Tidings of Joy!
I feel fantastic. At the risk of seeming like a terrible jerk to those of you who aren’t quite there yet, I’ve finished my Christmas shopping. I got a couple of things at the end of November, but most of it I got last weekend. I had a list, made a plan about where to go and went out for about five hours last Saturday determined to get it all, no matter how busy it was or how long I had to stand in line. And actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I didn’t make the rookie mistake of going to any Toronto malls. And I set out as early as I dared based on opening hours to try to get the downtown stuff in the morning. My plan was a walking route that took me down to Bloor and back, which is about 7.5 miles, so it was like my (very low-intensity) exercise and Christmas shopping all in one. Multi-tasking!
The longest wait was actually in line for lunch at Tim Horton’s where, amongst many other problems in the comedy of errors I seemed to have entered, a bagel caught fire in the toaster. I don’t mean the bagel was a little burnt. I mean there were flames inside the thing for a good minute and the whole cash area filled with smoke. So they turned down the speed, but not enough and burned the next bagel they put in. Twice.
Fortunately I don’t have too many people to buy for. I’ve gradually convinced old high school friends we probably don’t know each other well enough to do gifts (at least not meaningful gifts that aren’t junky or conspicuous-consumption-type things) and work people are fortunately not that into Secret Santa, so it’s just immediate family and while they’re getting tougher to buy for, they also seem happy with anything I’ve come up with. But I did find the perfect birthday card (that is to say an incredibly inappropriate and curse-filled card) for a good undergrad friend, so I picked that up intending to send it by regular mail. Remember like in ancient times when you put stamps on stuff and had to leave your house and physically drop it in a box? Ugh. Two extra minutes worth of effort there. But anyway, I messaged her for her address (remember when you didn’t have Facebook and had to keep addresses and phone numbers all carefully up-to-date in a little book?), but felt compelled to warn her that it wasn’t anything big and not to get too excited. And then I started thinking that maybe there was something small I could make that would fit in an envelope.
I don’t generally make knitted things for people (though last year I lost my mind and knitted socks for everyone in my family) because (a) it’s expensive and (b) it’s hard to know if things will fit right and if they don’t you’ve put a lot of effort into something folks might not be able to use. But this friend had always commented on the knitting myself and another of our roommates worked on it, so I thought she might be up for it. We are both Harry Potter nerds, having gone so far as to actually have a reunion at Harry Potter world, so I searched the Ravelry pattern database and voilà: Harry Potter bookscarf.
Now, I didn’t actually have any lace-weight yarn in the right colours, but would Harry let that stop him? I think not. Who’s to say you can’t substitute worsted weight Red Heart Supersaver? Certainly not me. I happened to have some leftovers in near-Gryffindoresque colours. So I halved the number of stitches-it’ll work up faster that way anyway, right-and set to work, knitting it in an evening. I used a fairly small needle to keep the project small, so it worked up kind of stiff and it was maybe a bit thick. And the yellow stripes look a bit uneven since they were only one row each. But I think all of this is offset by the adorableness of the fringe. I split the plies into two sets of two and pulled all these strands through to create this full, krinkly fringe and I really liked it.
As a bonus, I got to learn two new techniques: provisional cast-on and three-needle bind off. I heard from my friend on Thursday (sent Monday; it got there Wednesday. Go Canada Post!) that she loved it. I actually forgot to take final project pictures before I sealed it up in the envelope. Fortunately I also had forgotten to stamp the envelope, so I ripped it open to get the pics before sealing it all back up in a new one. And I got to use the sealing wax and Gryffindor stamp I may have picked up as a souvenir.
As it turned out, I wasn’t quite done Christmas shopping. I arrived home that Saturday to an email from my Mom that my sister had requested a travel mug for tea (so one with an infuser or press) with a handle. David’s Tea, where she had found one and planned to order from, was sold out online. A big advantage of living in the city is you tend to have shopping options: I am surrounded by tea places and kitchen stores. I actually made my Mom jealous rhyming off the list of possibilities just within walking distance.
So Sunday I headed back out in search of a tea travel mug with a handle. Surprisingly difficult! A lot of places sell thermoses (boy does that word ever look wrong. Thermi. Thermos. Thermopodes) with no handles. And there exist travel mugs with handles and no infuser (though I did find one with a hook to hang a tea bag from). But all of these things together? And maybe you want it to be leakproof enough to throw in a backpack (not actually on my sister’s list of requirements so I sacrificed this)? Or made from a material that is unlikely to be found to cause cancer next year? I’m going to declare this an impossible task. I eventually got the one from David’s. I’ve never used a press before, but hopefully it works out.
This had the added advantage that I bought myself their tea-of-the-month to-go: Ceylon Star. David’s already has a number of teas with chocolate and/or coconut that I love, but we must be soulmates because they’re always trying out new combinations in spite of that. I didn’t want to buy a whole bunch because I’m actually not a big licorice fan, which is supposedly what star anise tastes like, but the licorice flavour came out just a touch on the finish in a way I really liked. Tea: making you appreciate the world in whole new ways.
Other things in the tea world that are really heating up (yes, I’m in such a good mood that that pun seemed like a good idea): genmaicha. I stopped in at House of Tea during my Christmas shopping circuit. It’s a bit further from my place, so I’ve only been there once before but I should really make the effort to go more. The woman who runs it is lovely and in my not-that-expert opinion, the tea is fantastic. They had two kinds of genmaicha, she informed me, but I bought the less fancy one (no actual sencha). Plus you get a free sample to try. I got wild cherry, which smelled a bit strange but really tastes like cherry.
Anyway, I’ve been wanting to try genmaicha for a while, having heard people rave about it, and this seemed like a good opportunity. It was wonderful. Life-changing is maybe a bit of my overall good mood talking, but I brewed some up Sunday afternoon and I couldn’t stop drinking it. It’s green tea with roasted rice and it just tastes like toasty goodness and is light and an amazing afternoon tea. I resteeped it 3 or 4 times, which is a lot for me and a green tea, and it changed a bit but was no less delicious. I took some into work and ended up having to stay late a couple of nights unexpectedly and having this tea there was so comforting. Okay, creepy tea sentiment time over.
Finally, a brief knitting update (I should update more to avoid long posts I guess, but I really had no knitting mojo this summer/fall).
I finished my Spring Forward socks. I knit one at the start of summer and one the last couple of weeks. By some sort of miracle, they appear to actually be about the same size in spite of this. But I wore them around for one day and they are really fuzzing. I was always surprised at the softness of the yarn, but it’s supposed to be machine washable (50% superwash merino, 20% angora, 30% nylon), so we’ll see how they look after laundry day.
Pattern: Spring Forward
Yarn: Debbie Macomber Blossom Street, Petals Socks in Kiwi Flower
And I have started Coastal Hoodie, which I somehow imagine that I am going to finish in my week break from Christmas to New Year’s, along with reading books 2-5 of A Song of Ice and Fire. Because I am delusional. But a knitter’s reach must exceed her grasp or what’s a heaven for, right?
I bought the yarn ages ago. I got two colours of Malabrigo Arroyo, but the store I was at didn’t have any other colours I wanted and I looked a few other places at the time with no luck and ended up buying some Araucania Ranco Solid, which hopefully is a close enough match in size and washability that I don’t end up with some wonky sizing or something. Famous last words! I’m really happy with the way the colours so far, although I’m still wavering on whether the purl side will come out nicer than the knit, especially the bright green colour which looks superb on the knit side (if I do say so myself). This seems to be a common dilemma in the Ravelry project notes I looked at, with maybe a quarter or so of people opting for the knit side, but I’m trying to reserve judgment until it gets bigger, since I really do love the original design. I will try to keep you posted (I can see you’re on the edge of your seats).