Tag: hobbies (page 1 of 5)

Devil in the details

Dear Karen,

Reading about your knitting the other day reminded me that I, too, have a hobby I’m passionate about.  Unlike you, after I completed a project, I couldn’t wear it, but I could definitely serve it for dessert!

My obsession was baking.  Breads, cakes, biscuits, scones, pastries, I could spend the entire day in the kitchen, apron round my waist, oven on a permanent 180° setting, dough rising or chilling in the refrigerator.

I was always looking for ways to challenge myself, and after years of making cakes for friends’ birthdays and anniversaries, I signed up for a Wilton cake decorating class in 2011.

Continue reading

Gardening 101: A photo tour

Dear Wendy,

I’m doing a different kind of list this week: rather than our usual Listly, I thought you might like to see what’s been happening in my little garden lately. A kind of Gardening 101, if you will.

alt="IMAGE-eggplant-gardening-101-after-the-kids-leave" Continue reading

Let’s play a game!

Dear Karen,

Feeling bored today?  Got nothing to occupy you except work, labour and hard graft?  Well, be bored no more.  Let’s play a game that will brighten your eyes, sharpen your intellect, and drive you nuts, all at the same time.

I discovered the show, Only Connect, a while ago, on BBC.  It’s a game where  I like to play along and shout out answers, encouraging the contestants by calling them idiots and ninnies for not seeing what’s blatantly obvious from my comfortable sofa at home.

Here are the rules:

We are presented with 16 tiles, each of which has a word or phrase.  We must find the connection between 4 of them, creating 4 groups of 4 connected words.  Simple enough.

Mwa hahahaha, no it’s not. 

The presenter of the show, Victoria Coren-Mitchell, encourages us to join the on-screen contestants by playing along at home, but I’ve never bothered.  At least, not until yesterday.

You can play the game in Canada (and elsewhere, I assume), so I’m sending you the link.  I think you’ll really enjoy it.  Each game takes 3 minutes, so it’s not like it’s a time-waster.  Unless you play like me – I went from Wall 1 to 79 yesterday.  Don’t tell anyone.  So what if the ironing didn’t get done.  I can always do it tomorrow.  Or next week.  What-evah.

Click here to get started.  Once you have it up on your screen, it should look like this.



See where the cursor is? Press this button.

If you don’t trust my instructions for game play, you could always click on the “How to Play” button.  Personally, I consider rule-reading to be boring and a waste of time.  Far more fun to just dive in and hope for the best!  But, if you insist, go ahead and read that little section first.  I can wait.

Are you done now?  Good.



At the bottom of the page, it reads Wall 1.  Click there.


Now things start to speed up a bit.  16 tiles will be revealed to you.  It’s your job to sort out the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, Bert from Ernie.  The timer starts immediately and there’s no time for a cup of tea here.  Get started clicking on tiles which you think are linked.

Word to the wise:  if it looks obvious and easy, it’s probably wrong.  This game insists you think.  How annoying, right?



So, these are your tiles. Good luck! (snort, snort)

Word to the unwise, part two:  it’s a good idea to say the clues out loud.  Sometimes your brain picks up on links faster that way.  Now, this is Wall 1, so you’d think they’d ease us into this slowly and simply.  Ho, ho, ho, that’s a good one!  Nope, the clue-wranglers at Only Connect are a fiendish bunch.

Living here, I found the bridge names fairly easily, and figured out there was a connection with varieties of crab.  But that was as far as I got.  You might find it helpful to have the volume up, because then you can hear the dulcet tones of Victoria telling you you’re not working hard enough, or voicing disappointment at your last attempt.

I’m a glutton for punishment because I actually enjoy hearing her tell me to pull my weight.

As an aside, I’ve got a major crush on Victoria.  She’s Oxford-educated.  A top poker player with winnings over £1mill.  A journalist.  In short, she’s no dummy.  Her wit and intelligence shine through with each show and if this were a perfect world, she’d be my best friend.  She’s been quoted as saying she often stays up till 6 am,  “(s)moking and drinking and gambling. But I like cooking and gardening too, which makes me sound like a very strange mix of an old lady and teenage boy.”

What’s not to like, right?

Okay, back to the game.   Your 3 minutes are up and, surprise surprise,  you’ve lost.  Don’t feel bad.  In the 79 times I’ve played, I’ve only solved the wall 3 times.  And the fun doesn’t end with sorting out the tiles.  For bonus points, Victoria wants you to point out what the connection between the tiles is.


The Wall is solved! How many did you get?

Keeping in mind this is a game for people familiar with the UK, it still requires general knowledge and an ability to think “outside the box”.  How I loathe that expression, but in this case, it’s true.

I’m not the only one who enjoys this game, either.  Fans send in their own walls, and, having played a few of those, I can attest to their evil brilliance.

I no longer mock and spit vitriol at my TV screen when I watch contestants on Monday nights.  They have my sympathy and respect.

Give it a try, I really think you’ll enjoy it.




Our holiday so far…in pictures

Dear Wendy,

I’m taking a hiatus from our blogging hiatus, just to fill you in on some of what we’ve been up to this week.

As usual, I knit everyone’s Solstice gifts: a big squishy cowl for Rachel, and a more gentlemanly bandana-type neckwarmer for Adrian, and socks for Mitchell:


Holiday knitting was accomplished. These became warm socks….

It’s been chilly and snowy, sometimes to excess, but at least Ottawa escaped the giant ice storm that hit Toronto last week. And our morning walks have been stunning some days…


Walks have been unusually beautiful, if a bit chilly.


We humans don’t appreciate the snow nearly as much as Maydeleh does!


No matter where you look, it’s a frosty wonderland around here.

Solstice was the usual blend of chocolate, gifts, warm family times, and lazing about, followed by a wonderful meal. And this year, we were invited to our friends’ house to share their family’s Christmas dinner, as well. A surfeit of wonderful company and great food!


Elf hats were worn. There was laughter and fun and turkey and wine.

And today, we’re driving to Montreal to spend the day with Mitchell’s dad…always a fun trip!

I know you and your family are all together in Whistler, so I’m looking forward to your update when you get a chance to take a breath…meanwhile, hope you’re having a relaxing, loving, enjoyable Christmas break. Catch you on the flip side!



More fun stuff…

Thrummed mittens: Canada’s secret weapon

Dear Wendy,

So you remember, no doubt, that time I gave you your birthday gift—a rather handsome grey cable knit pullover—in the form of many balls of yarn, which I tossed at you one at a time?

Well, Rachel has been carrying on the proud Irving tradition. In a manner of speaking.

Her friend Peter has long been whining pleading for a pair of what he calls “squid mitts,” known to everyone else on the planet as thrum mitts. (Why does he call them this? Beats the hell out of me. He says it’s because they’re “all squiddy inside.” Okey-doke.) They’re a Newfoundland specialty–they originate in the northern parts of that province, where they definitely know from cold. And squid.

Thrums are small bits of unspun wool, which are folded into neat little loops, and knitted into the mittens so that they form a soft, pillowy, cold-proof layer of insulation. The mittens themselves look rather like knitted boxing gloves, and they’re not great for any task involving manual dexterity, but they are seriously warm. Just the thing for this part of the world at this time of year. I’ve kept Rachel supplied with these wonders of woollen engineering since she was in Grade 3, and so I guess it’s inevitable that her friends would covet them.

Anyway, what with Peter moaning about his lack of such mitts, and me being a knitter, and the holiday season upon us, Rachel decided that the time was right to offer her friend the gift of warm hands. We located the requisite ingredients, and yesterday she presented Peter with a small packet of yarn and unspun fleece. She didn’t pelt him with it, much to my disappointment, but it’s the thought that counts.

And now, it’s all up to me.


First, I make a goodly supply of thrums. These are basically just unspun wool, which I’ve formed into loops.


As I knit each mitten, I twist the thrums, and knit them into the fabric, with the loopy bit facing inside.


Looking into the mitten, you wonder how a human hand will fit in there. It will, don’t worry. And it’ll be glad it did.


Inside out, it looks nothing short of demented. Cool, but demented.

I should be able to finish the first mitt today, all other things being equal. A worthy way to spend part of my winter holiday, don’t you think?



Older posts
%d bloggers like this: