Sunday, November 29, 2020

Food, Body and Other Miscellany

My hands are better. Or I'm learning to treat it better. It's amazing what teaspoonfuls of cinnamon and turmeric can do, helped by steamed green-lipped mussels Friday night, hand cream with mussel oil Thursday onward, fresh pineapples since Saturday; (a former weight-lifter Peter told me they are good for... something when I had a tennis elbow, if memory serves; tennis elbow-arthritis, roughly the same area??)
It is no exaggeration to say I was in pain. (Mind you, I've never been seriously ill or injured and my pain threshold is childishly low.) Worse than during the lockdown when I was more surprised by the look of my right pinky with a more specific pain. This time it was both hands, all over, up to my elbows. I sat in the kitchen dazed, trying to swallow large glasses of different teas with C&T. 
I don't care for the smell and taste of turmeric, the way it stains my kitchen counter, though I like it in curries, and the color on appropriate surfaces like fiber even if it's not colorfast. With teas, I discovered turmeric overpowers cinnamon, no contest, so most concoctions smell like whatever trying to distract turmeric and failing. By Thursday, however, either I was getting used to it, or blood orange tea has a strong enough smell, I could down it quickly. I also have pomegranate tea which Ben says has a strong scent; I tried it on Monday and it didn't work but I'll give it another go. Another I drink often, one called Mi Chai, which I assume is akin to Indian Chai some drink instead of coffee, could not compete at all with turmeric in spite of the strong scents. 
Yesterday morning was coldish, so I made C&T with warm milk. Lo and behold, turmeric blends well with milk (fat?) and the smell all but disappears while the lovely scent of cinnamon remains. Because it's milk, I can't drink large quantities as quickly as herbal tea, but this is a concoction bordering on nice.
It appears I must keep making and drinking C&T concoctions for the time being, though. Each glass full seem to work for longer, so I don't wake up with throbbing hands any more, but if I don't have one early-ish in the morning, by noon pins and needles return. And I am more comfortable if I remember to top up with another in the afternoon or evening.

I wove on the small loom in the kitchen all week. I'm preparing for the possibility I have to live with arthritis, because it keeps coming back. In this case, I want to train my body and mind now to get used to the idea of weaving in spite of it, because I'm kind of simple like that, I react in a certain way to a certain stimulus. It's worked so far; the pain is general/all over so no particular weaving motion made it any worse. Between Harry Potter audiobooks and the fun I'm having with colors allowed me to put arthritis on the back burner for the time being. 

Luckily desirable foods for diabetes and arthritis are similar. I was distraught when a good friend recommended a cookbook called "How Not to Die", not because I thought we would die otherwise, (well, we all will eventually, but...) I'm more, Delish/Yum/Domestic-Goddess kind of reader/eater. I tried to recall the 18 months when we succeeded in reducing sugar, fruits, root vegetables and carbo, and portion, rather drastically. Ben lost some weight, we felt healthier, and best of all we started to appreciate flavors better, and yet, and yet, that diet seemed bland and pale and tasteless in my head. (Mind you, the book's content appears good; it has a full chapter on beans, so I'm still thinking.) 
On Friday, we spent big money on a shipload of veg and interesting ingredients including new-to-us Indian spices. Coming home with all this and being reminded of how we ate made the world look slightly more colorful. After 18 months of slacking off, eating more "regular" food with more carbo, it's hard to walk past potato chips, for example, in the store, so we didn't avoid them. But we didn't need ice cream or chocolate on top. I got rye and spelt to keep baking our loaf a week, but also enough dried beans, so we can substitute with healthier ingredients. And then, there will be a great deal of cauliflower, again. 

And lucky we're heading into summer; it's easier to eat well now. 
Cannellini mash, which was a great success last night. When making it for ourselves, I make it more bland with its own cooking liquid and rely on the flavour of the main dish, but for company I used milk, ghee and salt. The texture was spot on, though I could still smell the beans. This is a most adaptable dish. 
Ben used it as a paste on toast this morning. 
I baked the weekly rye/spelt sourdough.
I made seed crackers, but I didn't pulverize brown rice enough the crackers didn't stick, so I gathered the bits in a jar to have with yogurt for breakfast. This morning, I was advised by Carolyn Olson to use corn flour to make them stick. 
Green and orange salad: fried carrots and zucchini, steamed string beans and asparagus, cucumbers and grapefruit segments from our garden. Ben made a sweet vinaigrette, which brought together all elements beautifully. Bottom is Esther's Moroccan Harira. 
This morning we had leftovers. Ben opted for toasts, but I chose a dollop of mash and an indecent 
amount of coriander. Boy, they do complete flavours don't they. I'm glad I started a biggish pot this year.
Esther is an amazing-est baker, but we had to decline her pudding. Or she declined to make it. We opted for pineapple, apple, banana and grapefruit segments in yogurt for dessert. It was very refreshing. 
Not a bad consolation prize, though, I say. Now we both want to grow peonies.  But gardening will happen in moderation when the hands are OK.
Looking back, during lockdown we ran through the supermarket to grab veg and protein most trips. Since we've been free to enjoy slow food shopping, we've been buying two and three treats rather than just the one. Or none. We were careful not to put on weight during lockdown, but we've certainly bulked up since. So, all in all, it's a good thing my hands hurt to alert us to what we're doing to ourselves now. Rather than relying on Ben's blood sugar level, relying on him to measure at the right times of the day, we now have my hands as an indicator for how we're doing.  
Not a bad thing, all things considered.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020


Hello again. I've been "busy" doing normal things, pretty steadily for me, hurray, but haven't finished anything to show you in a ta-da! way.
I am regularly weaving the colorful Summer & Winter piece in the kitchen, a perfect position for a something-every-day project, but have slowed down somewhat; the best I manage is around 10cm. Most days I enjoy the weaving, but I am also growing tired of having a loom dominate the kitchen table, with a rather dusty warp at that.  

I was writing to Mom about this, but I couldn't explain well what I was doing. She's woven Summer & Winter, but in the usual manner showing off shapes, while for me it's about color/value interaction. And although I attached closeup photos, I'm not sure if she can see 60/2 tabby adding nuance to the 20/2 pattern. I'm pretty sure she can't.
(For non-weavers, this is a weave in which I alternate a fat "pattern" weft, the dominant horizontal color you see in the picture, with a skinnier "tabby" weft, ostensibly to secure the structure of the cloth so there are no long floats which may snag, but I use these to give nuances to the cloth's colors. For e.g. in the middle, purple section in the pic, I used a dark purple tabby first, followed by a pale olive green. These tiny threads can enhance harmony, create disharmony, or bring in very gradual progression, all of which are thrilling to experiment with.) 
Speaking of Mom, she can no longer hear her phone ring, she can't hear our voices on the phone well, and to be honest I'm not sure if she's interested in listening to what anyone else has to say. After she rang my sister half a dozen times in quick succession over some days and weeks, with demands, rants, and confused admonitions, pushing sister on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Sister asked the caretakers to take the battery out of her phone. Temporarily, I hope. That's gotta confuse Mom big time. 
Writing is the only way I can communicate with Mom at present, though she not being a writer I doubt I'll hear back. And to this end, I'm writing half a dozen very short letters and postcards at a time, with the emphasis on photographs and drawings rather than text. Ben's been posting them three a week for me, so half a dozen doesn't go a long way. A few weeks ago one Monday morning, I realized I may never speak to my mother again. But it is what it is. Mom dislikes hugging and sentimental expressions of affection, but I think postcards saying just, "Love you" or "Thank you" are forthcoming, in addition to old family photos.  
With the facility's own restrictions on top of the phone issue, at present Mom's lost all means to reach out to people outside at the moment, unless she writes, which no doubt is going to speed up her deterioration. It appears she's refusing rehab, too, so wheelchair and all kinds of what could have been temporary assistance are becoming permanent. But these are my conjecture. I'm aware I said I'll write about Mom a few times here, but her conditions/situation are changing, and too much is me guessing, so suffice it to say, not very good at all. 

* * * * *

The amount of rain we've been having is becoming unusual for this time of the year. I'm not complaining, it's been mostly pleasant for me, but occasionally loud enough I worry about the roof caving in. In between, I have been weeding, most recently between and under the carpet neighbour Katheryn gave us during Lockdown for the steepest slope between our houses. We also need to finish securing them to the ground. (We ran out at one point, but Katheryn gave us some more, and we never "nailed' those down.) On one of the hottest/sunniest days so far, I pruned branches blocking the sun to her magnificent lemon tree, for eight hours, with a small handsaw. That was exhausting, and to give myself a break, I missed out on a couple of gloriously cloudy and cool days on the weekend to finish the job. but I got some stuff done. 

Most of the more important patches, where we can see from our house, is now looking... bad, as if there was never any Lockdown gardening. And in fact we did work heck of a lot on unusual patches in our grand estate.  

During Lockdown, I had a brush with arthritis; it was very painful but concentrated on the right hand, and it went away relatively quickly with some green-lipped mussel ointment and by cutting out sugar/carbo from the diet. I had forgotten about it, until this week, when it returned big time. At first I honestly thought it had to do with weeding that particular slope, but the weeds are the same as everywhere else, and because it's my hands, both hands all over this time, not legs/feet, so it's got to be other reasons. We did have a particularly sugary/carbo-y day and a half with a successful rye/spelt loaf, (great with peanut butter and marmalade,) for breakfast; my first ever carrot cake for afternoon tea; and a very well-baked asparagus flan with supermarket crust. I was just thinking we need to go back to the bland but healthier diet. The last few days I'm back to no sugar/carbo, giant glasses of tisanes with cinnamon, (like!) and turmeric, (loathe!) and it's better today than yesterday morning when my whole body felt hot and overly sensitive to all kinds of sensations. 
To my knowledge neither of my parents had arthritis, but Dad had gout on one foot. I wonder if arthritis is something I need to be mindful of for the rest of my life. 

The only good thing is, foods best avoided for arthritis are similar to those bad for diabetics, so if we return to the healthy low-carb/more-veg-than-we-care-to-name somewhat-bland-but-easy-in-summer diet I was thinking of just a few days ago, we should be OK. Fingers crossed. 
Rye/spelt loaf. I use a no-knead recipe but I felt like kneading after watching a cooking show, and now I know this recipe isn't harmed by kneading.
A very moist carrot cake, because I'm always afraid of over baking things in our wonky oven, and I was in a hurry to turn it out. It went back in the oven at 30C fan bake for a while to dry it a little more this morning. This one is so delicious I can't believe I made it. 
A too-well-baked asparagus flan, because I forgot ours is a tart dish about half as deep as a flan/quiche dish. Yummy, though. Maybe one more before asparaguses disappear from the stores.

Carrot cakes and flans/quiches are some of my favorite dishes, but I've never made them before. It's that thing I do where I fear failing/ruining things I love, same as studying weave structures or buying fabulous yarns and sitting on them for years before actually putting them on the loom. Not delayed gratification, but an overwhelming reluctance. I'm getting old now, and if I'm going to have to live with arthritis on top of everything else, I better not put off things any more lest I'll never get around to them.  

These carrot cake and flan recipes are so simple and adaptable, we brainstormed options/substitutions all evening before my hands flared up. So... I'll try to concentrate on the weaving for now, but I'll have to create occasions to inflict the cake on (un)suspecting friends over the holidays. 

Be well, dear people.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Still Encountering First Time Problems

I had my "head" set on weeding today, (that is, not my heart,) but when we woke up we had... how can I explain it... misty, vertical-fog-like rain, so I gleefully returned to the loom in the kitchen to work on the "election" piece. A couple of hours in, I had a new problem! 

This loom has harnesses secured to the bottom of the loom with springs on both sides, pulling the shafts down when I return the lever to the "down" position. The mechanism makes a pretty loud noise, some days sparrows feeding outside the French doors jump and leave in a panic.

The very bottom circle (?) of the spring is bent outward, so it looks like a foot attached to a leg and secured with a screw. One of these circles broke, which was easily fixed, by Ben when he came home. (My fingers weren't strong enough to bend it.) But he discovered, either when the spring sprang, or always, the vertical bar on the harness to which this spring was attached was bent. If this was always bent, I hadn't noticed because I tied all extra heddles and vertical bars of the harnesses to the side of the loom, holding the bent one tidily in place. The loom works OK for now, so the plan is when this warp is finished, we'll take it apart, clean, and straighten the harness.
I can't remember when I was given this loom, and I don't remember if I cleaned it thoroughly, but that would be my normal practice, including waxing the wooden frame. I remember doing a sample or three before weaving the orange P2P, then this warp which sat on the loom for ten years. During that time it was covered by a thick cloth and sat on the same table facing the south (cold) window. I've been hand-vaccing the fluff every day I weave, but never really noticed how dirty it is. There was quite a lot of metal dust, which worries me. Overhauling this loom will be another of our summer break projects.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


Yes, definitely, I have been able to look at life and take on tasks with a much lighter heart since Sunday morning. I unsubscribed from a whole lot of news sites, deleted my short-lived Twitter account, and copied out my mid/long-term To Do list. To be honest, I'm astounded how much "free time" I have now. 
Yesterday, Monday, I ironed, weeded that terrible slope Ben I worked on in the early part of the lock down, (it's just between the carpet/weed mat, but after seven days of rain, they were ever so robust, I'm between 1/3 and 1/2 done and will have to kill some with vinegar because the roots were like extra-strength gauze,) and wove. In the last while, I would have done only one or two of these in one day, but I managed three. I even thought of knitting in the evening, but the slope is hard on the body and I wanted to lie flat on the floor to stretch my back, so I played a computer gave while listening to Ben watching a 007 film.
The "spontaneous" piece is coming along. I can manage around 15cm in a day if I do little else, but I have been genuinely enjoying concentrating on the placement of "codes", planning the transition of the pattern colors, or talking and laughing out loud, (really!) playing with the tabby colors. And one clear benefit of the last component is, say, with one pattern color and three tabby, you get three nuances of one color, especially if one tabby is similar in hue, another in value, and the third complementary. My natural tendency is to create ripples of gradation, but when I'm able to step out and use unlikely pairs, the cloth becomes most inviting. 
I know this is fiddly, but honestly, I don't understand why I don't do this more often, or even have a permanent warp on one of the smaller looms, if only for mental health. And this particular table loom, ex-Nelson Polytechnic Weaving School spring-loaded 8-shaft, for some reason always allows me to weave with nice selvedges. 
* * * * * 
I love, love, love it when folks send me pictures of them with my weaving, but it's a slightly unnerving when it's another weaver. Here is lovely Ruby with Kaleidoscope.
Ruby and I have been exploring "ideal" cowel sizes. I remember some years ago I realized I had to make my larger scarves longer because most adult humans are taller than me, or else they have to wear it differently from how I/they intended. Then I had a friend commission a short, wide scarf because she lives in Tokyo and commutes by train, and didn't want extra length tucked in her coat nor getting the ends caught in traffic. So if there isn't "ideal" scarf sizes, it's even less likely for cowl, but still, it's worth investigating. I also noticed Ruby tends to produce scarves in three different length; if she/I did this for cowls as well, it's more likely one will fit most anyone, except this is more suitable if the pieces are sold in person.  

Kaleidoscope is 121cm in circumference. For the most part I've experimented cowls sizes with knitting because you can pull them every which way and not inflict damage. I have a large head/face, no neck, and chunky shoulders, while Ruby is more delicately proportioned and she can wrap this twice around her neck, although a few more cm would make it more comfortable in doing so. (I didn't dare try lest I'd rip it.) OK, just between friends, this is one of the embarrassing pictures I sent to Ruby while discussing sizes, in all my ancient work attire glory. 
The fabric of this piece is thin-ish, (not chunky,) and it doesn't hold shapes well on its own, so it's most definitely better to wear it like Ruby did. But there is more to investigate, and you know I find it intriguing thinner/drapier may not be the solution.  

Oh, I'm still selling, if you know of humans in need of scarves. Thank you.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Secret Codes?

I don't know if you've seen the 2008 film, "Wanted". It's about a group of assassins who end up killing each other, (what else?) but their headquarter is in a large factory with one loom weaving white plain weave cloth. In the cloth, if I remember correctly, are errors which are codes indicating their targets. 
Back when we were newish to blogging, a fellow blogger alerted me to this film. Although it was a while before we finally saw it, the idea of hidden codes within cloths has intrigued me ever since. (The binary nature of knitting has been used for secret codes in both World Wars. See the second half of this excerpt.) I'm not sure if weaving ever has, though.

This is what I was reminded when I walked past the loom late last night. While weaving, I couldn't see the patterns, and I was more or less weaving blind as far as the placement of warp-y areas was concerned. (Even though I can now see yesterday's picture shows it almost as clearly, so if you are wondering what I'm on about, I don't blame you.) It wasn't until I saw the cloth in a different light that I noticed. And I walked by many times looking from different angles. 
So, a not-so-secret code, but I bet we can use this to communicate.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

What Do You Do...

On a rainy day, when it's so dark I can't see what I'm doing inside? (And it just so happens there is a consequential election over yonder, but it's too early to find any coverage, and we shan't know the results for at least a few days?) Well, I put on a good story, "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" in this case, resurrect a 10-years-and-a-week old warp, drag the loom into the kitchen, and weave. That is, after consulting a book on Summer & Winter lift order. 
I didn't mean for it to be left for so long, but I had to be in the right mood for this. After relearning the lifting, I started to weave, and for someone who has great difficulty memorizing a simple twill lifting, it always amuses me to feel comfortable with Summer & Winter, on this particular loom. Perhaps it's something of a Pavlov's Dog thing; I was born in the year of dogs. And how relatively quickly it weaves.

The warp is 20/2 cotton with no rules re. color/numbers; the pattern weft is the same while the tabby is 60/2. Threading is 1-x-2-x, but I didn't necessarily make warp sets of 4 ends, so I may have 1-x-2-x-1-x-2-y, and so on. So I'm not lifting in a neat 4- or 8- pick sets, either, and colors can change anywhere. It's all pretty random.

To boot, I found a couple of knots in the warp. I remember doing this, but not why, and because it's too onerous to remedy now, even if I break warp ends, I shall tie knots and leaving them in. It can be my own "Grand Finale to 2020" piece. And hopefully nothing astounding will happen for the rest of the year. 

I am glad I took great care of this warp/loom in the decade it sat in my stash room. I knew I would enjoy revisiting it. Although compared to original P2P warp, the late Win Currie said I had too many distractions to enjoy the more saturated look of the piece when finished, and of course she was right.
(Dear Win passed away on Mom's 88th birthday 2 years ago after a really short illness.) 
Still, it's been good to get my mind off of weeding and politics for a day, thinking of how fun I had with P2P and all those exchanges and discussions, remembering Win, and being excited by the color interactions.
Apologies, it's mainly purple, and the changes in the tabby weft colors is what's fascinating, but the light is just too darned weird today. And yet I'm still weaving. Maybe we're in for more surprises when it's finished.