Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking back

Like many others, I won't say 2016 was a stellar year - globally or personally.

I won't recount all the global issues... you've all lived them... and personally - well let's just say this year was "challenging". It's not my worst year (I'm pretty sure that was 2010), but I'm not sad to see the back end of this one.

It was of course marked by the loss of not one, but both my boys, just weeks apart.
And the loss of my beautiful girl.
I haven't said much about it, but you may have guessed since I haven't run out to get another car. The biggest challenge of 2016 has been financial.

Many of you know that Dave is a guitar teacher. However, he teaches privately, which means he's a lot like a hair dresser in that he has to keep up his clientele to earn a living. In 2015, he was working between two schools, and doing quite well. Unfortunately, the atmosphere at one of the schools was quite toxic, and after an agonizingly long time, he made the (correct) decision to leave.

And while it was better for his (and thus my) mental health, it literally halved his income. And it's taken more time than expected to build up his clientele at the school he stayed with.

I count myself lucky to have the job that I do - I can cover our living expenses - but only just.  And with vet bills, car repairs, and other unexpected expenses... 2016 has been one heck of a financial juggling act. And there where many times I wondered if I was going to be able to keep all the balls in the air.

2016 also so some health challenges with myself (my back mostly), my father, as well as Dave's grandmother. She's pushing 90, so it's to be expected, but it doesn't mean it's any less stressful.

But as much as these things darkened our days... 2016 held many bright spots.

I was able to rescue this little guy from the shelter
A silly little ginger boy who at once delights and confounds me. While he's not yet the cuddlebug that Tux was... he's turned out to be the perfect companion for Miss Peno.
2016 also saw the inclusion of this silly thing into the Wandering Cat family
... and she grew up fast before our eyes!
There were lots of adventures with the munchkins
Who are growing up fast as well.

There were great days with best friends
And summer days with new friends
My gardens continued to delight me day after day
and of course there was plenty of yarny fun
I move forward to 2017 with hope. Hope that we can get finances back on track, that our loved ones stay in good health, and that the new year brings new experiences and new memories... so at the end of 2017, I can write another post that at least has as many bright spots as this one.

Happy New Year, my friends! Wishing you all the best in the days to come.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday Felines

Rupert says:
 "Wake me when the New Year gets here!"

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Riding it out

Sorry for the silence friends. I'm still under the weather. I thought I was getting better, but apparently not. Dave finally got fed up with all the coughing and whining and marched me to the doctor's yesterday.... bronchitis, with the added benefit of a pulled chest muscle just to make it more exciting! (and painful).

I've got good ol' steriods and antibiotics now, so hopefully I'll be back on my feet soon. I'm certainly sick of being sick, and it made for one lonely depressing Christmas. All I want to do is sleep most of the time. A certain someone thinks that's just fantastic...
...and I have to admit, he's a pretty good nap buddy.

When I have been conscious, and had an iota of energy, I've been knitting.

Andi Satterland has started her Selfish Sweater KAL, and I've joined in knitting Agatha.
The picture isn't great - I'll get you some better ones soon - but the knit is going well so far. I'm using Debbie Bliss Merino Aran - they call the colour "sage", but to me it's the perfect "pea soup". If I can just stay awake and work on it, I'll be done in no time!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Final questions for 2016

I am much looking forward to the end of this year, but we couldn't usher it out the door without one more round of questions from KathyB

  1.  Name your best FO of 2016.
I think my handspun cardi is probably my favourite from this year. I didn’t really do much in the way of fancy this year  - looking back, I seemed to have stuck to the basics.
  1. Ask someone in your family to name something you’ve knit for them.
I’m home alone at the moment,  but Mom would tell you I made her one Foxy pair of socks

  1. Did you get any yarn gifts this holiday?
No gifts at all this holiday actually (with finances being what they are right now, we had a present-free Christmas). But Mom spun me up this lovely Soy Silk for my birthday.

  1. Did your pets get any gifts?
Nope. But don’t worry, Rupert and Peno are plenty spoiled.

  1. What is a great tip  or idea you got this year?
This tip to peel a large amount of small onions easier.
  1. How did you surprise yourself in 2016?
I made it through? I guess adapting so well to being carless is a little bit of a surprise to myself.
  1. Name a favorite book you read in 2016.
Fire touched by Patricia Briggs. Can’t wait for her new book in 2017
  1. What is The latest you stayed up in 2016?
All night… especially at the height of the plague….  I wasn’t sleeping much at all.
  1. Name a play, show  or concert you went to in 2016.
Sadly, none. 2016 was pretty light on external entertainment.  I wasn't even able to get out to watch Dave play with his new band.
  1. Name a new drink, dish or dessert you found in 2016.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Sale! Sale! Sale!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. I'm still fighting the plague (better than I was, but still under the weather), so I've spent most of it on the couch with Netflix.

I do have some knitting to show you, but I'll save that for tomorrow. In the meantime...

Mom really wants to clear the shop out of old stock so we can start fresh in the New Year.
You can pick up anything in the shop for 50% off (excluding cranking service and gift certificates) till December 31st.  Just use the code BOX50
 Yup... that's right... half price - and some of those skeins are already marked down. So treat yourself and help us get a fresh start on the New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

One more sleep!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Birthday shopping

For my  birthday, my Momma gave me a gift card to Old Navy. She figured I could use it for more dresses (I'm at 20 of them, but I could always use more, right!?!)

Old Navy won't have new prints until the new year, but one thing I was in need  of now was a new winter coat. And a light coloured one, since I'm walking at night more, now that I'm without wheels.

And didn't Old Navy have just the perfect thing...
A nice warm, (mostly) wool peacoat. This style of coat seems to be getting harder and harder to find. It seems everyone is turning towards puffy down coats. But personally, I can't stand the bulk - and I'm puffy enough already... I don't need more puff. A good wool peacoat is not only warm, but  it's classic and slimming. I've already had it out in the cold and it's perfect!

Since it was on sale and had an extra discount, I had just enough left of the card to get something else.
They call this a dress, but with my long legs, it's one inch away from from being a serious wardrobe malfunction. It also shrinks after the first washing (I bought a burgundy one last winter), making any pretense of it being a dress laughable. It is, however, the perfect length for a tunic. Pair it with jeans or leggings and you're set. It's super comfy, and I loved the print (red, gold and a soft blue), so into the cart it went.

I also earned $30 in Super Cash, which I can use in February.... so it looks like I'll be getting more sundresses anyway!

And speaking of birthday shopping... don't forget - all yarn in the shop is on sale for 37% off until Christmas - just use the code BOSSCATS37. Our little birthday gift to you! (and you deserve a treat!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Gone a little nutty

As promised,  I went stash diving for a new travel project and came up with one of my favourite of our stripey colourways - Cheshire Cat - in Top Cat.

You can't find a yarn more opposite to the scratch Berroco Sox than our Top Cat - it's only 10% cashmere, but it makes all the difference. Soooooooooooooo soft!

I considered doing a plain vanilla, but I needed something a little more interesting. I chose, and discarded a dozen ripple patterns before finally settling on Nutkin.
I'e knit the pattern a few times before, never with a striper - I wanted to see what it would do.  It creates an interesting choppy stripe.

And although this was intended to be commuter knitting, I won't be doing any commuting for a while. I've come down with the plague... I mean flu. So I'm stuck on the couch with barely the energy to knit.

I fear these socks may be tucked away  until the new year. Of course, that's not too far off now!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

In a pickle

When I was a kid, my Dad always had a jar of pickled onion in the fridge. And not the tiny sweet pearl onions... these were large (golf ball size) onions, yellow and on the sour side. They were made by Laings - but for some reason, we can't seem to find them anymore.

A few months back, I found a recipe to make them. So I found some small onions and made him a little jar to test. While they weren't quite the same as the Laings, he said they were quite delicious. So i set out on a mission to make a full batch (he's another December baby, so I figured they'd be a good birthday present).

But finding a large amount at a good price, proved to be difficult. The local grocery store had them, but in very tiny bags (about five-six onions) for almost  $4. I'd need at least 10 bags to make three or four jars. I knew there had to be a better option. So off to the Farmer's Market I went.

In the end, there was only one vendor who had anything small enough.
Truth be told, they were mostly smaller than what I wanted (more pearl size than golf ball), and they were a mix of white, yellow and red... but I really couldn't afford to be too picky. And at $1.99/lb, they really were just right.  I bought 3lbs and headed home.

Pickled onions aren't hard to make, but the process is time consuming. Mostly becasue all 3lbs needed to be peeled
I put a movie on, settled down with my helper, and set to work. Four hours later, they were done and in the fridge, soaking in brine.

The next afternoon, I finished the process and ended up with a delicious smelling house (pickling spice is just divine!) and five 500ml jars of onions.
 It will be six weeks before they are ready to eat... but it's a birthday present that will last him for a few months, at least.

Monday, December 19, 2016

FO: Jaywalkers

First - thank you for the kind words about my booboo. As I said to the nice old man who rushed to help me off the floor - it's not the first time, it won't be the last, and I've definitely done worse! In fact, it happened about 45 seconds after I entered the market, and I spent over an hour afterwards walking around. I was bleeding, but my tights (which oddly enough didn't rip) made a nice bandaid, and since they were black, no one who wasn't looking closely would notice.. As long a nothing is broken, I just keep trucking.

Now... as promised,  I was able to finish up the last Jaywalker over the weekend.
The yarn is Berrocco Sox, and I got it at Loopy Yarns in Chicago on my visit a few years back. It looks like the store has closed up now, but it was a nice little store in downtown Chicago. The yarn is definitely not my favourite to knit with - it was thin and coarse - but I'm sure it will make a nice hard-wearing sock.

The striping colour is fantastic. And while we're surrounded by snow and cold, it evokes all the colours of a nice warm fall day.

The Jaywalker pattern was super easy to memorize, and in addition to the fun zigzag...
 The increases and decreases create a nice little bit of texture too.

I made the smallest size, but it's still they are still a touch too big for my narrow feet. Next time, I'll go down to a 2.25mm needle. For this pair... they'll be popped in the washer, then dryer to see if will snug them up at touch. And in the mean time, I need to go stash diving for some new commuter knitting.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Market adventure

One of the good things about not having a car is that it's helping me rediscover my city. I didn't start driving until my early 20s, and throughout my teens, traveled every inch of the city by bus, bike or foot.

Once I started driving, there were a lot of places I stopped going, because they are just not overly car-friendly (congested, limited parking).

So imagine my delight when I needed a large amount of small onions* and realized the most likely place I would find them was...
The area has a couple Farmer's Market, but the best of them is right downtown in Jackson Square, an old, run down mall in the heart of the city.
It's huge.... this picture just shows a slice. It's two levels filled with almost every food you can imagine. Meat, cheeses, produce...
baked goods, spices, coffee, teas.... home grown honey and resulting products!
And lots and lots of plant and floral goods
(A few of these beauties came home with me.) When I was a teen, the flowers were always my favourite thing about the market.

I took a few trips around before finally finally my onions
I came home with treats for Dave (pepperettes) and Rupert and Peno (cat grass and cat nip) too. I would have bought more, but bussing it means you have to be able to carry all of it.

Unfortunately, I came home with one more souvenir though...
 Only I would slip and fall on an indoor textured (non-slippery) surface, while wearing flat, well-treaded boots. I'm just talented like that. And yes, that's the same knee as last time. It's not as deep this time, mostly just intense road rash. *SIGH....*

*more on those onions in an upcoming post.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Attack of the noodle monster

About a month back, I sent this picture to Nora's daddy...
... and asked him it it's something she would like. It's the Unice Unicorn hood, and I think its so stupidly adorable, it almost makes me want a kid. Thankfully, I have Nora to knit for instead!

Her dad said she'd absolutely love it, but she'd love it even more if I could make it a giraffe instead of a unicorn. She went to the African Lion Safari this summer and fell in love with the giraffes.

Of course, I can modify almost anything, and unicorn-turned-giraffe isn't that hard... it's just an extra horn and some spots. So a couple weeks ago, I ordered the yarn from Yarn Canada (love the free shipping and prices in Canadian dollars - transit time was decent too.)

The pattern calls for Lion Brand Thick and Quick.... but I'm ashamed to say, I got sucked in by the Bernat Blanket instead
 It was slightly cheaper, and had the colours  I wanted. Plus is had the bonus of no real wool content (no chance of washing mishaps, or itchiness). I am regretting that decision a little.
The yarn is a super-bulky chenille. And I always forget I HATE knitting with chenille. It sticks to the needles (and itself), it has no give, and it's murder to get an even tension with. The pattern is knit on 10mm needles. I ordered a pair of inexpensive plastics ones with the yarn... but I could barely get a row knit with them. Between the plastic needle and the sticky yarn, it was just all kinds of frustration.

In the end, I gave in and went down a couple sizes to my Knitpicks Harmony 8mm. The yarn slides a little better on the wood, but my tension still sucks.
I think the garter looks MUCH nicer in the Lion Brand yarn. This just looks like a pile of egg noodles... but c'est la vie. This yarn is stupidly soft, which Nora will love. And she's not going to care about tension when she's running around as a giraffe.

Thankfully, it's knitting up VERY quick. The hood is done (as you can see), and I've already started on the scarf/pockets. Then it's just ears, horns, spots and fringe. I may even be able to finish it this weekend.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Felines

I've said it before. Peno is... and always has been the "good" cat. Whether it's because she's too timid to get into mischief, of just too lazy, I've never been too sure.

But she's never been one of those cats who jumped on the counter, ate your plants, destroyed your curtains, shredded you couch, stole your yarn, or just generally got into trouble.

Her worse offense is probably licking the windows (she likes to lick the condensation off in the mornings) and drinking run-off from the tray under the Hibiscus tree (this bothers Dave to no end - she has a pet fountain with constant fresh, flowing water, but she prefers plant run-off). I'd worry that she's dehydrated, but I know she's not - she's just weird.

So imagine my surprise when I came down the other morning to this....
She'd madee herself quite comfortable on my freshly folded, clean laundry. And isn't her expression just full of catitude?

When Rocky was alive, I knew I was taking my chances leaving a basket out - fresh or dirty, he was all over it. (He especially loved it right from the dryer and like to "help" me fold.) But since he's been gone, and Rupert has shown no interest (yet), I guess I've gotten a little lax.

It it was just my clothes, I wouldn't mind. I live with a perpetual coating of cat hair on me. I'm a peace with that. But right under her butt is a stack of nice clean towels. And almost nothing is worse, than coming out of the shower, all fresh and squeaky clean... and drying yourself off with a towel the cat slept on!

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Apparently, it's all about the hats over here at Chez Wandering Cat. At least that's what it feels like.

At my last dye session, I dyed up a bunch of Fat Cat, and I snagged one of the skeins for myself because the colour was a good compliment to my recent handspun Going My Way.

I had the intention to use it for the Camden Cap. But then inspiration struck, and I've found myself designing something new...
The cables were just speaking to me (of course, now that I'm nearing the end, I'm totally sick of them).
You can tell my switch to transit commuter is influencing me... just look at that thick, ribbed brim - got to keep those ears warm!
I'd forgotten what a joy the Fat Cat is to knit with. Soft and squishy (it's superwash merino), it just glides off the needles and gives fabulous stitch definition. I really do need to design a cardigan in it.
Unfortunately, you won't see an FO post, or the completed pattern until the new year. It requires pom poms. I don't do pom poms. I know a lady who makes the most perfect pom poms (*cough*Mom*cough), but she's crazy busy until after the holidays.

Oh well  - something to look forward to in the New Year. And in the mean time, you can still get Corvin, Dorothy, and Special Little Snowflakes for just $1 each!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


It seems like I've finally got the kinks worked out on my transit commute. It's still long (min 2.5 hours), but it doesn't really feel like that. The bulk of the trip is on the GO Train..
If you suffer from motion sickness, it might not be much fun, as the train rocks and rolls quite a bit, but I find it almost hypnotic. It's not a fancy train, but it is clean and comfortable inside.
The station I get on it isn't serviced by the Express trains (the ones from downtown Toronto), so I don't seem to have to deal with crowded cars - I've had no problems getting a bank of seats all to myself (and by the time I get into Hamilton, sometimes the whole car).

My only complaint is that the lights are on inside the cars, and while that's sensible, it means right now, I can see nothing but my reflection in the window. That will change as the days get longer, so I just have to be patient. There's some pretty cool views along the way, and I'd love to share them with you.

And while Old Man Winter has arrived.
Unless the train is late, I don't have to do too much waiting outside. I have no more than a 10 minute wait for any of my connections.

So, I'm spending most of those 2.5 hours knitting.
And as a result, the second Jaywalker is on the gussett! (I would have been further, but one day I forgot to bring my tape measure and had to stop out of fear of knitting the leg longer than the first sock).

I'm not in the office again until Friday, and these won't see any work until then. I'm doubtful I'll finish them on the trip home, but I'll probably get close. If that's the case, I can finish them on the weekend and have an FO post for you sometime next week. Here's hoping! I'm ready to cast on for something new!

And don't forget about our Birthday yarn sale! From now until Christmas, use the code BOSSCATS37 and save 37% off almost* anything in the shop (excluding gift certificates and sock cranking services)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

FO: Mushroom colourwork hat

I'm not the only December baby in our group. In fact, there are quite a few of us. And today is the birthday of my big brother!
We're two years (almost to the day) apart, and as you can imagine, have always been quite close. He lives three hours away, and I won't see him until Christmas, but I went on a little stash dive to find the perfect yarn for the perfect hat.

The pattern is the Mushroom Colourwork Hat. I chose it because my big brother has recently become an avid mushroom hunter. You see, a friend of his is battling cancer, and they've been researching the benefits of the Chaga Mushroom. Buying prepared Chaga is quite expensive, but Chaga likes to grow on birch trees, and where he lives, there are plenty of birch trees. So for the last few weeks, he's been spending his spare time, hiking through the woods, hunting Chaga to help his friend.
 Now Chaga doesn't look anything like these mushrooms (I think it kinds looks like expanding foam insulation), but I know my brother will appreciate the sentiment. Especially when he's trudging through the woods this winter with a nice warm mushroom hat on his head.
I used a skein of Tabby Cat Worsted for the base (colour is French Roast) and some leftover  MadTosh Heirloom for the mushrooms. I modded it slightly from the original pattern (ribbing instead of garter, and a few stripes). It was a fun, fast knit, that I hope will put a smile on the face of the Mighty Mushroom Hunter.

And don't forget about our Birthday yarn sale! From now until Christmas, use the code BOSSCATS37 and save 37% off almost* anything in the shop (excluding gift certificates and sock cranking services).