I made a Katniss cowl


Last year, I had planned to dress up for Halloween as Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, but the cowl took a lot longer to make than I'd expected. I threw together a Bat Girl costume, and continued to work on the cowl. 

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I couldn't get the grey-mix yarn I'd wanted when I went shopping, so I opted for a cream yarn, figuring I could wear it out of costume as well. 

I read up on a bunch of different patterns: 





And learned the cowl in the movie made by Maria Dora is woven, not knitted or crocheted. This explained why it was so hard to find a pattern.

I settled on mostly following these directions: 


I tried to follow a tutorial on using strips of an old t-shirt wrapped in yarn for the neck rings, but couldn't figure it out. I ripped it apart several times before I finally got it the way I wanted-- by weaving the yarn around three separate strips of t-shirt. 

Next, I had to learn to knit the herringbone pattern. This was tricky. I'm still a newbie at knitting-- only ever making scarves and toques, and nothing so much as a sweater-- but fortunately, the cowl required making pieces and sewing them together. So all I really had to do was get the measurements approximate. Sounds easy enough. But the herringbone being new to me, I underestimated casting on, and had to start over three times. I also undersized the triangle section. 


Once all the pieces were made it was just a matter of stitching them together and weaving the ends in (I hate that part.) I guess it turned out all right. 

(I added a mockingjay pin and borrowed my son's leather jacket, which is why it's two sizes too big. Maybe time to get my own.)

If I ever find a nice grey mix wool, I might try making another. 

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cowl 2017.10.jpg

The Chuck Bartowski Sandwich - The Food of Chuck

Last week I was rewatching Chuck with my youngest son (Chuck is like a comfort food for us), and we got the episodes when Chuck meets Lou, the deli owner, and decided we needed to try those sandwiches. 

 via idiomatic.com 

via idiomatic.com 

Lou Palone first appears in Chuck Versus the Truth (season 1, episode8) when she brings her cell phone to the Buy More to be serviced, panicked because her "whole life" is on the phone. Chuck assures her the phone is in good hands. When Lou returns to pick up her phone, she brings a sandwich as a thank you: turkey and muenster cheese on egg bread. She's named the sandwich after Chuck. 

 via tvgeniereviewed

via tvgeniereviewed

In the next episode, Chuck Versus the Imported Hard Salami (season 1, episode 8), Chuck flashes on a poster in Lou's Deli, and ends up working a mission when he should be on date with Lou. Needless to say, the date is ruined. Later, Chuck brings flowers and hopes to apologize to Lou, but the deli is super busy and he ends up waiting and waiting. When he finally gets a chance to talk, she's only interested in working. So in an attempt to impress her, he places an order for a sandwich "in the Reuben family": rye bread, pastrami, muenster cheese, and coleslaw. Grilled. 

We supposed there are two sandwiches named "The Chuck Bartowski"-- the one created by Lou and the one created by Chuck. 

 Sandwich on the left is marble rye, pastrami, provolone, and coleslaw. Grilled.  Sandwich on the right is egg bread, turkey, sopressata salami, and provolone. Grilled. 

Sandwich on the left is marble rye, pastrami, provolone, and coleslaw. Grilled.

Sandwich on the right is egg bread, turkey, sopressata salami, and provolone. Grilled. 

Of course we had to try both. 

I was about seven years old when I first had a pastrami on rye sandwich. My dad and I stopped in a Shopsy's Delicatessen for lunch, and he ordered for both of us. I remember it came with mustard on it and a pickle on the side. I loved it from the first bite. It's funny, but every time I have a pastrami on rye, I'm reminded of that day with my Dad-- the craziness of the busy deli, the sour pickle, the ugliness of the brown and orange decor, and this really tasty sandwich. 

The Chuck Bartowski had a lot to live up to. Not only did it have to meet the expectations built-up by the show, but it also couldn't destroy my childhood memories.

Interesting thing: I'd never heard of muenster cheese before and apparently neither have my local grocery stores. After a bit of Googling to find out more about it, we decided to use provolone as a substitute. 

I decided to add sopressata salami to the turkey sandwich because I expected the combination to be otherwise bland. This turned out to be a good decision. I wonder if the blandness of this sandwich was a deliberate choice by the writers. Were they trying to show Chuck through Lou's eyes as bland? As a turkey? As semi-soft American cheese? 

(If you've seen the episodes, then you know why we went with provolone and sopressata.)

My favourite of the two sandwiches was the pastrami on rye. It's a surprisingly good sandwich with the coleslaw on the inside. 

"Surprisingly good." Yeah, that's a fitting description for Chuck Bartowski. 

There's a hole in my yard

Yesterday evening, I was alerted to the squawking and clicking of ravens in the front yard. They appeared to be strutting with round white objects in their beaks, and since we don't have ping-pong balls in the yard, I thought, "Oh, they're eating toadstools." (It's rained A LOT this spring.) Then I realized the grass was cut recently-- making for a less hospitable environment for the fungus. I went out to investigate and found a hole in the lawn. 

We've lived in this house for fourteen years, but it was only in the last couple of years that I witnessed a turtle laying eggs on my property. Though I always watched for hatchlings, I never did see any, and I wondered what happened to the eggs. 

I poked around in the hole and felt something. I had a pretty good idea those weren't toadstools the ravens were gobbling up. I pushed back some of the dirt and found an egg. Possibly more behind it. 

Since I didn't see the mother turtle, I don't know for sure, but based on previous years I suspect they're snapping turtle eggs.  Snapping turtles are at risk and under special concern status since a variety of conditions could cause their quick extinction. Ontario recently permanently banned snapping turtle hunting

Over the past few weeks, I've seen more dead turtles on the roads than I have in my entire lifetime. I don't why. Perhaps the rain had turtles going farther to look for nesting places. Perhaps motorists couldn't tell the difference between turtles and the lumps of cold-patch my municipality uses to make cheap, useless road repairs. Perhaps some motorists are feeling vengeful after the loss of their right to kill two snapping turtles a day. 

I love to be around nature. When I'm out with my family and we see a turtle crossing the road, we stop to help it. Sometimes we just stop and watch to make sure they get across safely. One time we stopped to watch a mama turtle lay eggs in the soft shoulder of a rural road. We've helped small turtles and great big giant turtles. Painted box turtles and snapping turtles. (The snappers are a little tricky to help. Those claws have a long reach. Some suggest using a snow shovel to pick them up.)

What was I to do about this nest? Surely there would be more than ravens after the eggs. 

I figured I could add more dirt to bury the eggs better, but I also figured the ravens would probably dig it up. 

I found a rock and placed it over the hole. 

It's heavy enough the ravens won't be able to move it. It's shallow enough the turtles should be able to get out once they hatch, but I'll keep an eye on it. Hopefully it will help keep the earth under it warm, like an incubator.

Once I was back indoors, the ravens returned. They clicked and strutted around the rock and then flew away. One raven returned this morning and seemed non-plussed about the rock. 

I tried to get a photo, but, unlike other birds, they seem to know when I get close to the window. 

Stay tuned for more turtle and raven watch. 

Winter Blossom

I've had enough of winter. Driving to work in freezing rain this week has done me in. That's it. I want spring. 

To cheer myself up, I made blossom tea. I have hyacinth bulbs sprouting in the living room, but they're just tiny yet. I needed more. 

These are hand-packed balls of flowers and green tea leaves that unfurl in hot water. This one opens with spikes of green tea leaves, and for a big finish, a chain of three scarlet blossoms pop up. 

The tea can taste quite strong if left to steep too long or if the water is too hot. I've made that mistake before. So this time, I prepared it in a single cup, and used water that hadn't quite reached boil, and it worked. The green tea was more subtly flavoured. I'm not a fan of jasmine, though, and unfortunately there was some of that in this blossom. 

But I do love to watch it grow. And it smells wonderful. 

I kind of like having tea outside the bag. There's an added ritual to the preparation, a period of waiting with anticipation, and no soggy bag to spoil the flavour. 

I think I'm going to do this again tomorrow. 

My point is...

When I was a kid, every Christmas morning, I got up, went downstairs to the living room, had one look at all the gifts under the sparkling tree, and ended up tossing my sugar cookies. Once that was all cleaned up, I would open my first gift with a bucket beside me, which I often ended up using. After I got through the first few gifts, then my stomach would settle down. Likely because it was overrun with guilt-- guilt for puking and ruining Christmas for my family, guilt for not feeling grateful enough, etc, etc.)

Anyway, my point is, I used to love Christmas. (Especially once I outgrew the whole vomiting thing, which happened around the same time I found out about Santa. I'm sure these two things are not unrelated.)

Then I grew up and had kids. The first few Christmases were great. Exciting. I loved everything about Christmas-- decorating, baking, anticipating the boys' faces on Christmas morning, a slice of Christmas cake with a cup of tea in the afternoon. Then we hit upon hard times, real hard times. There were days when I had to decide between buying food or buying toilet paper. (Let me tell you, that was not an easy choice.) Buying food or buying gas to get to work. Buying food and choosing which bills to let slide another month. You can imagine the hard choices during gift-giving seasons. There were a lot of homemade gifts for a while. 

Thankfully, the hard times were short lived, but unfortunately, the damage had been done. I suffered from post-traumatic shopping disorder, and holidays were the worst, even when we could easily afford to buy gifts again. I would be in the store, looking over price tags, getting sick to my stomach, thinking "I don't know about this. I mean, it's a perfect gift, but what if something happens next week and we can't afford to buy food again? What then? Then I'll hate myself for buying this gift." I would have panic attacks while standing in the check out line. My post-trauma was so bad I felt sick just putting up a Christmas tree-- it was like the tree symbolized all my anxiety: "Could we even afford Christmas this year? And what about the weeks after Christmas? Will we be able to pay our bills? What if there's no work over the winter?" And the lights-- the Christmas lights-- "Will we be able to pay the hydro bill?"

Anyway, my point is, for a long time, I hated Christmas. 

This year I decided I've had enough of my own bullshit. I want to love Christmas again. I want to sit by the tree in the morning with my cup of coffee, with the lights on the tree, while it's still dark out and the kids are still asleep. I want to bake treats again. I want to listen to Christmas music and sing along-- even if it makes my kids' ears bleed.

And you know why? Because there are people I love who are not around anymore. Life is too short to be worried about Christmas. Just being around for the holiday is good enough. Everything else is gravy. Life is too short to be hung up on my own anxieties. I only have to do the parts of Christmas that make me happy. (Sorry, but you're not getting a Christmas card this year. Sorry, but I didn't see your float in the parade because I didn't go because I hate standing around in the cold. Sorry, but I don't own an ugly Christmas sweater and I'm never going to because I don't see the point. And many more 'no's to many more things.)

I put up the Christmas tree and for the first time in years, I felt happy about it. So I put up two more Christmas trees. (Three, if you count the little light-up one on the porch.) Four trees. I love it.

Honestly, if I could, I would put one in every room. #ChristmasGoals 

I even made a garland.

Getting stressed out about the holidays is not news, I know. Everyone gets stressed out at holiday time. And I've known all along I was stressing myself out for no reason (with exception for the years when we had legit reasons) and I should just be grateful for everything I have. But knowing all this just made me more stressed because I wasn't getting over it, I didn't know how to get over it, I just knew I should be over it and I wasn't, so there was something wrong with me. I don't know what finally clicked-- that I acknowledged that times were once hard, that I told myself I was okay enough times I finally started believing it, that I turned forty-two, or that I decided I just didn't care what anyone thought about me, not even my inner critic-- but something finally clicked. 

Anyway, my point is, I'm enjoying Christmas again. 

I'm even going to do some grain-free chocolate-free baking. (That's a story for another day.)

Hunting A Demon - available for pre-order

Hunting A Demon, book 2 of the Melantha Caldwell Spell-Turner series is back from the copy editor, so today I will be making those changes. And I have a release date! Hunting A Demon is set to release February 5

If you can't wait that long, and you're willing to write a review, I'll send you the ebook today. Just send me an email to let me know: sarawalkerauthor@gmail.com

In the meantime, I've started to work on the next Melantha Caldwell spell-turner novel, Saving A Spell-Turner. 

To celebrate Melantha's book 2 finally being on pre-order, I've dropped the price on book 1, Catching A Sorcerer. The ebook is on sale for $0.99 everywhere. If you know someone who hasn't read it yet, now's their chance to get it.

This week I launched a brand new version of my website. I hope you'll check it out and tell me what you think: www.sarawalker.ca

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