter when we arrived but there was already a lineup. Things went very smoothly checking in and getting through security. Since we didn't have to clear US Customs, we were through to the gate fairly quickly.

The flight was delayed a bit but we arrived pretty much on schedule. Sunwing had buses waiting to take us to our hotels. We were the last ones to be dropped off as our resort is almost the very last one on the Varadero Peninsula.

The Paradisus Princesa del Mar used to be a Sandals resort but was bought by the Sol Meliá group last December. It is an adult-only all-inclusive 5-star resort. We had been advised to go for as many stars as possible to ensure the best quality of food. It was good advice.
















Most of our days were spent relaxing by the pool,
















or on the beach,
















(did I mention I did some knitting?),















having meals, resting in the afternoon and going for dinner. We went booked a tour to the Varadero Tropicana on Saturday and to Havana on Monday.

The Tropicana show was very good except for the emcee who would have fit in well in the 60s. He sang a version of Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and a Neil Diamond tune. He did about a 20 minute set - very cheezy. Then came the dancers. They were excellent and had very colourful and elaborate costumes. The show was very well done. We were seated at a table with 6 Russians who smoked like fiends and drank like fish. We got a complimentary 'cuba libre' (rum and Coke with lemon) and a cigar for the gentlemen and a carnation for the ladies. Supposedly it's very similar to the Tropicana show in Havana.

On Monday, we got up early and boarded the bus to head to Havana for the day. It's about 140km to Havana but a 3 hour drive. The paved roads are very bumpy in a lot of places. We stopped for a washroom break about 40 min. out of Havana and I had a great pina colada. It was the first of several bathroom visits I had where there was no t.p. or a seat on the toilet. Can you say 'helicopter'? Fortunately, I had brought my own supply. Heh, heh, heh.

Once through the tunnel into Havana, we were driven to the square by the San Francisco de Assisi church.














This area of 'Habana Vieja' dates back to the 16th century. Old Havana is a UNESCO historic sight and is partially funding restoration projects in that area. Havana is a beautiful city that is crumbling. Time seems to have stopped almost 50 years ago with the US sanctions against Cuba after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. There are still many, many cars from the 50s on the roads. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the Eastern Bloc, Russia ceased to support Cuba. Things got very bad then. Cuba has very few trading partners. In 1992, they even ran out of oil. There was nothing to generate electricity and there was no power for a couple of weeks. Each Cuban has a ration book issued every year. They get 6 lb. of rice, 900g of beans and 12 eggs a month as well as some other basics. Children up to the age of 7 also get 1 litre of milk a day. Basically, the people of Cuba are starving. I lived in Mexico and saw poor people there but this is a different kind of poverty. Anyway...

We saw several interesting sights: the Ambos Mundos Hotel where Ernest Hemingway lived for a time (the room on the top floor in the corner)


















We had mojitos in the lobby bar.













We saw lots of old cars.














We went to Revolution Square where Fidel Castro once gave a 5 hour speech without any notes.














The building facing the square is the Department of the Interior and has an iron outline of Che Guevara on the facade.

"Hasta la victoria siempre" (Always until victory).

It is a lovely, sad, old, crumbling city. Fidel's brother, Raúl has basically taken over and will stay in power when Fidel dies. It is after Raúl dies that things will change for Cuba and probably not for the better initially.

Not having a computer, I had lots of time to knit and read. I read "The Birth House" by Ami McKay which had been recommended to me by a couple of the ladies with whom I knit on Thursday nights. I also finished Mark's socks (one is pictured here with a rum punch):














I didn't have a needle to graft the toe (Kitchener stitch) so just put the stitches on matches to hold them.
I didn't have much left yarn left on the first sock as you can see from this picture.














Our trip home was fairly uneventful. I did a mammoth laundry yesterday and some food shopping. Skip picked up Scooter and I had a baked chicken dinner with broccoli and sweet potatoes ready for them when they got home.

I was really fading after supper and ended up going to bed at 9. I got up at 9 this morning. Wow! I haven't slept that long in ages. I guess the trip back took the stuffing out of me.

I met Nancy, Lorna and Sue for lunch today. We are sorority sisters from university (University of Western Ontario - the 'centre of all learning in the universe') and we try to get together for lunch a couple of times per year. It is always a good time and we get caught up on all the 'dirt'. It is good to spend time with long-time friends. We all have 'stuff' in our lives and it feels good to share it. We know each other's 'history' and just pick up where we left off. It's good for all of us.

Skip had a delicious dinner waiting when I got home - pork roast with roasted veggies and broccoli. He and Scooter had to head off at about 6:30pm to go to Scooter's hockey game.

While we were in Cuba, we watched an HBO special on the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State football teams. They have an annual grudge match the third Saturday of November every year. The special was very good. Sadly, because of our lunch I missed the entire game but Skip said it wasn't that exciting and Michigan lost - as predicted. Oh well, there's always next year.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Baa Baa Oink Moo

Yesterday was a fairly lazy day. I knit a bunch on the clapotis and then frogged it when I realized it was too narrow and I thought I had enough yarn to make it one repeat (12 rows) wider. I have almost knit all that I ripped out yesterday. I'm liking the look of it, but will have to weigh the remaining yarn to see if I indeed will have enough to finish it. Skip's friend, Bob, called to see if Skip was going to be watching the Patriots/Colts game. He came over to watch it and we had yummy Pesto Amore Pizza Pizza pizza and Miller Chills.

Today we got up bright and early and headed to the GO train to head into The Big City to go to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair at the Exhibition Fairgrounds. We got there by about 11 and had a good 3.5 hours to scope out the place. I found the Belle Vallee Wool people who had lovely tartan blankets on display. I also spoke to some ladies who sell alpaca yarn but I don't remember the name of their shop or even where it is. Skip left at about 2:30 to go get Scooter. I watched the Iams SuperDog show. The dogs are very well trained and some of them are REALLY wired. After the SuperDog show, I wandered around a bit more and then sat down to do some knitting on my clapotis. Skip and Scooter showed up at 4:20 and we went for something to eat. Scooter had St. Louis chicken wings and fries. Skip and I had snack plates of samosas, pakora, and chick peas with tamarind sauce.

After eating we wandered around some more and got a look at a Toyota Tundra truck, took a look at the 4 and 5 day old piglets, looked at the cattle, horses and sheep, watched horses getting bathed in a special washing bay in the horse building and generally looked at everything we could in the remaining 2 hours of our time there. When we decided to leave and take the Bathurst streetcar, we had a hell of a time finding the streetcar/bus stop. We wandered back and forth a couple of times in the cold and rain. Finally after about 1/2 hour in the dark, wet and cold, we found the bus stop that would take us to the Bathurst streetcar. YAY! We rode to Runnymede station and Skip walked Scooter up to Scooter's mom's. I waited at the subway stop and knit some more on the clapotis. I kinda looked like a homeless person sitting on the floor with really nice yarn. Skip returned and we headed back, missing the 8:13 GO train and finally got the 9:13 train. I had lots of time to knit so it wasn't a total lost cause. We finally got in the door at 10:15.

Tomorrow I have TONS of errands to run and then need to pack for our trip to Cuba. I put a bunch of my summer clothes away last week and just realized last night I have to haul a bunch of them out to pack for the sunny south.

I also checked out the airfares to Atlanta for after Christmas and was shocked at how expensive it was going to be. I had to e-mail Francey and MaryAnne and tell them we won't be able to make the trip. What a bummer.

And now... to bed.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Clapotis, How I love Thee

Yesterday I ran some errands. I got my flu shot at the free flu shot clinic at the Oshawa Centre. I also bought a pair of comfy, yet somewhat dorky, shoes than I can wear my hand knitted socks with. I then headed up to Myrtle Station to Ferguson's to find some yarn for the three projects I want to work on. I'm not sure which projects I'm going to take to Cuba. I bought a really funky shiny yarn for a fancy mini clapotis (pronounced cla-po-tee). It's Austermann Castell 75% acrylic/25% nylon. I tried to look it up on Ravelry but no one had heard of it. I bought some yummy purple tweed Drops alpaca yarn to make the Lacy Diamonds Scarf from the "Odd Ball Knitting" book. I'm using two strands to get the desired gauge and scarf width. I also bought some Soffice yarn which is 50/50 merino/acrylic for the Cece lacy cardigan. I started the Lacy Diamonds scarf and the clapotis. After yarn shopping I met some former colleagues for a drink.

Today Skip and I went into The Big City to run a couple of errands. We went to the Open Air Books on Toronto St. (just next door to Conrad Black's former place of 'business'). Open Air has an astounding number of travel and ecology books. The salesperson instantly directed us to the Cuban birdwatching books. We also bought a travel guide to Cuba. We also went to McTamney's (a high-end pawn shop) to check out their jewelry. I have recently misplaced/lost a favourite pair of earrings and a favourite bracelet. I thought I'd check out what McTamney's had that might replace my missing pieces. Lo and behold they had the exact earrings AND bracelet I was looking for so I got them. I will have to get the bracelet shortened by a half inch or so but it's really pretty and exactly what I was looking for.

After that we drove east on Queen St. to The Beach in search of a yarn shop I had yet to investigate - The Naked Sheep. Once there, Sarah showed me several yarns I could use for a clapotis. In fact she was knitting one herself when I walked in. I decided to purchase a skein of wonderful Handmaiden Lady Godiva yarn.

We then went for lunch at a Thai place and then strolled back to the car. I really like that area of The Big City. It is congested but has a really nice feel to it. It's also very accessible by street car if we decide to get there by public transit.

On the way back home, we dropped in to visit my MIL in the nursing home. Skip found her knitting bag at her house so I donated one of my Stitch 'n Pitch bags to put it in. I also printed the picture of her 3 sons that I took at the wedding we went to at Thanksgiving and matted and framed it for her room. She has been reading John Grisham's 'The Painted House' in large print and enjoying it. Hopefully the large print Reader's Digests will start arriving.

I've wound the skein into a ball and have cast on the second clapotis - thank goodness I have lots of needles kicking around - and I'm liking it very much. The mini clapotis (called 'Drop Scarf' by a gal who modified the Kate Gilbert clapotis) is an easy, quick project. It is very cool dropping the stitch and creating a 'run' in the project.

Tomorrow we're going to my MIL's house and my sister-in-law is meeting us there. We're going to do some sorting of stuff in preparation for clearing the place out.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet...

As I write this the number and frequency of trick or treaters is dwindling.

It was a beautiful sunny day today and the temperature was forecast to go up to 19C. So I 'quick like a bunny' threw in a load of laundry to put out on the clothesline. We are on borrowed clothesline time now on the eve of November. That is certainly our bit for ecology. We're not quite as altruistic as it sounds. In previous times we'd just be called 'cheap'. It is remarkable how much is saved on our electricity (hydro in Canada) bill by using our clothesline from April to October. We also compost almost everything except meat and bones. The bonus is wonderful friable compost that Skip spreads on the garden every spring. Our municipality instituted a 'wet' (compostable) garbage collection program last year. About the only thing we use it for is paper towels and tissues. We compost everything else.

So getting back to the sheets - I will put them away for the winter as I have hauled out the t-shirt (jersey knit) sheets for us and the flannel sheets for Scooter. Cooler weather is coming.

After my workout this morning, I went out for lunch with Paulette - a gal I've known for about 17 years whom I met when we sat side by side in the front row of the Pickering Community Concert Band. She played the flute and I, the oboe. We navigated many life challenges together, deaths of parents, new love relationships, broken love relationships, etc., etc. Today we just picked up where we left off last time. We had a good chat - for the first time since probably 7 or 8 years ago. It was very nice.

After lunch I made my weekly pilgrimage to the public library to return some materials and selected a book to take to Cuba which had been recommended by a couple of gals at my knitting group - "The Birth House". I also poured over the knitting books once again, this time looking for stitch patterns that are factors of 24 for the sampler scarf.

Once home, Skip and I raced through supper and made preparations for our trick or treaters. We have an array of jack o' lanterns of various media: real pumpkin, ceramic and foam.

I finally took a picture of my 'cat o' lantern':
















And this year's version of Skip's trademark 'vomiting pumpkin':

















As the time change was delayed by a week this year, it got dark later than it normally would on Halloween. At about 6:30pm the youngest ghouls, princesses, super heroes and kitty cats began arriving. One young man, when looking at the jack o' lantern that Skip carved, noted: " It's barfing!". Yessssss. Once again Skip's 'vomiting' pumpkin made a hit. Our last trick or treater showed up at about 8:45.

Tomorrow is garbage day. As a preventative measure we're going to get up early and put out the garbage rather than put it out tonight and risk having it strewn around the neighbourhood by local hoodlums. Yes, even outside of The Big City there are hoodlums.

I was also able to make contact with the good people in Texas and reserved our lodgings for our month as Winter Texans. Yippee! I've always envied people who have had a condo to stay in in a southern clime and now we get to do it, too!

Tomorrow? November.

All Hallows Eve

I got my Halloween cookies made today. It didn't take as long as I thought it would. I also got my pumpkin carved tonight. It turns out Skip had already emptied all the guts out of it and it was ready to carve. I downloaded a template from the internet, printed it and used it to carve a scary black cat. It came out really well.

I started the Turkish stitch string bag with the Filati Carezza cotton yarn I bought in Guelph at Thanksgiving. It's turning out very well. I've got the body of the bag done and now need to knit the top and straps. I definitely will knit up a few of these for Christmas gifts.

Tomorrow I meet Paulette for lunch. I'll also drop some things off at the library.

We have decided to book the Southwinds condo on South Padre Island. I called and left a message today and will call again tomorrow if I don't hear back from them. We're going to be Winter Texans!!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Ravelry - I'm In! And Blah, Blah, Blah

I lost this post yesterday when I hit a wrong key so I'll summarize and carry on.

I've been afflicted with knitting ADD lately. I've been trying new techniques and patterns - hopping from one project to another. I have done quite a bit of knitting, I just haven't finished much lately.

I thought I'd check out how far up the list I was to get onto Ravelry and what a surprise! I was already a member! I have no idea when I got accepted but I'm in! My user name is Geri (I couldn't think of anything clever and was afraid I'd forget). So, of course, I spent 'scads and galores' (as my late mother would say) of time searching projects for some yarn in my stash, looking at many people's monkey socks and starting to catalogue some of my projects and yarn. Man! I could spend many, many hours recording information on that site.

This morning, I met Anne Marie for coffee at Chapters (the Canadian version of Borders or Barnes & Noble). We drank lattes, yakked, looked at knitting and scrapbooking books and decided to go for lunch at East Side Mario's. It was very good. After lunch we parted ways as we both had stuff to do. I wandered back to Chapters to look at the magazines. I spotted a knitting magazine that outlined how to knit mitered squares. I couldn't decide whether to buy it or not so I had a good look and tried to memorize the pattern. I decided to knit a sample mitered square and used some left-over sock yarn. The trick according to the magazine was to purl the first and last stitch of each right side row. That way it would be easier to pick up the stitches to create the next square. Well now I'm hooked on mitered squares. I think I was also influenced by looking at the Koigu book "Knits from a Painter's Palette".

When I got home, Skip was in the back yard running the lawn mower over the leaves and garden debris to mulch it onto the lawn. I started taking the fabric top off the gazebo on our deck and then Skip helped me take the rest of the gazebo down. There's certainly more light in the family room as a result. Of course, in the summer, the gazebo is a good sun shade for the deck and family room. So that was one task hanging over my head that we got accomplished.

Another thing I amuse myself with is planning trips. Anne Marie and I are going on a shopping trip to Buffalo at the end of November. Some of today's discussion involved these plans. I also would like to visit my sister in Petrolia at the end of the first week of December and go for brunch with the retirees from the high school I taught at for 11 years in Sarnia before moving to this area. I'll have to drive home after brunch because it's Scooter's piano recital that night in Toronto.

Also, Skip and I are going to be Winter Texans this year! I've been searching for vacation rentals in southern Texas. Skip went to a bird-watching festival last year in the area and after that we decided we needed to spend some time there during the winter after I retired. A lot of the properties I've found have been rented but today, I heard from someone who had a nice 1 bedroom condo with a queen bed, and also 2 bunk beds and a pull out queen sofabed. The price is right so I think we're going to go for it. I'm still hearing back from other people I requested information from so will hold off booking until I assess all the information that comes in this week. It's almost a 3300 km drive to our destination so it'll take us almost a week to drive down. We're good for about 600 km per day but that's about it! We'll retrace our route to Indianapolis from last summer and then proceed in a south-westerly direction to Memphis, Little Rock and Dallas before heading south to our ultimate destination, South Padre Island. For years, I've wanted to spend a good chunk of time during the winter in the sunny south.

Back to knitting... Today I ran out of yarn on my Zig-zag Scarf from "Modular Knits. I need to find the other 2 balls of yarn so I can complete it. I haven't touched Mark's socks in a couple of days so need to get back to that. And then there's the sampler scarf to work on.

Tomorrow I need to bake the Halloween cookies I started on the weekend. I got to the 'chill dough in the fridge' stage and then got doing other stuff and didn't get the dough rolled out when Scooter was here. I'll take a bunch to Scooter next Monday when we meet him to go to the Royal Winter Fair.

Other things in the lineup this week: meeting with an antique seller at my MILs house tomorrow afternoon, lunch with Paulette on Wednesday and we're getting our flu shots on Thursday or Friday. Stay tuned...

And a post script --- I just heard a commercial for Rickard's Red (beer) to the tune of Borodin's "Polovetzian Dances". Good grief.