25 November 2012

The aftermath of cleaning up

The aftermath of a big cleanup is, of course, getting rid of all the stray stuff you found.

Thankfully, most rural transfer stations (where you drop off your garbage, it all gets hauled to a big dump from the various transfer stations around the county, hence the name) have a “Take it or Leave it” spot. Anything you don’t want anymore that you think someone else might use is left in the shed, and people just help themselves to whatever they might need. I found a nice brass fireplace tool set in there recently, and I’ve picked up quite a few books as well.

Today, I dropped off a whole lot of stuff: binders, cookbooks, wire shelving, an old cooler.

And there, sitting right at the end of a row of exercise equipment, was a recumbent exercise bike.

The Reluctant Farmer and I had just yesterday been talking about getting one. You see, I got on the scale when The Boy and I went to get our vaccinations updated last week, and was not pleased to see that I weigh nearly as much now as I did two days before he was born. I should not be carrying the equivalent weight of a full term pregnancy, it puts me up into the ‘overweight’ BMI category. Plus, my extra weight is all around my middle, which increases my risk for diabetes and other problems. I need to deal with the extra pounds.

However, I need to do it gently: I can’t handle harsh exercise, it stresses my body and my mind. Plus I hate it so I don’t do it. Even our nice elliptical trainer is too much for me. I figured a recumbent bike might be okay, as I’d still be sitting down, which I prefer, and then my hands would be free, so I can knit! Yes, I chose my exercise equipment based on the fact that I can knit while exercising. Doesn’t everyone?

So the new to us bike is downstairs by the TV, and I can watch Netflix and ride the bike and knit all at the same time. And I don’t have to put on running shoes or change into special clothes … I just go downstairs to watch Farscape with my knitting, and move my feet.

Very cool. I already tested it out, and it works fine.

Yay for recycling! And cycling!

12 November 2012

Changing Rooms: the household edition

Back when I had a TV, I enjoyed watching Changing Rooms, a British home redecorating show in which neighbours or friends would each take responsibility (with a designer, of course) for redoing a room in the other family’s  house. It could be quite hilarious, and sometimes very touching. I think one of my favourite episodes involved a dining room makeover for a deaf couple. They custom built a table that had a light built right into the middle of it, so the whole middle of the table was this glowing circle: the idea was to better light the faces of the other diners, to make it easier for the hosts to read lips when they had guests over who did not sign. Very neat.

Anyway, not quite as cool as all that but we have had our own mini version of Changing Rooms here this past weekend. The Boy swapped his old room (the loft of the South Wing) for the room that was originally my bedroom and has most recently been the Fibre Room / place to stash all manner of things. This was something of a sacrifice on his part, as the new room is smaller by about 1/3, but it does have a door and is quieter than the loft. He has had one night in there so far and says it is just fine (though he needs heavier drapes, as the windows are a bit chilly this time of year, even with bubble wrap on them).

The move was a huge mess. I can’t believe how much was stuffed into that room … and how much of it was junk! Several bags have gone out to the pile waiting to go to the dump, and there are about four boxes of things to deposit at the Take it or Leave It centre at the dump (where you can leave things others might be able to use, and take anything you want, free). Four more boxes have fabric and notions (already claimed by a friend whose church is making gift bags for a charity out of fabric bits), and a few other treasures that will be rehomed in short order.

Then, of course, there’s the fibre. There’s the contents of the shop, which is now slightly more accessible than it was before, but there’s also my personal stash, which is clearly oversized. However, with everything spread out now, it’s easier to see what I have and hopefully easier to get to it and work on it. I see a few things that can be gotten through in fairly short order (carding I need to finish for someone else, for example), and then hopefully I can start plowing through the stash. I am borrowing a friend’s rigid heddle loom, and hope to do some weaving-as-stashbusting! Once I have a bit more room, I can bring the big upright loom up from the basement, too, and be truly all in one place.

The living room has benefitted from the changes too, as The Boy’s big recliner came downstairs and my ancient but comfortable gold fuzzy tub chair has gone up, and all my wheels except the Great Wheel are upstairs now too. The buckets of works in progress and bits of stash are all upstairs now as well, and I have just the project I’m working on (more Christmas knitting) with me.

Of course, I am tired after two days of non stop hauling and sorting and packing and burning and dumping. Last night I couldn’t get to sleep (despite being tired) … too much energy expended gets me wound up too tight and even with an extra dose of tincture and two different types of audio to put me under, it took two hours to get back to sleep when I woke at 3 am.

Tonight should be better though, as the ‘to do list’ in my brain is much, much shorter!

What a relief. What an incentive not to accumulate that much stuff ever again!

09 November 2012

Flatbread: easier than you think

Winter is a good time for warm stews and thick bean dishes and spicy Indian food, all of which go really well with nice fresh flatbreads.

Of course, you can buy packages of flatbread at the grocery store, but they are expensive … especially once you realize how easy they are to make at home with a grand total of three ingredients.

One of which is water.

The other two ingredients are flour and oil. Salt and multiple kinds of flour are optional (I like a mix of 2 parts wheat flour to one part corn flour, but I’m not picky, I’ll use whatever is handy).

About an hour before you are going to need them (or sooner, they can be reheated in the microwave or the oven right before your meal), put about three cups of flour in your breadmaker / stand mixer bowl / regular bowl. If you want, sprinkle in a little salt, but that’s optional. Use less flour if you’re only making a few .. three cups will make enough for four people, easily.

Take your cooking oil and, while stirring the flour around the bowl, gently drizzle in a bit of oil … just enough to make some crumbs show up, about a tablespoon. This part is actually optional, though if you’re using a breadmaker or mixer I think it helps things not squeak and stick so much. Then take a glass of warmish water and just drizzle it in, again, while mixing, until you get dough forming. Let the breadmaker run through the dough setting / run the mixer with the dough hooks for 10 minutes or so / knead it with your hands until it is nice and stretchy and feels like a not-very-spongy bread dough. If you can, let it sit for half an hour or more, though you can roll them out right away if you’re in a hurry, they just might be a bit stickier to work with.

Take a golf ball sized lump of the dough and smash it down flat on a cutting board / rolling cloth / countertop and roll it flat. They always stick to my rolling pin, so I just roll it once or twice then peel it of the rolling pin and turn it 90 degrees and roll it again until it’s about hand sized. They will stick to each other, so stack with a tea towel between the individual flatbreads, or just roll them as you cook.

To cook, heat a frying pan that is lightly (lightly!) coated with cooking oil. Flop the flatbread in the pan, wait about 30 seconds, and flip. Wait 30 more seconds, then take it out and put it in a tortilla warmer (if you have one) or on a tea towel. You can keep them in the microwave wrapped in your tortilla warmer/tea towel, too (a microwave is a convenient place to keep things warm, being an insulated box with a handy dandy door).

If they’ve cooled off before meal time, reheat for about a minute in the microwave or set them in the oven on warm for a few minutes on a cookie sheet, spread out a little bit so the ones on the bottom don’t get too soft. You can also put them in the toaster (which is what I do when reheating leftovers the next day).

That’s it. Honest. Sure, you have to stand at the stove and flip the flatbreads, but I do it while setting the table or getting the last few things ready for supper. Put one in, put two plates on the table, flip it, put out two more, remove that one, put another one in, go back to the table… it works.

And all it takes is about 3 cups of flour and a bit of oil. Fresh, hot flatbreads for a whole lot less money than you’d pay at the store.

08 November 2012

Thoughts on the US Election

I think, speaking as a Canadian, that those of us outside the US really do not have a real grip on exactly how divisive the American political situation is. As a result, we may inadvertently step into the muck simply because we can’t imagine how much our American friends have invested in the political situation, how deeply these things are felt south of the border. The whole thing looks familiar enough: you listen to the debates, read up on the issues, choose someone to vote for, go to the polling station, and cast your vote then wait to see what happens. The reality, however, seems to be quite a bit different … in the details of the process, certainly. (An *electoral college*? A senate that can have a majority that isn’t the same party as the guy in charge of the country? Confusing.) But it’s more than that.

The biggest difference is in the tone of the discussions. It goes on and on and on, for one thing … and every election has some mudslinging and rumour mongering, no matter where you are. But I’ve had to hide the Facebook feeds of my good American friends simply because I was overwhelmed by the level of anger and wildly overstated rhetoric in the posters and articles and comments … things that, judging by the media coverage I’ve followed, are pretty much run of the mill for a US election campaign. We believe in free speech too, but a lot of the stuff that is routinely thrown around in American political circles would get you into court for libel or defamation if you said that kind of thing in Canada. I’ve been absolutely shocked by the tenor of the discourse leading up to and following the election. It’s so … so … impolite. So rough. So full of wild rhetoric. And everything I am saying here applies to both sides.

Up here, after the election everyone just keeps on talking much the same as they did before, because hey, one set of politicians are not that much different than the next set: they all try, and they do have differences of course, but the system is big and you don’t turn the Titanic on a dime, and complaining about politicians of ALL parties (even the ones you voted for) is about as much a national past time as complaining about the weather.

American politics, though, is just too hot to handle, even among friends, it seems.

The world’s got lots of messes. It really is up to individuals to do the best they can to make things better where they are. Politicians - no matter how much we might wish for them to do more - can only do so much. It’s each of us helping our neighbours, being kind to those we interact with daily, reaching out to those who need a helping hand when we have one to offer … that’s what really makes a difference in this world. And that’s something we can do no matter who sits in the fancy chairs in the big buildings in the capital.

And, I bet it’s something we all agree on, too!

That’s a lot of snow in a short time

This is the weather map showing total snowfall from Wednesday  night to Thursday morning in our region:

I haven’t gone out to measure again … but our neighbour came and plowed our driveway yesterday around 4, and by this morning you could hardly tell she’d been here.

This is what it looks like on the south side of the house, which is in the lee of the wind, so not getting the full amount of snow as it’s coming from the north:

Of course we are accustomed to this kind of thing, though it’s a little early to have so much on the ground, and it is definitely unusual to get so much so fast.

The plows are out in full force, but we are planning to just stay home for the next few days. The Reluctant Farmer went into town to fetch the Small People, and we’ll all just stay home by the fire until things settle down out there!

Stay home, stay safe, stay warm!

07 November 2012

Snow Day

We have suddenly gotten a whole lotta snow ... they are calling for 10-25 cm all in one day! We easily have 8 cm out there now, and it is still falling steadily. (Actually I measured ... 9.5 cm.) Because it isn't all that cold and we had some rain earlier, roads are awful.

So, we stayed home and enjoyed the fire. Project #5 is about half done now, and I'm excited to see how it turns out.

What do you do on snowy days?

05 November 2012


There was a big howling gust of wind at five thus morning ... Loud enough to startle me awake.

Apparently my startle reflexes are still working in overdrive, as more than an hour later I'm still feeling jolted.

Ah well, I have knitting and an audio book. I can always have a nap later.

04 November 2012

Christmas Knitting

I was at the alpaca show yesterday doing the spinning demo, so today I am pretty tired. Not surprising, but I’m still not really adapted to having such a low level of energy. I slept in and everything, even with the extra hour of time change, and I still feel like taking a nap. This annoys me.

So, to cope with my annoyance, I have been working on Christmas knitting. For obvious reasons, I can’t share my projects with you yet … but suffice it to say  have a list of at least seven and possibly nine knitting projects that I’d like to have done for the holidays, and I have now completed four of them. Yay! Of course, a couple of those were started a very long time ago and just wrapped up recently, but since October I have been focused on my holiday knit projects with only a few distractions (like the goofy muppet hat).

Having just realized that I forgot to eat lunch today, I’ve had a fried egg and I am now headed back to the Big Comfy Chair to continue with Project #5.

After all, handmade gifts are the best kind of present, both to give and to receive. After wearing the lovely shawl that was sent to me a while back and experiencing the awesome feeling of being wrapped in something that was made just for me, I am determined to share that experience with as many people as I can.

03 November 2012


In May of 2011, my sister earned her Master’s degree in Intercultural Studies:

Today, her husband, my amazing brother in law, received his Masters degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

I just love the matching pictures. :)

Ribbons for Diablo’s Ribbons

The red one says “1st Place” and the blue one says “Grand Champion, knit”.

Yep, I won first place in the knitted clothing category … and grand champion of all the knitted items, as well. I am gobsmacked.

I didn’t get to see all the other entries, though the organizer said she would try to post some photos of the others … I know there were a few sweaters in the same category as the shawl, so I am very pleased to have won! The judge asked the lady who organized the show if she’d be seeing me, and upon hearing that yes, she would see me when I was doing my spinning demo at the show this weekend, the judge said, “Tell her I think she’s nuts to have spun all that yarn on spindles, and that she did a great job.”

So, there you have it folks: I am officially nuts, but it’s all worth it.

Diablo’s people were very happy with the finished product as well, and had a nice pile of yarn to display at their table along with the real ribbons Diablo won in the shows. Oh, and his fleece won top place this year again, and was in the display boxes out front, looking as gorgeous as always.

They even had a lovely write up about the shawl, and about meeting me! I definitely blushed when I read the sign under the picture of the shawl:

Thank you to Lonna Cunningham for having a vision and the passion and desire that resulted in this beautiful work of Art.

I believe in destiny

Lonna stopped by our little farm one day to get a post pounder fixed. She met all our alpacas. We met a very special lady.

Lonna has been coming to all our Alpaca Shows since then demonstrating her spinning talents.

When Diablo’s fleece won Spinner’s Choice in Lloydminster in 2011 we knew there was only one person that we wanted to work with the fleece – Lonna.

Together you and Diablo crated something extraordinary.

Thank you from

Dave, Kris & Diablo

It was an honour to work with such beautiful materials … a lot of work, but the end product is so lovely, it was worth it. I got pretty ribbons and Kris has a lovely shawl, and enough yarn to knit a scarf for Dave, too!

So if you are looking for gorgeous fleece to spin, talk to Kris and Dave of Tail Spin Alpacas. If you’d like the pattern for the shawl, stay tuned … I’ll be publishing it soon!