Friday, April 3, 2020

April OMG : Sashiko Dishtowels

Hi everyone! Excited about this months' OMG. I'm going to embroider some more dishtowels! But this time, I'm going to use the sashiko method.

I've dyed some plain flour sack towels "indigo" (a bit darker than this image would indicate, but not the really dark blue I was hoped for), and I'll choose two different patterns, mark them, and then stitch. I've never used a sashiko stencil before ... and as you can see I have a few to choose from, as well as two different marking methods. So even though I've stitched several small sashiko projects, it will be a learning experience as I go.

The One Monthly Goal link-up is organized by Elm Street Quilts with the idea that we can just focus on one task and make progress. You can see all the new April projects -- or add your own -- on the Goal Setting page. (You can also see how people did in March on the Finish Party page!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

2020 Vision - checking in

In October last year I had time to think and doodle ideas around doing a special project in 2020. A list of 20 things didn't seem like enough. Likewise doing something 20 times didn't seem like enough. But 20 lists of 20 things each? Well, that's a project.

Now that a quarter of the year is behind us I wanted to tally up how I'm doing. I chose to do things that I like doing -- but wanted to do MORE of. Things like hiking, running, crafting, reading, and writing. And having adventures, of course! I also allowed my longer-term 101 things in 1001 days project to peek in here -- with any 20 of those doing double duty in this project.

Some of these things should have been really easy. But with the way things are changing, some things that seemed easy now seem uncertain. By now I should have at least 10 hikes, at least 8 bike rides, at least 6 runs, etc. But staying closer to home and self isolating is the new normal.

20 hikes
Ideally most of these will be new hikes rather than old favorites. Snowshoe trips count as hikes.
We had a planned snowshoe trip cancelled, sadly. And with trails and parks closed, we've stopped getting out. This will be challenging.

20 bike rides
Not just a little commute, but say a trip downtown or something longer would count.
This might actually get some action with the weather getting better -- it's easier to practice "social distancing" on a bike, so maybe this is something we start doing in the evening after work.

20 runs of at least 5K
They don't hall have to be races -- I just need to set a low bar to get back into running.
We ran two 5Ks so far this year, and would have run another in March. Our 10K for April has turned into a virtual 10K. Somehow I doubt our June half marathon will happen. I had registered for 8 races this year, including one I've thought about doing for over a decade. But we've decided to start adding running back into our mornings. We go for a 4-mile walk every morning; a few days a week we'll start sprinkling running intervals back into the mix. I feel hopeful about this.

20 swims
The ultimate goal is to swim a mile at the open-water swim.
With local pools and beaches closed, I haven't been able to swim at all. This now seems impossible.

20 new recipes -- completed 3/27/20!
I've missed cooking; so I'll try a new recipe twice a month.
I got a couple of great new cookbooks and tried a lot of different things in the Instant Pot -- I'll call this a rousing success (and I keep cooking new things!)

20 new adventures
Think of 50@50, but just 20.
We had a lot of fun on our trip up to see the Northern Lights -- we may be limited in our adventuring for a while, but nice to have a good start.

20 books read
No big books this year -- but I'm going to count each of the volumes of Macaulay's History of England as a separate book.
I've read four volumes of Macaulay so far -- somehow since we've been staying home I haven't cracked open a non-recipe book. I think this will pick up again, just difficult to make myself sit and read.

20 sketches
Ideally I'll do this as a 30-day challenge again...
I have started doodling -- not sketching yet, but picking up a pencil. I think this will get going in the spring.

20 paintings
I'd like to go through the sumi-e workbook and play with my watercolor set. Not art, just paintings.
Haven't done a thing. I feel like I need to sketch before I can paint, so I'm setting up an arbitrary delay. But the year is young, right?

20 crafty blog posts / check-ins
Should be quite easy, since there will be 17 SAL check-ins, plus a couple of scrap posts too.
So far I've already done 14 of these, between the Stitch-a-Long, the OMGs, and ScrapHappy day -- of course, the best part of the check-ins is that I get crafting done so I'll have something to show!

20 embroidery stitches
I'd love to make a sampler of some sort using at least 20 stitches.
I designed a piece -- an outline of the state of Washington, a heart over Seattle, and rainbow stripes in different colors in the "background". The piece will have a total of 20 types of stitch; I've done 6 so far. I'm excited to keep trying new ones.

20 crowns in Duolingo -- completed 1/25/20
It's time to work on my Spanish again!
This was super easy -- and I'm happy to say that I'm still working on my Duolingo, and as of today have a 86-day streak. Very satisfying. And though I would be hard pressed to hold a conversation in Spanish, I do feel like I'm learning.

20 songs on the ukulele
I don't need to memorize the songs, just be comfortable playing and singing them.
I have this ridiculous idea for -- wait for it -- Apri-Uke-Lele. ("Ay-pri-you-kuh-lay-lee"). I'm going to challenge myself this month to play the ukelele for 15 minutes every day. Out of this I'll get a good 15-20 songs in the rotation, so I feel positive about this!

20 new things in my portfolio
Could be emails, blog posts, etc.
I've actually written a number of email campaigns at work that I'm quite proud of; the challenge is capturing them and putting them in my portfolio. So that's something to focus on this month.

20 new skills
Not sure what this could be ... I want to learn some new things.
This is a funny category. So far I've put a travel journaling course (online) and making arboreal salve in here. Other ideas are folding origami cranes from memory, kumihimo braiding, adding a watermark to an image, and taking some courses on Coursera. So more to come on this.

20 Thames Path posts
I want to document that trip from years ago.
I have FINALLY started this. I've written and published 5 posts so far, and I have 15-16 left to go. And at the end of it I vow to recycle / get rid of all the bits and pieces I've saved in a bag since then. Not the books, but the train tickets, bus tickets, and lodging receipts can go.

20 movies
This is easy -- or it should be.
This *should* have been easy ... now with movie theatres closed, it seems like a stretch. If we get past, say, August, I'll allow new movies that we stream to "count". But not yet.

20 hours stitching acanthus -- completed 3/24
This will be harder to track than to accomplish!
I'm sure that I had done more than 20 hours on acanthus by March 24, but that's when I actually tracked it.

20 hours volunteered
I suspect the difficult part will be identifying volunteer opportunities.
Well, that *would* have been the difficult part... I did some research into volunteering on trails, which would have been my next goal. I had even signed up to sew masks for a local hospital, but they changed the program. But I'm sure there will be more ways to help.

20 things off my 101 things in 1001 days list
This is a bit of a cheat -- but will allow me to do a range of projects.
So far I've set up email subscriptions on the blog, tried 5 vegan cheeses, completed the "love your lettering" course, and embroidered a pair of dish towels. I'm close to a few others, so I feel good about this. After all, 101 in 1001 days ends in September 2020!

I have a 2020 Vision tracker on the blog, and I'll do a check-in every quarter. If you're keeping score (I am, of course!), I've completed 128/400 things -- putting me at 32%. Not bad for being just 25% of the way through the year.

Overall progress

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Travel Tuesday : The Thames Path day 4, Newbridge to Oxford

Walked 5 May, 2002.

Up early and had an unremarkable breakfast -- the only food I managed to eat at the Rose Revived, and then headed out into the quiet morning.

Conveniently the path starts from the garden at the Rose Revived. I took a last look at the inn:

And took a last look at the New Bridge from the garden:

And then I continued downriver, just meandering along. I passed Northmoor Lock. A photocopied pamphlet I picked up at some point during the walk tells me that flash locks were "difficult and dangerous to operate"; while Wikipedia tells me that:
a set of boards, called paddles, supported against the current by upright timbers called rymers which normally kept the level of water above it to navigable levels. Boats moving downstream would wait above the lock until the paddles were removed, which would allow a "flash" of water to pass through, carrying the boats with it. Upstream boats would be winched or towed through the lock with the paddles removed. Considerable skill was involved both in removing the paddles in a timely manner and navigating the boat through the lock. Flash locks of this type have been documented since at least 1295 C.E.
Weir paddles, Northmoor Lock:

Looking upstream to Northmoor Lock, you'll note that they also have a traditional lock, so boats no longer have to be winched upstream or flashed downstream!

Sadly, the path was about to take a diversion. Sharp mentions that there's a foot ferry operated by the publican at Bablock Hythe, and that it was "the best known of all the Thames crossings".

But as the pub wasn't yet open and there was no ferryman to be found, I followed the path. I do wonder whether I could have crossed the river and followed the towpath, which is clearly present on the map, or whether it would have been blocked. But I turned away from the river and followed the roadways around.

As always, it was a relief to get back to the river. Somehow the channel here near Swinford Farm looked very deep.

Soon I arrived at Swinford Bridge, one of two privately owned toll bridges on the Thames.

It was built by the Earl of Abingdon around 1770, and tolls collected on the bridge are exempt from income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, or VAT as per an act passed in 1767 by George III. The toll was more than doubled in the 1990s, apparently. How much is the toll?

Apparently, before then it was 2p. The toll is taken manually. Yep, manually.

As a pedestrian I could saunter along the bridge for free. Here's a view looking upstream from Swinford Bridge:

Apparently the toll taking huge backups on the road, and a lot of anger in the local community. In 2009 the bridge was sold to a private investor for over a million pounds. Locals have been trying to get the toll scrapped, to no avail.

I managed to catch the toll taker in a quiet moment. We chatted briefly between cars. "Some days I could use six arms, we're so busy!" It reminded me of a guy in a tollbooth in the states who once told me, gruffly, "in a fairy tale I'd be called a troll". The gentleman of Swinford Bridge was much more charming.

I decided it was time for lunch, so I stopped in at the Talbot, a handsome old inn.

Sitting outside in the sun I had a remarkable sausage and chips ... and a pint of cider, of course.

After lunch I re-crossed the bridge (yep, it was indeed busy):

and headed back to the path. 

Very soon I reached Swinford Lock

and then, sadly, my camera battery died! Yep, that's what happens when you don't pack a charger for a three-day trip, I'm afraid.

However, I kept on downstream, going through beautiful Wytham Great Wood and entering the stretch of the Thames known as Isis.

Past King's Weir, along some lovely winding river, and underneath the noisy Oxford Bypass bridge.

I passed the Oxford Boundary Marker,

and then arrived at Godstow. What's great about Godstow? The Trout -- the third Trout on the River Thames.

And it is, indeed, very very lovely.

So lovely that I was able to get my lovely friend Suz, visiting at the time, to go to Oxford one afternoon so I could go back along part of the river where I hadn't been able to take photos! Here she is on the terrace of the Trout.

Let's be honest, it's not hard to convince either of us to go on an adventure that involves a pint in a pretty pub! Fortified, we crossed the bridge that leads from the Trout terrace and headed downstream.

First we passed the weir near the Trout. DANGER.

And then the ruins of Godstow Abbey, founded in 1139. It was the burial site of Rosamund de Clifford, a former pupil of the Abbey and mistress of Henry II. Rosamund -- "the Fair Rosamund" or "The Rose of the World" was famous for her beauty. After she died, Henry II paid to enlarge the Abbey. 

The Abbey was suppressed under the Second Act of Dissolution in 1539, and fell into ruin. Amusingly, according to Sharp the best preserved part of the Abbey is the Trout Inn, originally built as its hospice!

A little farther downstream is lovely Port Meadow, across the river from the path. 

Sharp says it is "unchanged since William the Conqueror presented it to the burgesses of Oxford as a free common".  Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), used to take the Liddell daughters on picnics here; one day he rowed them up the river while telling them the story of Alice. 

Meanwhile, on the west bank where we were walking, we passed a field that still clearly showed its medieval field pattern and I got a tiny, nerdy thrill. 

Not long after we spotted some cows across the backwater, on Fiddler's Island. 

And then, suddenly, terrace houses and we were in Oxford proper.

Then the bus back to London!

Next up: Oxford to Clifton Hampden

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Acanthus Stitch-a-Long, part 5

First and foremost, I hope you are all well and safe. It's been a very strange three weeks; other than slipping out at 6:15 every morning for a walk, I've been out of the house three times, once to pick up a prescription and twice for groceries. We've been very very lucky so far; I hope you have been too.

Of course, staying inside and not commuting does mean more time for stitching, if there's such a thing as a silver lining here. And I've made a good bit of progress. Here's where I was last time from the front:

and, because it's so hard to see, here's where I was from the back:

A couple of weeks of stitching later and -- hooray! It was time to roll the frame. Here it is from the front:

and here's the back:

So then I rolled the frame up, which was a little like having a new start. The top of the pattern is just past the curve of the frame!

Here's the back, just waiting for progress (note that the pattern ends just there!):

And then I still had a week to stitch ... so here's where I am now! I stitched the two bluey-green leaves, and started in on the big browny leaves.

And here's the back:

It's interesting to see how the pattern isn't an exact match from side to side -- though whether that's by design or accident I don't really know. But I still like to do the leaves in pairs, if only to remind myself what the different colors are. By our next check in I'd like to have the brown leaves, the grey-green leaves, and the limey green leaves visible ... and perhaps even roll the frame in preparation for the last set!

The other stitchers in this stitch-a-long all make amazing, and inspiring projects, so check out everyone's blogs to see what they're all up to.

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Sue, Constanze, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, CindyHeidi, Jackie, Hayley, Megan, Deborah, Mary MargaretRenee, Carmela, Jocelyn, SharonDaisy, AnneConnieAJ, JennyLaura, Cathie, and Linda

See you on April 19th for our next check-in!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

March OMG complete : embroidered dish towels, part 2

Hi everyone -- hope you and yours are safe and healthy.

I'm happy to report that I completed my March OMG to embroider the second dish towel. Here's where I was at the start of the month:

And here is the result -- along with the towel I stitched in February.

It's humbling and yet satisfying to see that I became a better embroiderer as the projects went on! It's obvious which one -- and even which part of which one -- was stitched first. Anyway, I think the recipient will be pleased with them, and I hope she actually uses them.

The One Monthly Goal link-up is organized by Elm Street Quilts with the idea that we can just focus on one task and make progress. You can see how everyone did in their March projects on the Finish Party page! Or choose an OMG project of your own and join us in April. I still haven't decided what to pick up next, though it may be a sashiko project that I've been thinking about for a long time. We'll see!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

North of 60 : Kicksledding and other adventures in Yellowknife, day 3

We had seen our post-Blachford days in Yellowknife as something of an "insurance policy" -- extra chances to see the Aurora, plus a visit to the Snowking Castle were the only things on our list. So how to fill the days?

Enter Sundog Adventures.

I'd seen a brochure in the hotel lobby offering kicksled tours across Back Bay on the Great Slave Lake. I looked on their website and saw that the tour included a visit to the Ice Cave and I was sold!

We stopped in at the Dancing Moose Cafe for breakfast -- we both had the Arctic Char Eggs Benedict in the cosy spot. We were lucky and got a table right away; soon all the tables were full. But service was great and the food was excellent. No wonder it's popular!

Afterward we went up to the Bush Pilots Monument for stunning views of Yellowknife on such a gorgeous day. Amusingly, I watched a woman take two dogs on a kicksled across another part of the bay and thought, "That looks like what we'll be doing." Spoiler alert: I had seen some of our dogs and our guide!

We walked across the bridge to Latham Island and went to the Sundog Adventures cabin, where our guide greeted us and told us about kicksleds. They're Scandinavian in origin, where they've been popular for 150 years. The "modern" kicksled design, of two ski-like runners with footbeds connected to handlebars that you twist to steer, appeared in 1909. They're most often propelled, as the name implies, by kicking -- like you do on a skateboard, sorta. But you can also attach dogs to them!

Our kicksleds had been adapted for being pulled by dogs with the addition of a "brake pad" that you could step on, suspended between the runners, which added enough friction to make the dogs stop. After trying out the sleds in the cabin, we walked across the street and onto the frozen lake to meet the dogs.

The dogs were resting happily in some straw-filled shelter boxes. We had been a little worried, before, about the dogs and how they were treated, etc., but they were clearly happy and healthy, and very nice. We met all the dogs, including puppy Tuk Tuk, who was just along for the run.

We got on our sleds, the dogs were attached, and we were off! We had been told three commands:

  • "Hike up!" to get the dogs moving or moving faster; a "let's go" sort of thing.
  • "Whoa whoa whoa" to get the dogs to stop; and
  • "On by!" to move the dogs past a distraction.

Thus armed, we set off. The dogs knew the trail and where we were going, so I didn't need to steer. I did attempt, once, to assist the dogs by kicking, but it made me feel super unsteady and I felt like I almost lost the sled for a few seconds. So I just stood evenly on the runners and let the dogs do the work.

When we got to the other side of the bay, we unhitched the dogs, put them in more straw-lined boxes for a little break, and we walked through Back Bay Cemetery. Apparently the soil wasn't deep enough to bury folk on Latham Island -- it's that Canadian Shield bedrock -- so the buried their early settlers across the bay. There are more than 40 people buried there, but they were all hidden by the snow.

A few minutes walk and we arrived at the "Ice Caves" -- not really an ice cave, but also not really a frozen waterfall ... there's just a steady seep/drip of water that grows and grows over the course of the winter. Still, it's pretty cool.

Eventually we headed back to the sleds and hitched up the dogs again. We kept the same teams (I really liked Wacko and wasn't about to give him up; he reminded me of the canine version of our Bubble.) This time Wil sped off, doing a lot of kicking to help the dogs along. Me? Well, I managed to kick a few times, especially as we got closer to the home base... probably because I was less worried about losing the sled!!!

Once back we said goodbye to the dogs and our guide, we wandered back to downtown, stopping in at The Woodyard, the brewpub operated by NWT Brewing Co. Having had a huge breakfast, we weren't even slightly peckish, but we managed to snag a pair of seats at the bar and enjoyed the beer amidst the bustle.

Then home, and a lot of hassle with our flight reservations. Some sort of miscommunication between the "Chase Travel Concierge" and WestJet and Delta -- all of them agreed that we had reservations and flights, but no one could agree on the ticket number or allow us to check in) which meant an hour plus on the phone and in the end just the advice to go to the airport early and let them sort it out. Spoiler alert: they did, thank goodness.

Later in the evening we had excellent Ethiopian food (yep, you read that right) at Zehabesha, which is the #1 rated restaurant in Yellowknife on TripAdvisor (yep, you read that right, too...).

Late at night, having packed and gotten everything ready, we bundled up one last time and stood in a nearby park for our last Aurora glimpses -- even with the city lights, it was still pretty magical.

Our trip home was tiring and a increasingly odd. Calgary Airport was huge yet seemingly pretty empty, and we had to walk nearly the entire way across it. (Okay, we could have taken the little bus/trolley, but we wanted to hustle...) And then landing at Sea-Tac, where we saw hardly anyone and there was only one person in the Uber/Lyft area. It would be the start of several strange weeks, and we're already wondering when we will get to travel again. I hope you are staying safe, social distancing, and washing your hands.