You Handsome Scarf

The yarn is from Japan and was acquired in Toronto. The resulting Handsome Scarf was knit at home, here in Windsor. At present he is winging his way across the Atlantic to his future home in London (or at the very least is currently at YYZ, awaiting departure.)

Though Spring is officially underway in London, the scarf Knows -- as every scarf Knows -- that the cold will come again. He has been practising patience since he was four mere balls of yarn languishing in the Stash; what's another double handful of months to a scarf? He can wait.He's six feet long and eight inches wide. He's good looking and he knows it.

Happy trails, you Handsome Scarf.

Out of the oven

Today, for the first time in a very long time, I baked bread.

After a bit of mixing and waiting and then some more mixing and some more waiting and then some braiding and brushing and waiting and more brushing and even more waiting......a handsome golden brown challah emerged from the oven's ponderous depths.

He is...delicious. I've been enjoying him slathered with marmalade.

This may have to become my new springtime tradition.

Socks ahoy!

Sometimes I wonder what becomes of my socks and mitts once I release them into the wild. While I do wonder about the socks and mitts that other people produce from my patterns, in this case I'm speaking specifically about that small group of finished objects that I've knit with my own hands and sent abroad. I am not in the regular habit of knitting and selling finished goods -- when I do, they are only specially designed for and sold at one special shop -- but from time to time I have knit for select others. But what becomes of those things once they reach their final destination? Sometimes I never find out...and then sometimes...I do.

You recall the socks I knit for Thomas, yes? Well, they've long since gone to live with him and recently they joined him on his tour of Southeast Asia. Here are the socks behaving recklessly (but clearly enjoying themselves immensely,) aboard a boat with Thomas in sunny Thailand:Lucky socks! Look at the colour of that water!

Hang on socks! Don't let go!

Something tells me that these might be the only handknit wool and silk socks in all of Thailand...or, failing that, the only handknit wool and silk socks in all of Thailand being brandished by a DJ/musician/producer and all-around very charming dude aboard a March. Many qualifiers; one very happy pair of socks. One very happy sock recipient. One very happy sock designer/knitter, happy to see that her socks are making people who make her happy happy.

Spread the love.

Patience is a virtue

Up early this morning and pruning the rosemary. Now that sounds a tad euphemistic!

Seriously though, I am in the process of tending my indoor Mediterranean garden (another euphemism?) which at present consists of two trees and a bush -- a Meyer lemon, a Bay Laurel and Rosemary, respectively.

Once again I am reminded that gardening is nothing so much as it is a form of warfare and that all too soon I'll be (happily) flinging myself headlong into the fray. I am already mapping out the battlefield and deciding which companies to deploy; I can hardly wait.

Yesterday was spent in the fine city of Ann Arbor, MI, which is always closer than I think. I visited University of Michigan Museum of Art, which has quite a respectable collection indeed. The decorative items culled from the Henry O. Havemeyer House in New York City were a particular delight -- the Tiffany glass pieces are especially fine.

Of course, there is always Beauty to be found in less obvious places. One only needs to open one's eyes.

And it was with open eyes that I spied and fell in Love with this fine pair:I may have to go back and pick them up.

Knitting content will resume as soon as I have something that I can show you. Oh fine, have a wee taste:But that's it, for now. I've never been very good at patience myself so believe me when I say that I know what you're going through. Soon.

Did you see..?

I've just come in from my first attempt at Taming the Beast that is the gardens of Pittsworth Manor. The morning is bright but chill and though my nose is cold the rest of me is made warm by the sight of sprouts and buds. This winter has been especially long.

And so I give you, my dear readers, signs of Spring fresh from SW Ontario.

The lilac has budded:
Some of the 100+ tulips I planted are poking their noses up to greet the sun:
The Complementary Tulips -- which is what I call the ones that were "free" with the house -- are up a good six inches. You can actually see them now since the Offending Cedar met its maker last Fall:
And look! The Imperial Crown Lilies have survived the Great Purge and Planting of 2010. This is a welcome sight, indeed. I was a bit worried about that one.
But yes, the chill and the fact that my hand rake is playing hide-and-go-seek with me this morning has forced me back indoors. Which, of course, offers me ample opportunity to bring you up to speed on what I'm up to these days.

At present I am working fervently on a sock design for the Summer 2011 issue of Sockupied. While this is keeping me quite busy I am really enjoying the socks themselves, and I hope you will, too. More details will follow as they become available.

I'm also pleased to report that Pick Up Sticks is now carrying both my mitten patterns and the Sunday Knits kits to go along with them. This is good news for those among you who prefer to get all your shopping done in one go. Check them out here.

And look what I got a copy of the other night -- it's the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Vogue Knitting International:
...notable, of course, for this feature:
It's a little surreal, opening a magazine and seeing yourself looking back out at you. Maybe more than a little.

I bought a new rose bush to celebrate. I think she's lovely.
Now I've got to get back to those socks -- they're not going to knit themselves.

In London.

St. Pancras means Home. If I can see the steeple, I know we're close. The sounds of its bells waft in through my window. I greet the slightly slouchy ladies there each morning.
I carry my tea past plaques commemorating Keats, Dickens and the victims of the 2005 bombings. There are many lovely squares nearby -- Tavistock, Russell, Bloomsbury. It is here that I see my first proper blackbird -- exactly the kind that one would bake into a pie.

We inch our way through crowded Borough Market, past mammoth meringues and gigantic wheels of cheese. There are stalls selling Cumberland sausages and duck confit sandwiches. I buy a bottle of San Pellegrino from an ice cream van and drink it next to the Thames. I can see the dome of St. Paul's off in the distance. Being here is at once totally natural and slightly odd. It feels good.

Before I even realize it I'm in Clerkenwell. You really can sense the Fleet beneath your feet -- submerged, but ever-flowing. I peek in on the eponymous well, which was not rediscovered until 1924. We arrive at Dr. Johnson's house and pay our respects to Hodge, that "very fine cat indeed." I imagine him slinking around Gough Square in spectral form, twining about my ankles. I should've brought him an oyster.
We take the train to Greenwich. Yes, the pigtail grease stains on Nelson's coat are still there. I walk down to the foreshore and borrow three fine rocks from the Thames. I hope He doesn't mind.
Strolling along the embankment under a blue sky, I watch the sunlight dance on the murk of the Thames. Black-headed gulls swoop and dive at the water. I'm vaguely reminded of my own River, far away. My provenance is showing.

We stop for lunch at Covent Garden. My squash and goat cheese pie is especially tasty. I take a picture of my other trusty travelling companion, Mr. Difalot.I'm pleased that I can show him where he came from.

Now we're off to Bunhill Fields. I imagine that this is a serene, meditative place. Today I am quickly disabused of this notion.

A group of uniformed schoolchildren have colonized the main path and are running about, making up noisy games on the spot. Their matching hats adorn the nearby fence. I hope I'll get to have a quiet moment with William and at the very least be able to take a decent picture.I feel like I should be annoyed by the noisy kids, but I'm not. Suddenly, strangely, my heart fills with joy and I burst out laughing. It's a magical moment.

I try opening up to William, asking him to tell me which stone is his. I sense a vague insistence (over there, to my right, a few rows back, a few stones over...) Is it him? Is it me? The both of us? Neither? I wish I would've had the time to knit him socks; I bet his feet are cold.
On the walk to St. Paul's I just can't help it -- The Real Tuesday Weld's music and Glen Duncan's words spring to mind, unbidden. This is really not all that surprising. Both are perfect complements to the bustle and Spirit of the City they were created in; how fitting that they chose this moment to float to the surface. When one Loves one's city as much as they do, it can be quite catching.I think it's safe to say that I've contracted that condition myself. I love London; it is wonderful to be here....and I'll be coming back.

In Brussels.

A la Mort Subite is our Local. We don't even have to cross the street to get there. Down the hill, around the corner, there you are. One could do worse.The beer selection is beyond impressive. Since I no longer partake, I smile and nod and take wee sips just to taste the heady Belgian brews. They are wonderful.
The tea service here is going to ruin me for all others, I just know it. Even though I have to dip my teabag into the already-poured hot water, I am not allowed to have a cup without a cookie or a piece of chocolate or sometimes both. I'm not complaining.

We end up at Le Cirio. La Belle Epoque is even more belle than I expected.
I suspect that places like this would grow if one were to plant a bottle of Perrier. I may have to give this a try.Blind Love, his eyes bound, presides over the room. I finish my Croque Bruxelloise and my tea and head off in search of further delights.

In the light drizzle we work our way to A la Becasse. It is rustic and warm and cozy inside.
I take a seat next to a laughing family and their small, friendly dog. I order another cup of tea.
The barkeep's apron reminds me of nothing so much as monastic vestements. He serves beer in gorgeous clay jugs. I sample the lambic doux because it's Tony's favourite. It's really nice; I can't wait to tell him that I tried it.

Back out into the misty grey afternoon. I'm told that there is one place that I simply must see -- Café Métropole.
They were right. I've never seen anything like this. I'm reminded of the Fisher Building at home, but this place is just a little bit older. Oh look, another cup of tea. Another piece of the darkest chocolate.
If you tapped a vein right now I promise I'd bleed tea -- heavily sweetened tea with cream and sugar in. Mm.
Now, it could just be the sugar talking, or the caffeine, or a potent combination of the two but I am in my element. The room is bathed in a warm golden glow; it looks like something out of an Impressionist painting. I can almost see the brushstrokes.

When I'm in charge, places like these will be the baseline. For an Aesthete such as myself, this is Heaven.

In Reims.

Notre-Dame de Reims turns 800 this year. It is cold inside; you can see your breath. Outside the almond trees are in bloom. I touch the massive stone pillars and they are so cold.This is where Joan of Arc brought the Dauphin Charles to be crowned in 1429. I've always felt a certain closeness to Joan of Arc, but I can't exactly say why. I find this vaguely worrying. Still, I am glad that I am here. It feels right.
I buy a tin of biscuits roses de Reims. They seem to be a thing here. I had bought Flavigny Pastilles (violet- and rose-flavoured) at a gas station just over the Belgian border. My favourite.

We go to Vimy to see the memorial to the Canadian soldiers lost there in World War I. Before I even realize it, I am crying.We find Heather's great-uncle's name inscribed on the wall.We are approached by a Canadian serviceman who tells us that they had just buried Thomas Lawless (whose remains were found when a house was being built) three days ago. I'm still crying.There are signs warning not to go out past the ridge as there are still unexploded munitions lying in the forest, under the trees. I think about rabbits and hedgehogs and badgers and voles.
We walk the Canadian tunnels at Vimy, chipped out of the chalk. Our guide is from Prince Edward Island. He is a law student and his name is Ryan.

There is grafitti scratched in the chalk walls. Ryan points out a maple leaf carved by one of the soldiers. He turns off the light to show us what it would have been like to have been here in wartime. He asks us to imagine the sounds of shells falling; to imagine how it felt to know that you and/or the people sitting next to you might not return to the cramped, damp "comfort" of the tunnels.

Ryan takes us back outside. We look across to the German trenches. Here, the trenches are so close to each other -- literally a stone's throw away. He tells us that there was an unspoken truce between the two sides -- after all, who wants to worry about being shot at day after day? Life in the trenches is hard enough as it is.

We tour Taittinger. We walk the Saint Nicaise chalk mines where they cellar the champagne. The Romans dug these mines. You can see how they used to cut the blocks away. I run my thumbnail on the wall and the chalk comes away easily. I have chalk under my nails. I think about Tiffany Aching. There is grafitti everywhere here, too.

Our effortlessly beautiful French guide tells us they have no idea when the grafitti is from. She points out the underground remains of the abbey that once stood here before the Revolution tore it down. She tells us that people took shelter here during both World Wars. She makes tired, lame tour-guide jokes. I am disarmed by the marks left here by those who have gone before. I wonder who they were; who they loved; who loved them back.
We drive back to Brussels, eating the waffles we bought at the gas station. They are the kind with the sugar pearls in. It's getting dark here in France. The chalk by the side of the road is so white. The villages clustered around their churches are so lovely. Their lights come on. It starts to rain. We speed home in the cold, dark wet.

I like it here.