Earth Day

Yesterday I spent most of Earth Day on my bicycle, which I think is appropriate. It was less because it was Earth Day and more because the weather was finally nice (you’d never know we had an ice storm a week before), and I love to cycle.

I cycled with my mother along the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal, taking a break in the middle of the ride for a lovely bite to eat in the Glebe. A good deal of maintenance had been done since the ice storm, so most of the big branches had been pulled off of paths and roads, but the large numbers of smaller sticks and twigs sometimes made it dicey going. Every so often we’d find an area with constant shade, and we’d have to be careful of the ice hidden there. The water was really high on the river (although definitely not as bad as last year’s major flooding), so some of the bike paths that run alongside were a little dicey and sometimes inaccessible. Amusingly, when we traveled alongside the canal we realized that it has yet to be raised back to navigation level and was almost dry at the bottom — the water level is controlled by a series of dams and weirs, and it’s only partially filled in the winter to create ice for the skateway.

While the plants have yet to green up, the bugs were starting to reemerge (I learned that gnats stick to sunscreen) and we saw a plethora of birds. Although there were worries that the robins would starve in the late freezing weather, we did see quite a few of them. Also in large numbers were pigeons, gulls, and Canada geese; although we didn’t see many of them, we did hear songbirds singing in the trees. We even spotted the odd pigeon in the photo above, which caught our eyes because the pigeons around here generally have colouring more like this.

Honestly, it wasn’t the prettiest day. Despite the clear blue sky and the sun shining down, this isn’t the most beautiful time of year to be a tourist. If you wanted to film/photograph something with a post-apocalyptic vibe, this is the time to do it. Just wait a few weeks, though, and it will be beautiful again!

I did do a couple of things that are kind of stereotypically Canadian today, now that it’s warmed up a bit. First, I took my outdoor Christmas lights down. If you live in warmer climes that probably seems quite late, but although I turned mine off on January 1st, by then they were frozen to the ground and under a thick layer of ice and snow. Only now had things melted back enough that I could actually take them down!

Also, today I shoveled the lawn. That probably sounds ridiculous to anyone who doesn’t live where there’s a great deal of snow, so let me explain. At the end of the winter, you’re always left with a few drifts that are the last to melt, usually in areas that don’t get much sun or where you pile snow when you shovel your driveway or paths clear. Well, I have a few spots like that, and I’ve learned over the years that if I want them to melt (and hence dry out) a little faster, I can throw the top layers of snow into the parts of the yard that actually get regular sun. I know it’ll all melt eventually if I just leave it, but by this point in the year I’m impatient for the change of seasons. It probably only takes a couple of days less to melt the snow if I shovel it, but it makes me feel better, gosh darn it!

For our Earth Day dinner, my husband cooked us up some steak and zucchini on the wood pellet grill, which I served with some nice homemade bread. We had actually intended to have hamburgers, but I think everyone else in town had the same idea and we couldn’t find buns for love nor money. I think anyone who could do so fired up the barbecue and cooked outside, if only as an excuse to do something out in the lovely weather. I mean, it went up to 16°C (61°F) for the first time since around October, so I really don’t blame them. Ah well, our dinner was probably healthier than burgers anyway — and it was delicious!

Double-Layered Tuque Pattern

I finished up a second of my extremely-warm double-layered winter hats the other day, this time for Thing 1, and I thought I’d share the pattern. It’s a pretty easy one, as such things go. It involves the basic techniques of casting on, casting off, knitting, purling, increases (k1fb — knit one front and back), decreases (k2tog — knit two together), and knitting in the round (I prefer the magic loop technique, but whatever you are most comfortable with is fine). Don’t let the seemingly long pattern deter you! It’s mostly because the pattern contains a flat-brim and a ribbed-brim version.

A note about sizing: this hat is made to fit my 23″ head with room for a ponytail or other hairdo underneath. I’m no Brent Butt (who claims to have a 27″ head), but my head’s still large enough that it generally falls outside of the women’s hat sizing category and smack-dab into the men’s. Don’t worry, this pattern is adjustable to the size that you want it; instructions are below.


Left: plain brim hat knit in Polo Stripe colourway
Right: ribbed brim hat knit in Favorite Stripe colourway

Double-Layered Tuque
Adult male size, fits 23″ to 24″ circumference head

Materials:
– one 141g (5oz), 215m (236 yds) ball of Red Heart Super Saver Stripes yarn (100% acrylic)
– for ribbed-brim hat only: scraps of contrasting yarn for stitches & pompom
– one set of 5mm (US 8, UK 6) circular knitting needles in a length comfortable for the magic loop method (I prefer 120cm/47″ or longer)

Gauge:
– 21 stitches and 27 rows in stockinette stitch = 20cm x 20cm (4″ x 4″) square on 5mm (US 8, UK 6) needles

Instructions:

Cast on:
– Cast on 18 stitches (flat brim) OR 24 stitches (ribbed-brim).
– Place half of the stitches on each half of the circular needle so as to use the magic loop method.
– Join to work in the round, being careful not to twist.
– Knit one row, placing a stitch marker after every third (flat brim) OR fourth (ribbed brim) stitch. This will divide your work into six sections.

Increase the Crown Exterior:
– First row: *Knit until one stitch before first stitch marker. K1FB on the stitch before the stitch marker. Repeat from * until row is complete. (Every row like this will increase your work by 6 stitches.)
– Second row: Knit.
– Repeat first and second rows until you have 57 stitches per side (flat brim) OR 60 stitches per side (ribbed brim)

SIZING NOTE:

This is where you can adjust for head size. Once you have established your gauge, which you can do either with a swatch or by measuring your stitches as you go, you can calculate how many stitches you will need in total. Use one of the following formulae, depending on whether you’re measuring in metric or imperial:

(Head Circumference + 2.5cm) X Number of Stitches per CM = Desired # of Stitches

OR

(Head Circumference + 1″) X Number of Stitches per Inch = Desired # of Stitches

Then, round the stitch number up to the next multiple of six. It gets a bit more tricky for the ribbed brim version, which must also be divisible by four.

Knit the Body:
– Use a piece of differently-coloured yarn or a safety pin to mark the row where the increases end.
FLAT-BRIM:
– Knit until body measures 9cm (3.5″) from end of increases.
– Remove increase marker.
RIBBED-BRIM:
– Knit until body measures 5cm (2″) from end of increases.
– K2, P2 for and additional 3.8cm (1.5″).
– Remove increase marker.

Decrease:
FLAT-BRIM:
– Divide the number of stitches on each needle by three, and place a stitch marker after each group. Knit the next round, knitting two stitches together for the two stitches before each stitch marker. There should be 54 stitches on each needle.
RIBBED BRIM:
– Divide the number of stitches on each needle by two, and place a stitch marker after each group. Knit OR purl two stitches together, depending on what that stitch should have been in the normal order of K2, P2. There should be 58 stitches on each needle.
– Use a piece of differently-coloured yarn or a safety pin to mark the row where you made these decreases.

Knit the Body Lining:
FLAT BRIM:
– Knit until interior body measures 9cm (3.5″) from decrease marker.
– Remove decrease marker.
RIBBED BRIM:
– K2, P2 for 3.8cm (1.5″) from decrease marker.
– Knit for an additional 5cm (2″).
– Remove decrease marker.

Decrease Lining:
– Divide the number of stitches on each needle by three. For the flat-brimmed hat, unless you have adjusted for size, that means each group should be 18 stitches. For the ribbed-brim hat, the number will not be even. If you have not adjusted for size, divide the stitches 19-19-20. If you have adjusted for size, try and make the groups as even as possible.
– First row: **Knit until two stitches before first stitch marker. K2tog on the two stitches before the stitch marker. Repeat from ** until row is complete. (Every row like this will decrease your work by 6 stitches.)
– Second row: Knit.
– Repeat first and second rows until you have 12 stitches per side (flat brim) OR 18 stitches per side (ribbed brim).
– Cast off, leaving a long tail.

Finishing:
– Run the tail of yarn through the cast off stitches and draw tight, tying a secure knot.
– Run the other tail of yarn through the cast on stitches and pull tight, tying a secure knot.
– Fold the lining into the exterior of the hat so that the cast off and cast on stitches touch, back to back.
– With a few stitches of one of the yarn tails, secure the two ends of the hat together at the point. Tie one tail to the other and pull them between the two layers of fabric.
– Create a pompom out of the leftover yarn (flat brim) or out of scrap contrasting yarn (ribbed brim). Stitch it to the exterior of the peak of the hat.
– About 1cm (about 0.5″) from the bottom edge of the hat (flat brim) OR along the edge of the ribbing (ribbed brim), stitch leftover/contrasting yarn every second stitch, affixing the lining to the exterior of the hat. Then run a piece of leftover/contrasting yarn through these stitches, creating a continuous line. Make sure that these stitches are not too tight, so as not to be uncomfortable around the ears. Tie off the yarn and run it between the two layers of fabric, snipping off any extra if it protrudes.

As usual, should you note any errata in this pattern, or if any instructions need further clarification, please let me know so that I can fix it and/or make my instructions more clear!

Warm, Hearty Suppers for Chilly Days

With my backlog of canning to do and a whole lot of events, parties, and decorating happening before Hallowe’en, I haven’t been making too many complicated meals lately. Now that the temperature has finally dropped (last night it dipped below freezing), that means that I’ve been trying to make hearty suppers that don’t take too much advanced preparation.


Sloppy Joes with a side of acorn squash with butter and brown sugar.

Believe it or not, I’d never made Sloppy Joes before. It’s just not something we ever ate as a family. The closest we’d get would be open- or closed-faced sandwiches of chopped up bits of leftover beef, pork, or chicken, smothered in leftover gravy. But I’d taken the Amish Community Cookbook (2017) out of the library, and I wanted to try at least one recipe from it before I had to return it. I didn’t think that Sloppy Joes were a particularly Amish dish, but there was an uncomplicated recipe on page 63, so I gave it a shot. It was really good! I had my parents over for dinner and they liked it too. My mom pointed out that the sauce is actually a lot like the one she uses for slow-cooker pulled pork, and I have to agree (keeping in mind that I love pulled pork too).


Curry butternut soup with Dad’s biscuits.

The other night I needed something I could put together quickly, so I dug through my freezer and thawed out a couple of containers of curry butternut squash soup. I’m pretty sure that my mom made this dish and shared it with me, because I certainly don’t remember making it. The label was dated December 2016, though, so it might just be time making me forget. My husband pointed out that the labels were in his writing and the containers were our own, which indicates that I’d made the soup, but I think it’s just as plausible that I had to return my mom’s original container. Either way, I don’t know what the recipe was for this one (another one of those pre-blog things), but it was perfect for a cold fall evening. The biscuits I served alongside were Dad’s Biscuits, which I whipped up in about the same amount of time it took to thaw the soup on the stove.

Since we already had some steaming fresh biscuits, I cracked open the jar of mirabelle plum jam that my friend made from the fruit of her neighbour’s plum tree. I spread the jam generously on biscuits as dessert. My mouth is watering just thinking about that it. My friend was a little worried about the set, thinking that it would be a little bit too runny, but I thought it was perfect.


Leftover chicken ramen.

Despite the flowers (a hostess gift from my honorary aunt), this dish was anything but fancy. I made up some ramen using turkey broth (made from the bones of the Thanksgiving turkey) flavoured with a dash of Memmi Noodle Soup Base. I topped the noodles with leftover rotisserie chicken, soft-boiled eggs, and steamed carrots. My family added masago (capelin roe) and dried shrimp to their tastes. It was hearty, filling, and good for what ails you — especially if what ails you is the cold that seems to be going around right now. I’ve always found that steamy bowls of soup help clear out the sinuses.