Thursday, July 19, 2012

My new favourite ...

Last fall when Barb and I were meeting with sales representatives for the store, we were directed to the Drops Design website.  Originally we were looking for patterns to go with a nice new lace-weight yarn.  And then we stumbled across this design:  Bluebird

Barb and I both fell in love.  Completely, totally and instantly.  We didn't even bookmark the pattern; we printed it instantly.  And then wandered around the store looking for the perfect wool.  And scheming as to when and how we could work this sweater into our schedules. 

 Ultimately, we decided to cast on as our New Year's resolution.  I settled on the Sublime Merino/Cashmere/Silk dk, in a lovely blue (colour no. 247), called Ink. 

I even worked a gauge swatch, which told me I should use 4.5mm needles.  On January first, I poured my first cup of coffee and gleefully cast on.  I got half way up the back and then stood back and looked at my work.  It was large enough for me and my best friend.  I measured my stitches, and discovered that my gauge swatch lied. 

 Barb also pointed out to me that I am NOT 6'4", nor do I weight 250 lbs.  She recommended that I make the medium rather than the large, and to use 4.0mm needles.   I wasn't totally convinced, but reasoned that perhaps my daughter might like the sweater if I finished it and it was too small.  And I would've been right, if only the sweater had turned out to be too small. 

 It wasn't.  It fits beautifully.  And feels heavenly.  Soft, cozy and warm.  She was right on all counts.

While I was recuperating from my surgeries, this was the project of choice.  Once I got started, I didn't want to stop.  I'd knit and knit and knit.  Look at other projects that needed to be done, and go back to this one.  Knit, cable, knit.

The fronts were interesting.  There was a lot going on between the side shaping, buttonholes, cables, chart changes, armhole shaping, neckline shaping and collar shaping.  I ended up making myself a list so that I could keep things straight in my mind.  It helped, and I strongly recommend this technique to everyone.  And stitch markers.  They are our friends. 
 Just take a look at the back of this little beauty.  That celtic cable in the middle enhances the curves.  Adds interest and makes it even more fun to knit.

My goodness, what fun this was.  Every time I'd show up at the store with another piece finished, poor Barb would hiss and spit.  She was being diligent and dutiful and staying on task for her store projects, while I lounged recovered at home from the trauma of my surgeries.  It probably didn't help that I giggled out loud all the time I knit on this.

The worst thing for Barb?  This yarn has cashmere in it, and she is allergic.  She couldn't even pet the pieces as they came off the needles!
 And just look at the cuff on this!  Ruffled!  I'm not particularly "girly," but boy did this catch my eye and heart.

Simple to do -- simply cast on double the number of stitches required, work 3 rows in stocking stitch, and then purl 2 together across.  Then start your ribbing.  Viola!  The cutest little ruffle imaginable.

The pattern was free from Drops Design, which is always a nice touch.  Especially since the yarn is dear -- $9.95 a ball.  I used 16 balls too, so this is an expensive sweater.  But worth every last penny.  Absolutely worth every penny.  The knitting provided hours and hours of entertainment.  The wearing will provide hours of comfort.

All I have to do now is wait for the colder weather.  (Did I mention that I do a snow dance every night before bed?)

Before I go, I have something else to share with you.  My husband has been working with a gentleman named Alex McLaughlin on a house in Oshawa.  Alex had a video made of the renovation project, and here it is! 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Good bye, Pepper.

When my daughter and I moved in with Doug back in 2000,. he had two cats.  We had one, and that combination was almost more than we could bear.  His cats did not like that little hissy, spitty thing that arrived along with all those boxes.  They DID learn to tolerate each other, but barely.

Fast forward a couple of years, and then the step-daughter acquired a dog.  Not just a dog.  A big dog.  When I heard this, I exclaimed to Doug -- "Don't let her bring that dog here!"  You see, Carrie loves dogs.  She'd been asking for a dog for ages and we kept saying "no" because of the cats.  This was their house, and a dog just didn't fit.  Letting Pepper come would just give Carrie more ammunition for her requests. 

Sure enough, Emily asked if she could bring Pepper up for a visit.  "NO," says I.  "Yes," says Doug.  And so Pepper came for a visit. 

He had me at "hello." 

 Pepper had always been around cats.  In his mind, they were just peculiar looking dogs.  Or perhaps he was a peculiar looking cat.  In any event, he had never met a cat he didn't love.  Of course, our three hadn't been around dogs and so they saw him as the Big Furry Scarey Thing. 

His first visit, he bounced in and immediately headed over to the cats to say hello.  They got all Halloweeny on him, hissing and spitting.  This aroused his "protect my friends" mode, and he promptly placed himself between the cats and the enemy.  Of course, his moving closer just upset the cats more, which aroused more of the protection mode.  It was a pretty hilarious couple of minutes.  The cats then made themselves scarce, much to Pepper's dismay.

Over the next couple of years, Pepper did come to visit more than once.  Pretty much every time he arrived, the cats were frightened of the Big Furry Scarey Thing.  They did learn to tolerate him, provided he didn't get too close. 

 He was always hopeful that they could become friends.  Alas, it just didn't work out that way.  Meme went across the rainbow bridge, and six months later Henry followed. 

The next spring, 2011, Pepper had reached a stage where he couldn't live in Toronto anymore.  His hindquarters were making it too difficult for him to climb up and down the stairs where Emily's mother lived.  In addition, his insecurities were such that he would bark when he was left home alone.  Something had to change. 

And so we acquired a dog.  Carrie had gone off to university, and reached a stage in her life when she wasn't even coming home for the summers anymore.  Having Pepper here guaranteed that both she and Emily would visit on a semi-regular basis. 

Lizzie-kitty sort of accepted Pepper's presence.  His being here meant that there was the opportunity to steal some of his food, when we weren't looking.  It also meant that there was a big, comfy bed she could monopolize.  

 She didn't know Pepper's game, which was that the cat should run around the backs of the couches and chairs while he chased.  The barking always made her twitchy.  Likewise, Pepper didn't really know Lizzie's game; she would pop out in front of him and take a swipe (no claws), run about 10 feet away and flop down and wait for him to come nose her.  He always shied away from that invitation, probably wisely. But they both tried, in their own ways, to be friends.

Pepper loved being with his people.  If we were getting ready to go anywhere, he was right there asking to come with us.  Didn't matter where we went, or what we did.  He just wanted to be with his people. 
 After my surgeries earlier this year, when I started wanting to get out and do things, we started taking him for walks down at Long Sault Conservation Area.  He absolutely loved those walks.  The only time I saw him hang his head out the window to get a big snootful of fresh air was on the way to the  Conservation Area.  He would walk and walk, and could never quite understand why Doug and I quit before he was ready.  We knew he would pay for that long walk the next day, and wanted to time the walks such that the pain meds. would be sufficient to keep him comfortable.

Pepper was a happy guy.  One of his favourite activities in the evening was to bring you a toy to play tug of war.  When he got tired of one toy, or you stopped paying attention to it, he would go retrieve another toy.  One by one, he would bring you every toy he owned.  Not pushy, mind, just gently presenting you with another toy to pique your interest in playing with him again. 

One of my friends had warned me that the Metacam was a great drug for a dog, and it worked quite well.  Until the day it didn't. 

That day arrived.  Unheralded and unexpected.  After the fact, I noted that Pepper had stopped bringing us toys to play with.  If we went and fetched the toy, he would take it from us.  And drop it at his feet.  The evening walks started becoming shorter and shorter.  He needed assistance getting to his feet.  Then he stopped eating.  Sure, he'd take a treat.   But his regular food?  Nope.  We tried a different brand of dog food, which worked for a meal or two.  Tried a wet food, which worked for three meals.  He would lay on his side, unmoving, for hours.  If we approached him, he might wag his tail.  He might lick off the spoon used for feeding the cat, if he didn't have to lift his head.

In short, the joy had gone from his life. 

It all happened too quickly.  Emily had just moved to Vancouver, and was not able to get back.  Carrie came home from Toronto.  The three of us took Pepper into the vet.  Her bedside manner is impeccable, and they are so careful and gentle when sending our pets on their way.

I told Pepper that there was a land on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, with lakes to swim in, squirrels to chase, grass to roll in, and he wouldn't hurt any more; that he was the best dog in the whole world and how much he was loved and would be missed.  And we all kissed him, and scratched him behind the ears, and petted him gently, with tears rolling down our faces, and let him breathe his last.

He was the best dog in the world, with a heart as big as the whole outdoors.  And for a while, we were lucky enough to share his life.

Rest in peace, Pepper.  You are the best.