Saturday, May 30, 2009

Off to Fiberland

It's late, and I should have been in bed long ago. Today was long and productive - I got my papers for the research ethics board submitted just under the wire, confirmed my job placement for later in the summer, crossed 16 things off my to do list, and packed. Ahhh, it feels good to be done.

Tomorrow I head off on an adventure of sorts: after many failed summer plans I decided on a whim to take off to BC for a few weeks. I'll be at Joybilee Farms exchanging my labor for a place to stay, and hopefully some lessons in spinning, weaving, homesteading, animal rearing, and whatever else I can get my hands on. Joybilee is a fiber arts farm, run by a husband and wife team who rear their own fiber-bearing animals, spin the fleece, and dye their yarn using natural methods. They also do some other nifty things like making their own cheese and goat's milk soap. I've been wanting to learn how to spin for quite some time now, so hopefully this will be a good chance to get a firsthand look at how it's done. I also have a pipe dream of moving somewhere out in the country and having my own hobby farm with fiber animals and dogs and vegetables... for now I'll just escape to my dream life temporarily:)

Not much knitting has been going on here lately. The gathered pullover now has a sleeve, but I'll admit to being a bit bored by all the endless stockinette. For the trip, I'm taking along a mystery project (it's a gift, so I'll add a Ravelry link later).

I'll be back in three weeks, hopefully with lots of pictures and stories. Here's hoping to get a healthy dose of dirt, animals, fresh air and sun before returning to the sterility and order of the hospital!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Breakup Shawl

It's done, it's finally done! I present to you the Pacific Northwest shawl, aka "the Breakup shawl". I can tell the story now, as almost a year later there's some humor to be found in it.

Pacific Northwest Shawl By Evelyn A. Clark. Yarn: Valley Yarns 2/14 Alpaca Silk

This shawl has sentimental value to me for several reasons. I first saw the pattern knit up by one of my college peers as a sample at WEBS. It was one of the most stunning things I had ever seen (having not had much exposure to lace), and on my last visit to Northampton a few years ago, I picked up the yarn and the pattern to make the shawl. This was to be a long-term project, and was my first go at anything beyond a simple lace pattern. However, in the year that followed I couldn't find a good reason to cast on, as I didn't know the right person to fit the shawl.

And then I met her: a bold, striking, intelligent woman who lived on the west coast, who looked like the shawl-wearing type. She also happened to be the mother of my now ex. I loved this woman dearly - we had many frank and wonderful conversations, and she treated me like part of the family. Having finally found the right reason to cast on for the shawl, I began knitting, thinking of giving it to her on a happy occasion somewhere down the road in our relationship.

Did I in some way insult the knitting gods so as to prompt them to smite me? Had I found myself some perverse permutation of the legendary boyfriend sweater curse? No later than four days after I had cast on for the shawl did I receive an email ending my relationship. Darn it. After that email, I just couldn't stop knitting. Counting YO's and k2tog's was so much easier than thinking. The shawl provided a source of comfort and focus during the months that followed when being alone with the thoughts in my head was too hard.

I shall certainly be more wary of knitting for future relationships, having also knit three lovely pairs of man-socks into the cavernous hole of no return. However, when knitting is for some of us one of the strongest ways to say "I care about you", that's easier said than done.

The shawl is still going to the originally intended recipient (it's not her fault things turned out the way they did!). Part of me doesn't want to send it off knowing that I'll never see it again, as it reminds me of those marvelous Northampton days, and because it's been a fixture in my knitting basket for so long. At the same time, it also reminds me of less-good times, and clearing out the closet might just be best.

Now that the shawl is done and blocked (what a cool transformation), I'm itching to start a new lace project. What should it be?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

View From Saturday

Gould Lake Conservation Area, Sydenham ON

Nothing like a little summer fun with a borrowed dog on a Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gone With the Wind?

My poor little plants. I had so much enjoyed seeing that little bit of green life come to be on my balcony. The other day when I went to see how they were doing, I saw this:

There were twelve pots the night before... and more mysteriously, the eight other pots were nowhere to be seen in the parking lot or adjacent lawns. It had rained the night before, and the only logical conclusion I could come to was that the wind must have blown them off the balcony before it rained, and someone cleaned up the parking lot early the next morning. I'm mystified. There's no point replanting them now as I'll be gone in a few weeks :(
Over the long weekend, I had the good fortune of going to Ottawa to visit family and friends. As an added bonus, mom was there too! I thought I'd recount a funny story concerning my almost three-year old cousin. He's quite the talker, and very into imaginative play right now. We were playing a game which involved going to different stores of his choice in the "double stroller" (the couch). He asked if we could go to Chapters to read stories. I said sure, so off we went in our imaginations.
I started to tell him a made-up story about dinosaurs in the park. It had the typical brontosaurus, stegosauraus, T-rex, trieceratops, etc. After the third dinosaur story, he said: "Jess, can you tell me the one about the nineracops?"
I said, "do you mean triceratops?"
"No, nineracops"
"Ok, well, what kind of dinosaur is the nineracops?"
"One that goes really fast under the water." So, I made up a story about the fast swimming nineracops. After that, he asked me to tell him the story about the cliceratops. When I asked him what kind of a dinosaur that was, he said "It goes really really really fast under the water."
If there was one thing I learned while working at a science center, it was not to question the dinosaur knowledge of young boys, because when in doubt I would always be wrong. A bit of google-ing later revealed that there was no such thing as the nineracops or cliceratops (which I had suspected), but it made me quite happy to think about what must have been going on in his little imaginary world to create such things.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Inside and Out

Yesterday I ticked off a med student first: I learned how to do a pelvic exam. I think many of us head into this with some apprehension - fear of causing pain, fear of making a mistake, and the pressure to do it right right off the bat. Fortunately, we have a great program here - GTAs (gynecologic teaching associates). GTAs are trained patients who, in pairs, teach us (also in pairs) how to do this exam. These women are incredibly knowledgeable about their bodies, and provide us with an idespensible first-time experience. What better way to learn than on a real person, in a relaxed enviromnent, where you can take your time, ask questions, and receive live feedback?

In the past, (and present for some schools), students were required to learn the pelvic exam on rubber models or anesthetised patients. Or, they may be required to perform an exam for the first time on a random patient in clinic who is just about as scared as they are. The GTA program was developed in the 1970's by the Boston Women's Health Collective. This group worked to bring women's reproductive health issues out into the open, and made it a misson to educate women about their bodies so that they could be advocates for their own health care. The GTA program teaches us how to do "educational pelvics", which I had only read about in the Boston Women's Health Collective's seminal book, Our Bodies Ourselves. I've never seen anyone do an educational pelvic in practice. With an educational pelvic, the examination table head is raised so that the woman can make eye contact with the examiner, and observe the exam with a mirror, hopefully building a sense of participation and empowerment with respect to the exam and her health.

The whole session was wonderful, and got me ruminating over the idea of an educational pelvic. Arguably, most of us never get to see our cervix. Perhaps if women have the chance to see a vital part of their anatomy that remains perpetually hidden and mysterious, they would be more motivated to seek health care on an annual basis (pap smears, STI testing, well-woman exams). Would this be an extra 5 minutes well spent on the part of the physician?
If you've never seen a cervix and are curious, I'll direct you to The Beautiful Cervix Project, bravely made by a midwivery student who did a daily photo documentary of her cervix over an entire menstrual cycle.

To end on a lighter note, I've started the Gathered Pullover by Hana Jason. The yarn is Berocco Ultra Alpaca Light, in Peat Mix. So far, so good!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Yoke Pullover

It's the end of what's been a quiet and moderately productive day (I actually went to the library-it's been a while!). After exams were done, I cleared out my project box and finished up a few things. However, I thought I'd share something I finished earlier this semester, that was just in its beginning stages when I started this blog. Remember the Vogue Yoke Pullover? Here it is, 3 years later. It didn't take me that long to knit it, but I procrastinated weaving in the many ends for, oh, a year.

Yoke Pullover by Krisien Cowan, knit in Cascade Eco Wool

The yarn is Cascade Eco Wool, and it only took 2.5 skeins making this a very economical knit. I love the yarn, and don't want to block the sweater because it still smells natural! The only problem with this sweater is that it turned out to be very, very warm (this coming from someone who is ALWAYS cold), making it difficult to wear anywhere. Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Heart Health

A recent article on Medscape caught my eye: a new study has shown that a Mediterranean diet significantly reduces the risk of heart disease. While it has been known for a while that such a diet is healthier than the way we tend to eat in the western world, this new study is noteworthy because, as a meta -analysis combining close to 200 studies, it ups the level of evidence to support this claim. A meta-analysis is a type of clinical study that combines other types of studies in order to get a stronger answer to a question.

The Mediterranean diet is generally characterized by a higher intake of fruit, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and fish, whereas the Western diet is characterized by red and processed meats, eggs, refined grains, and high fat dairy products. Foods with a high glycemic index and foods with trans-fatty acids are particularly associated with an increased risk in heart disease.

I feel quite passionate about choices that we can make as individuals to improve our health. Not all disease is preventable, and sure, we could make every "right" decision regarding our health and still wind up with an illness. However, it is our responsibility to be keepers of our bodies!

So, I leave you with today's lunch: a Mediterranean chick pea salad on mixed greens, with whole wheat pita crisps. The salad is simply a tomato, cucumber, 2 peppers, garlic, green onion, parsley, chick peas, and a few olives, with a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. I use stale pita to make the crisps, simply tear it into pieces and microwave on a paper towel for 2 minutes!

PS- Happy Mother's Day Mom! I feel so blessed to have a mother who is both my best friend and a great parent:)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Exam Socks

Today was the perfect rainy day. I spent the morning helping a friend with some school stuff, but then came home to find out that frisbee practice was cancelled. With my research project stalled and nowhere to go until evening, it was just dreary and cold enough to justify curling up with a blanket, tea, some reading, a movie and a sock-in-progress.

I'm prone to knitting socks during times of stress, such as exams. In fact, I probably think more about knitting during the weeks leading up to exams than at any other time... Exams can be a pretty isolating period for many, as there is a certain (large) number of hours you need to spend on your own studying. That, combined with the stress of knowing you can't learn everything makes sock knitting an essential pacifier.

Exam socks: Handmaiden Casbah (1 skein), 2.25mm needles

While I was home over March break, mom gave me a ball of Handmaiden Casbah, perhaps the most scrumptious yarn (both in feel and in color) I've ever used for socks. So, I present the exam socks of 2009- started right at the beginning of the descent into study madness, and finished a day or two after exams. These are my new favorites - thanks mom! Now on to some of those other projects I was dreaming about....

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Kitchen Success

While I don't often choose to eat white bread or bake it, I really wanted to try my hand at making something from yeast dough. I've had several failures on this front in the past, resulting in unrisen dough and hard, dense baked goods. Finally, I had some success with this relatively easy recipe found here. The bread tasted good, smelled good, and was a hit with the 8-year old crowd! This has definitely motivated me to look for some whole wheat recipes and give it another whirl.

Knitting content to come soon- I've finished up a bunch of projects and have started some new ones- oh, the joys of being done exams!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Growing Roots

I dream of someday having a backyard with a garden, where I can grow my own produce. For now, a concrete balcony will have to suffice. While this isn't an actual attempt to grow my own food, I was curious to see if I could get anything to sprout in pots on my balcony. To my surprise, the dollar-store seeds that I planted with an 8-year old friend popped up within a few days, and I've been contentedly watching their growth since.

I'd love to have an herb garden, grow some tomatoes and enough lettuce to feed my salad habit, and maybe some flowers for a little cheer. However, life does not have me staying in one place for any period of time sufficient enough to do this, and I'll have to give my baby lettuce away before it's fully grown.

Having lived in 4 cities in the past 6 years, and having never been able to stay in the same city for more than a few months at a stretch has made me really want to plant myself somewhere and just take root. I really love where I am living right now, and would love to be able to stay and just grow! The nature of my program has me uprooting myself more than I would like- a frustrating thing for a homebody.

At the same time, I know that it's a priviledge to experience all of these different places, and that someday the time will come when I have a job and don't have the luxury of picking up and going without consequence. So, for the time being, I'll enjoy my little plants, as well as all the other things I'll get to see and do!