Ice Day

Yesterday was what we generally call a “snow day” around here, as in the winter weather was so terrible that school buses were cancelled and the kids stayed home from school. But it was really more of an “ice day”, since it had snowed the day before and then the temperature jumped up so we could have freezing rain coating that layer of snow, and then just plain old rain creating puddles on top of it all. It was a mess. It was definitely an ice storm, if not the ice storm.

With the kids home from school and it being too dangerous to really get out of the house (that being the whole reason for the bus cancellations in the first place), I found myself trying to wrangle two active children with increasingly high levels of cabin fever. The day was taken up with playing, crafting, snacking, NERF target practice, and video games. When the weather cleared up a bit, the girls went outside with their father to clear the driveway while I cooked supper (no mean feat after the plough had been by, leaving a burm of ice and slush between our house and the road).

On days like this, you really have to cook with whatever happens to be in the house. My pantry and freezer are well-stocked, and although it would likely take us weeks to even feel hungry feeding on those items alone, I was craving something a bit fresher. I Googled to find some recipes for pasta sauce that I could make without hitting the grocery store, and I found PureWow’s Spaghetti with Avocado Pasta Sauce. I thought that it would be ideal because it is a sauce with a creamy texture (which I adore), but without any actual dairy products.

I served the sauce over cooked spaghetti squash, with baked chicken legs (sprinkled with my usual garlic powder, sage, rosemary, thyme, summer savoury, and sea salt). I only realized after I took the picture exactly how unappetizing the sauce ended up looking, especially since I couldn’t toss it in the “noodles” without them falling apart. Ignoring the other gross things it could look like, the shine on the sauce makes it look like icing or a glaze, which it did not taste like at all. Flavour-wise, it was like eating guacamole, without the heat of peppers. Honestly, it was a little bit bland. I’d like to try this recipe again, but on actual pasta, with some fresh herbs thrown in (Googling has suggested basil and cilantro), and possibly some sliced cherry tomatoes.

At least dessert was a success! I heated a frozen apple pie from Mom’s birthday dinner (I always make two pies when I bake, one for the event and another to throw in the freezer for future use). When reheated from fully frozen, it usually takes about an hour in an oven at 350°F. I served the pie with a scoop of non-dairy vanilla “ice cream” for me and whipped cream for everyone else. There were no complaints on that score!

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!

Ice Storms

Freezing rain happens every winter here in Ottawa. The temperature will be steadily below freezing for a while, freezing the ground and all exterior surfaces, and then we’ll get a day or two of warmer weather that brings rain. The rain freezes when it comes into contact with those cold surfaces, turning immediately to ice. This encases everything outdoors in a slick coating that can make driving or even walking extremely dangerous. Most of the time, the ice doesn’t end up being very thick, and it can be dealt with by a generous coating of road salt and sand. Often, it’ll bring on a snow day (the schools stay open, but the buses are cancelled). Then the weather will shift again and either melt the ice or snow over it.


Photo taken by one of my parents.

Twice in my life I can remember the weather going from “freezing rain” to “ice storm”. The difference is really a matter of scale; we don’t call it an ice storm until the coating of ice is thick enough to damage trees and power lines. The first one I remember was in 1986, pictured above. That’s my little brother and I taking a slow and careful walk around the neighborhood we lived in at the time. It wouldn’t have been a snow day, since the storm occurred over the Christmas break (not that my brother was old enough yet to be in school anyway). I even found an old news broadcast in the CBC Digital Archives.


My parents’ Neon after the 1998 ice storm.

The second ice storm that I remember happened in from January 4th to 10th, 1998. I’m vastly understating the case when I state that this was a much bigger deal. The ice coating was so thick that the weight crumpled enormous hydro pylons, in addition to downing power lines, trees, and tree branches (which then took down power lines, smashed cars, and wrecked roofs of homes and outbuildings). Roads were shut down, over one and a half million people were without power; 945 people were injured and 35 lost their lives (Source: Historica Canada). The storm damage cost billions of dollars to repair. It is considered one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history.


This birch was bent almost double by the weight of the ice, then the ice froze the branches to the ground.

We were very, very lucky because of where we were living at the time. First of all, we didn’t get as much precipitation as some other areas, which received up to 100mm. That alone saved much of our area. We were on a relatively-new residential street, so the power lines were buried underground. Because we were in a city, even though the power cut out often, it never went out for long. Also because the neighborhood was relatively new, we didn’t have any massive trees that, when downed, could do much damage. Sure, many people lost their trees (or had to trim them back severely), and some fell across the roads and had to be cleared, but nothing was growing tall enough to fall on peoples’ roofs, for example.


An ice-coated park near where we lived at the time.

We were also very lucky that we had a well-stocked freezer and pantry, so we didn’t have to travel until the roads were safe again. We went for a walk on Day 2, which is when I took the photographs, but we only made it to the end of our street before we turned back, worried that we might slip and fall and be injured. Emergency vehicles were having just as tough of a time with the roads as everyone else, so you were in real trouble if you got hurt.


My mom looking through frozen branches.

It was something like two weeks that the schools were closed — and I mean fully closed, not just “snow day closed”. Nobody was going anywhere. Some of my friends, who lived outside of town, stayed out of school longer because their roads were not yet safe, they had no power, and they had to feed the fireplace to keep their houses from freezing.


Branches and berries under the ice. I think this photo is right-side-up.

The reason I am writing about these ice storms is twofold. Firstly, it’s almost exactly twenty years since the 1998 ice storm, an event which had great repercussions along an west-east path of something like 500km. If you lived in the area that the storm affected, and were old enough to have memories of that year at all, you remember the Ice Storm of 1998.


This bush collapsed almost entirely over the fence, weighed down by the ice stuck to its branches and leaves.

Secondly, we had freezing rain yesterday morning, although it was warm enough for most of it to melt later in the day. Overnight it rained, and then this afternoon it is supposed to go below freezing again so that everything will freeze up. The temperature is supposed to drop until it’s back to more seasonal norms, falling over 20 degrees Celsius in twenty-four hours. We’re supposed to get a combination of rain, freezing rain, and snow. I really hope that this doesn’t end up being a proper ice storm. I wouldn’t be at all surprise if we get frost quakes, though.

Happy New Year!

It’s a cold, cold winter’s night here in Ottawa: -21°C (-5.8°F), -31°C (-23.8°F) with the wind chill — and it’s supposed to go down to -30°C (-22°F), -37°C (-34.6°F) with the wind chill by 6:00am. As we huddle around the fireplace, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy New Year. Greatest wishes to all for health, wealth, and happiness in the new year!

Christmas Eve Dinner

The last few days before Christmas were a flurry of cooking activity. On the 22nd, I baked tortière, pumpkin pie, chocolate pumpkin brownies (this time without the coffee), while my husband made bread machine corn bread.


Baking pumpkin pie.

On the 23rd I made my first attempt at German stollen, banana nut muffins, and the ill-fated pumpkin pie; my husband baked corn meal muffins. Of course, we cooked dinner both days as well.


Tortière, corn bread, chocolate pumpkin brownies, and pumpkin pie.

Then, on the 24th, I made Nan’s pan rolls, rosemary bread in the breadmaker, and deviled eggs. I’d planned to make orange-glazed carrots & parsnips, but we forgot to buy carrots and there was no way I was facing the stores on Christmas Eve, so that got written out.

Then we hosted Christmas Eve dinner for our little family, plus my in-laws and my brother-in-law. Usually this dinner is hosted by my husband’s parents, but they are currently between homes, having sold their house in October but with their new condo not being complete until the start of February. So this year it was up to us to make this family tradition happen. This dinner is traditionally consists of (and no one can tell me why) cabbage rolls, which my mother-in-law made this year, and tortière, which I made. I also added the pan rolls, rosemary bread, and deviled eggs with lumpfish caviar.

I tried to honour my mother-in-law’s German heritage by also serving stollen, for which I used the Taste of Home Almond-Filled Stollen recipe and The Spruce’s Easy Almond Paste recipe, since I couldn’t find almond paste in any of the local shops. Sadly, the dish went down like a lead balloon. I mean, I overbaked one loaf (the recipe makes three), but I didn’t serve that one. Even so, only two slices were even eaten with or after Christmas Eve dinner. The bread rose nicely and had a good texture, although I can’t be much of a judge of the flavour because I don’t really like candied fruits (I don’t like fruitcake either for that very same reason). I think I’ll just forego making this bread next year if we host this dinner again. It was a lot of work and nobody seemed to like it. Maybe I’ll just make gingerbread instead; at least that I’ll eat if nobody else does!