January 25, 2015

January Knitting


Pattern: Basic Cabled Mittens
Designer: Amy O'Dell; Knit from detailed notes supplied by leanney
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash
Color: Black
Needles: Circular - 4.0 mm

I liked Melissa's dusty rose mittens so much that I knit a pair for myself in black.

Pattern: Strokkur
Designer: Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Létt-Lopi
Color: Black Heather - 8513
Needles: Circular - 4.5 mm
This is my second Strokkur pullover. I find black garments very difficult to photo. The black yarn is actually darker than shown in the photo. No end of editing would give me the exact shade. The mittens are also a much darker black.
Designer: Ali Crockett
Yarn: Bernat Handcrafter Cotton Stripes
Colour: 1410
Needles: Circular - 5.0 mm
I really like hand knit cotton dishcloths. They are pretty, can be laundered in hot water, and are very durable.

January 15, 2015

January Knitting

Mittens and Hat For Melissa:
Hat Pattern: Hurricane Hat
Designer: Andrea Guldin
Mittens Pattern: Basic Cabled Mittens
Designer: Amy O'Dell - I used leanney's rewritten version of the pattern.
Yarn: Cascade 220
Colour: Dusty Rose - 8114
Hat Needles: Circular, 5.0 mm
Mittens Needles: Circular, 4.0 mm

The hat and mittens will be on their way to Toronto tomorrow. I hope they make our Canadian winter just a little bit warmer!

January 06, 2015

Lastly, A Few Of The Souvenirs From A French Christmas

A gorgeous blue Murano glass bracelet that Isa and Adam purchased in Italy


Thierry's mother's most delicious pate

A beautiful handmade, embroidered needle case from Sophie and Jean Paul

A bird from Sophie for our Christmas tree collection

A piece of vintage linen from Sophie's sister

Beautifully sewn bags from Sophie's sister, Armide, with drawstrings in the same color as the inner lining.

Favourite chocolates from Normandy

A great foldup, lined knitting needle case, expertly sewn by Sophie

Handmade flowers from a special September wedding (Cecile and Thierry) in Normandy

And very special bookmarks made by Lucy and Apolline for their Canadian grandmother

January 04, 2015

Deuxieme Noel in the French Countryside

On Boxing Day, we loaded three vehicles with people and gifts and drove inland, further into the French countryside, passing through tiny villages with narrow streets and high stone walls - and hardly a soul in sight. We thought that the term "second Christmas" was simply a phrase the family used with affection to refer to a gathering of extended family. But, no! It was a Second Christmas - complete with a full round of gift gifting and a huge, festive meal. A repeat of the day before. Mon Dieu!

After driving beside what seemed like a mile of walled garden, we drove through the entrance of the property. This sketch (which served as one of the place markers at the incredibly long dining room table inside) had been made of the building years ago when the tall tree was still standing. The courtyard inside the stone walls was formed with the house on one side and an L shape of attached stone structures on the other side that probably housed stables, etc. in decades gone by.

We wound our way through passageways to the salon and petite salon, where the only sources of heat were electric space heaters and the fire that eagerly licked the logs in the large fireplace of the petite salon. This grand old French home was built long before central heating.

The high ceilings, magnificent woodwork, incredibly high stairwell, and family portraits on the walls left us awe struck. I felt as though I walked into the setting of an old romantic novel.
A closer look at the fireplace in the larger salon revealed a company of ancient marionettes!
Before the meal, everyone sat in a circle and gifts were brought in and piled at the feet of each person. After many exclamations and expressions of gratitude, the company proceeded to the dining room.
The dining room cabinet climbed up the tall wall toward the twelve foot ceiling.
There were twenty sitting down for supper - four little girl cousins at the children's table in the corner and sixteen adults around the dining room table. The dishes were from generations ago and the table was resplendent with glass flower holders, crystal, and as large a variety of courses, with champagne and wine, as on the day before.
We drove home in the darkness of night, through the same seemingly deserted villages and roads,  not sure if we had really experienced the evening or had been part of a collective dream set in a Margaret Kennedy or Molly Keane novel...

January 03, 2015

Christmas in the French Countryside: Part 1

We were lucky enough to be able to experience a French country Christmas this year. We rented an apartment a few houses down from the French branch of the family in a little seaside village that teems with people in the summer months and is all but empty in the winter. Ironically, the weather conditions on the west coast of France at Christmas this year were very similar to those in Nova Scotia at the same time! Still, it was a little surreal to be walking the beach and collecting seashells on Christmas Eve and playing kickball on the seashore on Christmas Day.

Our hosts, Sophie and Jean Paul, really made us feel at home, and put an incredible amount of work into decorating the house (inside and out), and preparing the feasts. They also decorated our flat before we arrived and stocked the fridge and cupboards for us.

Their home is most warm and welcoming.

The French serve many courses, linger over their meals, and stay at the table far longer than in North America. The end result, I think, is a better appreciation of the food and drink - and a more relaxed, less stressful lifestyle. We always started with appetizers - baguette slices with either Thierry's mother delicious homemade pate or a sardine or salmon spread, potato coins with an herbed creamed cheese topping, a nut and dried fruit mixture, etc. Aperitif glasses were filled with a variety of Pineau des Charentes (a regional speciality). I have had Pineau with cognac overtones, a rose variety, and an apple flavoured one - each one delicious and unique.

We had platters of oysters (the region is a major source of oyster harvesting) and plates of escargot. This was followed by large platters of chicken or fish. Then the large cheese platter and yogurt. Part of the secret to the success of the meals is the knowledge of which aperitif, wine or digestif to serve with each course. We had red wines from Bordeaux and Saint Emilion, a Chardonnay, champagne (both white and rose), and cognac.

Finally, there was a seemingly endless series of desserts. These included the same chocolate mousse cake as at Cecile and Thierry's September wedding, crème Anglais, a yule log, Sophie's wonderful apple and apricot tarts, a chestnut mousse cake, a fig crumble, dates stuffed with marzipan, a couple varieties of cookies, and my personal favourite: Sophie's walnut cake, cut into small squares. It has a gentle, soft, nutty flavour that makes it seem to me to be one of the ultimate comfort foods.
And chocolate. Chocolate in the form of little red boxes of small chocolates at each place setting, small chocolate bars,  tiny chocolate Santas, or a dish of chocolates always appeared on the table at every meal.

Part of the daily routine includes a walk to the boulangerie for fresh bread. And unlike North America, where the typical vending machine is filled with sugary Cola drinks and junk food, the vending machine beside the bakery on this quiet street dispensed baguettes!!