Friday, January 29, 2010

How to make my mum's chocolate chip cookies

When I was a kid, everybody went to Walsh's house for Kool-Aid and Keenan's for chocolate chip cookies. Since this is a Friday in January and I'm sure we could all use a lift, I thought I'd share the recipe that explains why.

The secret ingredient: coffee. (maybe we loved them because we got hooked on the caffeine?) You could probably use liquid but mum found this recipe in the 1950s so naturally it calls for instant:

Evidently I will be making quite a lot of these cookies this winter, since I seldom drink coffee and never drink instant.

The first thing is to haul out your mixing gear. I particularly enjoy my bucket of ludicrously expensive measuring cups - they've paid for themselves three times over in the two years since I got them just by making flour-scooping a therapeutic experience.

Another indulgence: vintage Pyrex mixing bowls like mum always used. Took a while to track down all the sizes but I love them and use them all the time.

And now that we're set up, it's time to cream the butter and brown sugar.

I let the mixer take care of that while I crush the coffee with the back of a spoon,

and then add it to the flour mixture.

It looks like a real mess by the time you get all the ingredients together but the aroma? Pure heaven.

You just drop them with a couple of teaspoons onto a cookie sheet.

Then let most of them cool while you do taste tests on the lucky remainder.

Mum's cookie tin is pretty battered now and she was actually about to throw it out when I snagged it for myself. Which means I could take a picture of it for you if I wasn't so lazy (sorry!)

I don't use it though, because I found my own special tin about twenty years ago. I tuck the cookies up in that,

And then I close the lid.

Isn't this a breathtaking image? I keep thinking I'll get so distracted by staring at it I'll forget there are cookies inside, but so far - no.

Mrs. Keenan's Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 6 dozen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp instant coffee, crushed to a powder

1 cup of butter

Blend in
1 cup lightly-packed brown sugar

1 egg and beat in thoroughly

Stir in
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips

Add the flour mixture to the butter/egg mixture by spoonfuls, mixing well each time.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto greased (or nonstick) cookie sheets, then bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The trouble with tribbles

The other day I wrote about my ill-fated trip to the fabric store, and then left us all at the edge of a cliff.

Well, partway down the cliff was a ledge just wide enough for the following experience: the first attempt at sewing tribble-like Things.

As you can see, there are a good few supplies needed for such an endeavor. The actual process though is simple:

With a needle and, assuming you have foresight, contrasting thread, sew a running stitch around the outside edge of the square cut earlier.

Pull the thread to gather the square into a pocket.

Fill the pocket with stuffing.

Now draw the thread tight and secure with many many stitches. Using fluffy fabric but think you've sewn enough? Sew more.

The photograph above also shows the contrast betweeen 'Too Furry to Put a Face On' and 'Insufficiently Furry to Hide the Wrinkles.'

I might add that lump number one, the furball, was also insufficiently secured owing to my having perfectly matched the thread to the fabric so that I couldn't tell where I'd sewn. It left tiny fluffs all over everyplace it visited until I noticed and traced its departure path with a lint brush.

Stay tuned, but not on the edge of your chair because this could take a while, for the final installment of our story - the one with the the non-sheddy sewing materials and perfectly turned-out Thing at the end! (even if it means I just draw a picture of the ideal Thing and post that.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

Somebody I know - can't remember who - used to hold up a bowl of Fruit Loops and say "Breakfast of Champions!", and ever since I've associated the phrase not with hardworking people who set out to accomplish great things and start the day as they mean to go on, but with self-indulgent people who know what they like and just have it.

I'd much rather be the latter than the former, wouldn't you? But only if it means breakfasting on something like this instead:

Hard for me to trick myself into thinking I'm all noble and virtuous about what I'm eating if I'm looking down at sugar-encrusted artificially-flavoured and -coloured hunks. (note: this is not a problem when I'm looking down at chocolate, or slatherings of butter and honey apparently.)

Related thought, again with The Morville Hours. I know, I know, I'm taking forever to read this book and should probably stop quoting bits from it...

but honestly, how many garden books tell you that serotonin and noradrenalin don't just control mood, but also our sense of salt and bitterness?

Apparently if you're stressed or depressed, you may find you can't grasp either of those flavours (and oversalt your food etc.) or you may be one of the lucky ones whose sense of sweet is tied to those chemicals, leading you to eat too many Froot Loops.

But not chocolate, of course. You can't eat too much of that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Winter weirdness

Climate change lives here:

That's what it looked like outside my door two days ago and - seriously, folks. It's January. In January, this scene should show knee-deep snow on the sides where I've shoveled a path to the garage. Sometimes in early January there is no new snow, and sometimes the temperatures are milder than, say, in February - but rain?

As it happens I'm quite partial to rain, but it does worry me to see quite so many buds and new plants sprouting from old ones in all the gardens around here. At least the evergreens look right.

Today it's a different world.

Last night the temperature dropped and turned the puddles into squirrel-sized ice rinks, and it's snowing the kind of snow that's sticking, so we have a dusting of white as I type. By mid-morning there should be something to shovel off of them.

If you don't consider the implications, this recent run of spring weather has been a great break... the scent in the air, the touch of a soft breeze, the promise of new beginnings, all positioned so close the winter holiday season there's been no time to be beaten down by the cold or become in any way desperate for sun. I read a passage last night in The Morville Hours (really, this is a wonderful book for inspiration) that reminded me of the appeal of 'getting back to nature' - following the rhythms of the world through planting and harvest, composting, etc.

Yes, it's meditative and so time- and energy-consuming as to make you forget you don't yet have the latest pocket-sized technological aid. But if all goes well, it also gives you the illusion of control over your surroundings, don't you find? As though the plants produced fruit because you told them to, by way of a seed and good soil.

Denial: a girl's best friend.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sewing on the edge of a cliff

I had this great craft project I did over and over for months when I was a kid, making Tribble-like stuffed toys and decorating them with Fun Fur hair and non-standard-issue hand-coloured cardboard eyes and feet.

This sounds fairly awful, and though I can remember my favourite one as clearly as if it were sitting on my desk at this moment - it isn't, so I can't post a picture. Let's just agree that this was an enjoyable, easy project with minimum effort and maximum cute, for which I can be forgiven wanting to recreate.

My first indication that forgiveness would be required was the vast and greatly discounted selection of Fun Fur-like textiles at the fabric store this weekend. It was all so much nicer than what I'd used before, and at around $6 a meter, tough to pass up. In the back of my mind, too, I was aware of having just cleared out another pocket of storage space at home.

I came home with this:

I recognized my mistake as I waited to have my choices cut, and quickly asked for just half a meter of the most worrying fabrics. Worrying in that, as I feared, some of the nicest furrinesses shed all over my bags as I was stowing them in there at the cash desk. I knew there was going to be a huger mess when I cut into them, and I knew I'd have to do it the moment I got inside or lose my nerve entirely.

Still. So cute! and what an awesome table covering this would be for non-flammable display items!

The first step in making the Tribble-like Things is cutting squares - one large for the body, another smaller one for the hair. I just wing the dimensions of those squares depending on how much fabric I have. I loved this stuff and (regrettably) bought an entire meter in both white and blue, so I did big ones.

You cut up in one direction, like so:

and then fold up one corner to guesstimate the rest of the square, like such:

To make more squares, you can just set the original on top of the fabric and cut another:

Simple, right? But you can see the difficulties I'm getting into already:

And that's just the stuff that stayed on the table. I bought lint rollers in bulk a couple of weeks ago, but there was no way I was going to risk cutting into this piece:

All those little swirls? They're pretty much composed of feathers and every snip sends tiny bits of them flying all over.

And - oh look, here we are at the cliff.

Several questions occur to me as our path dissolves into near-vertical rock formations:

Will I be successful in my attempt to make functional stuffies out of dysfunctional fabric?

Will my house ever be tidy again?

Was it ever tidy in the first place?

Time (and this blog) will tell... stay tuned!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday already?

In case you're keeping count,

I didn't do any fiction writing this week, again.

Seriously, how fast are these weeks going, and is it just because we haven't had as much snow as I usually associate with winter? It's like somebody sped up the conveyor belt.

Here's a short list of more things I won't be doing today, or this weekend probably:

fiction writing

finishing anything on my knitting needles

cooking supper

staying away from the computer

tap dancing (though I feel a little tap shoe viewing coming on; mine look like my mother's old saddle shoes and even though I never learned to do a single one of the steps nicely I do love dreaming of figuring it out some day)


eating chocolate.

That last one? That's because I ate all the chocolate yesterday while not writing fiction.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Last night I did some vine-swinging through a lot of craft and sewing blogs for no particular reason except maybe that I wanted to have a good cry over the face that everybody seems to have a studio but me, even if it's a just a scrap of a three-season mudroom.

(heck, I get weepy over not having three season mudroom.)

Not that I really need a studio, because I'm not one of those writers who sews enormous bolts of fabric or sets a huge quilt down on the floor to work on (I'm looking at you, Kathi) but still. Dedicated space! A room of one's own, but for needle art!

Anyway through the tears I decided I like:

this doily table runner.

this inspiration board system.

and incidentally this doily pillow.

everything at blah to TADA!, which is brilliant with the ideas for recycling blah stuff into really, really cool stuff.

(and I'm going to mull over the vintage handkerchief ideas there, because I accumulated a stack of 'em last summer.)

this bag from Tiny Happy, complete with instructions.

And after I decided all that, I sat down with The Morville Hours and a teacup of chocolate chips. Because I know how to have a good time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why we buy things

Last night it snowed - a big wet fluffy snow that filled the sky with white. All the previous snow has melted and the weather is a little mild, so this new snow felt like a pre-Christmas edition.

And here is the memory it brought me:

One December when I was very young, maybe 7, my mum put me on a train to the city to visit my biggest sister, then a university student. And that sister took me shopping. At night. In my town night shopping was restricted to the budget department store on Main Street, so this was a big deal. It was snowing out - a big wet fluffy snow that filled the sky with white, and blanketed the ground with just enough white to catch the toes of my boots.

My sister suggested we go into a mysterious little shop a few steps and a wrought iron railing down from the sidewalk. Inside, the light was warm and friendly, and an enormous number and variety of beautiful candles were displayed for sale. I looked and looked, amazed and happy, and then I was drawn to a little white china box with a red china bow tied around it.

I lifted the lid and - oh, the scent of the little red candle inside! Fruity and sweet - everything a 7 year old girl would want. I bought it for my still-at-home sister's Christmas present.

For me, as I now realize, the candle encapsulated everything about the moments leading up to its purchase - the excitement of being in the city, the treat of being with a sister I missed terribly, the luxury of all those candles, the illusion of being all grown up. I bought it to capture for our other sister the gift of all of those wonderful things.

Of course, what my sister actually got was a candle in a highly breakable and dust-catching kinda seasonal-specific box. A candle she wasn't allowed to burn in her room for her own self anyway, being too young for that sort of thing. She left it behind when she moved out for her own university career, and when I came across it in her room afterward I found the scent had gone too.

Still reminded me of that wonderful night though. Even the image of the box in my mind does that. And so, it seems, does a peaceful night's snow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Get thee behind me distraction

Ugh. I seem to have entered troubled waters, in which many competing issues are capturing my attention, few of them happily. The other night I had a momentary flickering of an idea for revising one of my short stories and then it was out again - stomped on, as it were, by something that wouldn't even burn its foot.

(Fortunately I had the sense to write down the idea and mention it to a couple of people, two things that tend to reinforce ideas in my mind so I don't forget them.)

This is where knitting is handy, because you have something very tangible in your hands on which to focus. But even there I'm having trouble because I am obsessed with working out a particular project, design and structure, and there is math and logic and aesthetic beauty to consider all at once. This is tough to do while wading through the aforementioned troubled waters.

But the worst: I had to stop watching a movie the other day about fifteen minutes in, when some new crisis erupted. That night I woke up thinking,

what happened next?

And the next day I thought,

what was the terrible secret whatsherface was going to find out? and was she really going to hook up with Vincent Price?

And today too. So frustrating. The movie is Dragonwyck, and my local library does not have a copy.

I think this week's episode of comfort shopping should include purchasing it, don't you? It's that or go on watching Greatest Tank Battles with my knitting on a Monday night. And when a stint in a nice safe tank (preferably one sitting in the Used Tank lot) looks attractive, you've got to do something.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Saturdays are for sewing

I've noticed a definite trend on the weekends since December's mitten madness, in which I open up the sewing machine Friday night and sew for much of the weekend while watching old movies. The movies make the sewing go a lot slower, but I like them, so too bad.

Slow was a problem for this weekend's project though, which occurred to me as I woke up on Saturday just in time for a birthday party that afternoon. The birthday girl was a young friend turning 5, and with Christmas in our immediate past I had a pretty good idea she would be all loaded up with toys. Not that the average 5 year old considers this a bad thing, but something different was indicated.

Something like art supplies, for which I went to a proper art supply shop. Nothing that would be nasty to clean off a wall or a best dress, but still, grown-up stuff, plus some chocolate to tape onto the wrapping.

Then, as I say, I woke up thinking

it's not enough...
it needs something...

it needs...

an art bag.

So I measured and thought and cut out pieces before my 9am appointment, then dashed home to press them and do some initial sewing before the 45-minute drive for lunch with my mum, and dashed home again for the finishing touches before the actual party at, ahem, 2:30.

Since I finished the last seam at 2:16 there wasn't time for many photographs, and it would have been difficult anyway to show the clever inside pocket I fashioned and stitched into the casing at the top of the bag. But it's there, and it's where I put the chocolate. For inspiration.

The casing caused a bit of a panic, being huge. There wasn't going to be any way to keep the ribbony drawstring from slipping right out of it, so I sewed it together like a little pull tag at the end.

Everything you need for a drawing excursion fits neatly inside with space for more tools or treats as needed over time. And it looks quite pretty when you close it up, don't you think?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to make comfort soup

A lot of comfort soup is getting eaten at my place lately, what with the cold weather and my being too lazy to cook anything that requires walking farther than the pantry.

The hardest part of this meal comes first: chop 1 onion.

Saute it in a deep saucepan with about 1 tablespoon of butter (or olive oil or whatever you like.)

When the onion is translucent, add 1 can of crushed tomatoes (I like Eden Organic)

and then 1 carton of chicken stock (Campbell's Organic tastes pretty great)

and bring it all to a boil.

Add a celebratory amount of Worcestershire sauce to taste (I do about a dozen shakes of the bottle) and about 1/4 cup or less of pasta stars.

Let all of that boil until the stars are cooked or you remember it's on the stove, and dish up:

It'd feed four, or you can just keep taking the pot out of the 'frig to heat up for meals the next day too. The stars get puffier every time so that the last bowl of the second day is really comfort stew, but it's still delicious.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The need/want gap

I don't know why I'm still surprised at how wide the gap can be between what I want and what I actually need. I don't mean material things, but Life Goal things. It's so easy to misinterpret what will actually bring happiness, don't you find?

For example, what I want is not to have to go out anywhere for three days so I can sit in an armchair and knit or read a book or just listen to music without dashing off all the time. But when I effectively did that over the holiday, staying with a friend who had an inconveniently broken bone, my brain started to melt. I got to forgetting things, like what day it was. And when I left - oh, the fresh air! It was like a miracle!

Then I got sick and I didn't go out anywhere for another three days, and by the time I recovered I was into the annual orgy of Christmas Chocolate, also very much wanted. Is there any greater bliss?

Apparently not, because what I felt was sad. Not to mention a little sick, as when one eats too much cake at a party, ahem.

On the last day as I packed up my bag to take to my trainer's, the better to sleep in the first morning back to Real Life, it hit me:

I didn't exercise for nearly three weeks.

(Something I wanted even more than Christmas chocolate, if you want to be picky.)

And I felt lousy! Even lousier than the very middle horrible ab thingy when I realize there's still a lot left to do! How on earth can something so miserable make you feel so much better?

I may never really accept that it's true, but at least I was able to remember it as I walked past this today:

Also known as the fence that separates my dream house from the park I cross to get to my trainer's gym.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stuck in my head

Everyday tortures:

Ever since I read this, I've wanted strawberry jam on cream cheese on toasted (but fresh-baked!) bread. Without being able to do it.

The other night I watched Jay Leno interview some girl from some reality show. He asked her to name, in 1 minute, 5 songs that Frank Sinatra made famous so as to underscore how unintelligent she is. I couldn't name 5 Frank Sinatra songs in 1 minute either, and I still can't, in spite of years of listening to Frank and his peers and watching their movies. Yet I keep trying.

Finally saw Talk of the Town. How did I miss this movie before? I grew up sneaking downstairs to watch the classic movie that ran every midnight, for cryin' out loud! And now that I have seen it, I want to see it again - yet every time I check the listings, it's not in them.

All this is fixable with a trip to the grocery store, the library, and the crossword section of the newspaper, but honestly. I think it's a good idea for me to sit down and do some nice meditative knitting or something, don't you?

Monday, January 11, 2010


I am telling myself that it's not what you get done in a day or a week that counts, but what you accomplish over a week or a month.

Also: that you don't typically hit the ground running the week after the Christmas break.

The fact remains that I have done no writing, and won't this week either. And I am on the brink of being out of bookshelf space to accommodate all my new interests (or at least, the ones that require written content to pursue.) I can tell because it's difficult now to get my elbows onto my desk, it's so crowded with homeless books.

Which leads me to this:

Have you ever noticed how the top of a tree looks a lot like its root system?

(I wonder whether this is embroiderable.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

The week that went

Okay, I know time flies when you're having fun

- so that doesn't explain why an entire day disappeared from this week. I didn't have a whole ton of fun. But I am practically certain that at least one day did disappear, and not from me sleeping through it. (I wish: and my vote would be for Tuesday.)

It wasn't a complete loss, because I was able to pick up some Hovis Biscuits from the butcher shop, but then I discovered - can you believe it? - this staple of 'treat' larder has no web page of its own!


Well, there is a little information on wikipedia that explains why Hovis biscuits are special: they are sweet, but still just right for putting slices of cheese on top.

Mind you, I also find cheese goes very nicely on a McVitie's biscuit, packages of which I can just pick up at the regular grocery store. McVitie's are produced by the same manufacturer as Hovis but are more popular and therefore rate their own wikipedia page.

On the other hand, Hovis biscuits are sort of squared-off, which makes the cheese fit perfectly on them (McVitie's are round), and they include a little oatmeal, which I like.

I don't actually put cheese on either biscuit more than once or twice a year, but it's nice to know you can. Mostly, they simply serve as a cookie I can have without tremendous amounts of guilt.

And there you have it, my entire week summarized: a week so bad that, apart from the surprising response to my suggestion of an online knitting group, a package of extremely plain cookies is the highlight. Perhaps while I eat them, other things will begin to fall back into place?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

75 good reasons to learn a second language

The other day I was racing along the street when my crossing guard friend stopped me and asked whether I was going past the neighbourhood's Catholic school.

She asked because she had just arrived at her corner by bus, and had met on said bus an elderly lady who spoke no English apart from the words 'Catholic school,' and who for whatever reason got off the bus at the same corner. My crossing guard had determined (how I do not know) that the woman was to pick up her 3 grandchildren at the school I was in fact passing, and I said that of course I would take her there.

Well, we were about 5 blocks from the school at the time, and there were some twists and turns to get there, and my companion was getting very out of breath and quite teary-eyed as we kept on block after block with no school. Finally we arrived and she said


Because, in spite of being the only Catholic school for miles, it was the wrong one. I was able to enlist the aid of some parents picking up their own children there, but none of us could recognize the language she was speaking, and the only number she knew to dial on the cell phone she was offered was that of the local transit commission's automated help line

(which offers many languages, but not in the first few words of introduction, and not the language she was speaking.)

Finally an Italian-speaking teacher came by and understood that she was Albanian, which pretty much confirmed our impression that nobody in the vicinity was going to be able to help her. At that point she was able to convey 'McDonald's' and 'subway', but there are a lot of Catholic schools in this city near a subway, and a lot of those have a neighbouring McDonald's. In the midst of a lengthy discussion about possible bus routes, I had to leave for a moment. When I came back the others told me that, frustrated and frightened, she had simply stalked off.

And I still feel terrible about it.

I fear it may have been a case of Alzheimer's. If you were sending your 75-year-old-ish mother to pick up your kids from school and she didn't speak the language or know all the bus routes by heart, wouldn't you give her a note to show people to get the directions right? But either way, I am at a complete loss to know how I could have been of more use to her.

Should I have taken her into the adjoining church to ask the resident priests for advice? Should I have called the police to ask for advice on translation or directional support? Do they even do that sort of thing?

Albanian is not the first language that occurs to me when I think of learning a second one properly (it would be faster to brush up my French) but maybe the languages I wouldn't think of are the ones I should try. I mean, I live in Canada - a ton of people speak French. And I know a ton of people who speak Italian. Spanish: totally popular. Portuguese, Chinese - the list could go on forever and you'd be falling over somebody who either speaks it or has a friend on speed dial who does.

And yet there was this poor woman in such a tight spot, lost in a strange city on a snowy late afternoon, with so many of us reaching out to help - and thwarted entirely by a language nobody else knew.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I didn't do any work on my short story yesterday.


I remembered to warm some eggs to make another batch of meringues (and then I made the meringues, and only ate some)

I enjoyed a shortbread cookie from the tin my mum gives me every year

and I shoveled some snow

and then I had a little nap while it snowed some more, so now I have to do it again.

After that, the day went very very far south, vertically, in what some might call a 'handbasket', which just goes to show that Wayson Choy was right when he told me to write as though every moment is my last because you never know when it's really going to be.

It just better not be today, because I definitely won't get any writing time. In fact now that I think of it, the whole rest of the week is a washout on that front - something I should have considered when I squandered my only free morning on cookies.

Still... if you've gotta squander time, is there any better way to do it?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The more things change

I took away a few impressions from the exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls I finally got to see last week:

2000-year-old papyrus looks really cool! I'd love to know more about how it was made.

It's astonishing, the clear and precise forms you can make on papyrus, which looks a little grainy, with a reed pen and some charcoal.

Also, how tiny some of those scribes were writing. Does it suggest the preciousness of the papyrus, or the acute focus of the scribe?

But mostly: 2000 years ago, people were just as worried about the end of the world and beset by disease and interpersonal cruelty and the need for legal documents around land use as we are today.

I'm not really sure whether to be saddened by that, or feel all heartwarmed, or not bother with either and just write some fiction already. Like I say, the more things change...

Monday, January 4, 2010

A book I can't put down

Saturday I glanced at my library's Best Bets shelf as I passed and


stopped dead to pick up 19th Century Embroidery Techniques, by Gail Marsh.

That might not seem like much of a compelling title to the average procrastinator, but the cover shares several images of beautiful and seriously labour-intensive embroidery and quilting.

This told me two things:

a/ the book might inspire an idea for something I could use to procrastinate productively should the writing bog down this winter, and anyway I don't expect to have any quiet writing time until Tuesday so I have little pockets of time to fill in

b/ any book talking about historic embroidery techniques is going to be talking about historic lives of women. And I am a sucker for social history.

The book so did not disappoint that I stopped reading about halfway through and ordered a copy for my own library, along with the author's earlier work, 18th Century Embroidery Techniques.

All of the textiles in the book are gorgeous, and quite a lot of it is work I can imagine seeing on tiny happy, or Quite A Handful - it's that vibrant and contemporary. There is, in fact, quite a lot of incidental history, and some really touching moments.

For example, the book includes pictures of one Nancy Horsfall's wedding bedcover, made in 1833. It's a bright and cheerful with an embroidered message, part of which reads, less cheerfully,

When I am dead and in my grave,
and all my bones are gone to dust
Take up this work and think of me!
When I am quite forgot.

Done and done, Nancy, and not in a sad way either. She was an artist!

A year later Nancy made a cot cover of similar design that includes the phrase "Welcome sweet babe."

I think Nancy must have married for love and looked forward to having children to play with, don't you?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The sweater scheme

This is what the outside of my house looks like today:

(It looks like this, and it feels like -17 degrees Celcius, which is - coincidentally - the temperature.)

Why? Because last night I snuck over to my pile of still-intact felted sweaters, looking for one that could be adapted into a cardigan.

The first one I tried on just needs cutting straight down the front and then some trim

the middle ones went straight back into the pile with a shudder, and

the last one would make a great vest with some creative clipping around the shoulders.

And all I need to transform said sweaters is to be able to open the sewing machine, which has been, um, blocked by the Christmas tree.

If only this motivation to put Christmas away would work every year...