Monday, December 11, 2006

A weekend of birthdays and an unexpected Santa

I had originally planned a quiet knitting and cooking weekend with a friend, capped off with a get-together on Sunday evening. A mellow weekend filled with pots of hot tea and coccooning. However, the universe had other plans.

On Friday afternoon I got a call from DH who was in Vancouver to join him there. His plans had changed and he had to stay there longer. Sometimes you get that internal kick to go down the rabbit hole and you know something is going to happen, something extraordinary or at least something memorable.

It was my sister’s birthday anyways and so figured I could give her her birthday present in person instead of mailing it to her late. (How did I get knee-deep into December and not notice it?) I had made a series of creamy white merino-cashmere scarves in different lace patterns. A bit more intricate than your typical scarf to bring a touch of charm and interest to an outfit, they were made for our mild winters. I brought a few for her to choose from.

I, like most knitters, have a stash of scarves and toques for gifts. Often they’re made with patterns that I’ve designed just to see how they play out in different yarns. Sometimes they’re extended swatches to figure out my gauge. Other times they’re just practice mileage for me to work out new techniques. Many are simply the manifestation of excess kinetic energy channeled through my needles. In the end of the year, I send most of them over to a local shelter for those needing a bit of extra warmth and keep a small stash to give away myself.

Within an hour of receiving DH’s call, I was standing in line for the ferry. I love taking the ferry. It’s a great place to people watch. Riding on the water, watching one shore shrink as another appears is a great way to pass the time. It’s often the few times I get to sit down and do nothing but knit or read for an hour and half. I have met people from all over the world and have shared some wonderful conversations. Sometimes I have found myself in a hub of an impromptu knitting circle. I’ll just be working away alone in my corner and when I come up for air, I’ll realize that I’m surrounded by sister and fellow knitters, crocheters and cross-stitchers.

I grabbed a window seat and began working on my MIL’s sweater as other passengers jockeyed for seats. A fellow with two huge bulging suitcases sat down a few seats from me with a big sigh. With rumpled hair, an equally rumpled look in his eye, and wearing an inside-out t-shirt I thought to myself, 'I’m not going to get much knitting done.'

He opened up his suitcases, pulled out stacks of old, leather bound books and piled them in the seat between us. A few moments later, he leaned over and asked, “Excuse me, would you like an old book?”

As the ferry crossed the Georgia Strait, this Biblio-Santa gave away old books from centuries passed to anyone walking by and waxed poetic about the forgotten art of lithographs, steel engravings and old world bookmaking techniques. Supposedly he had a collection of 70,000 books and was simply tired of having them all. Many responded to his generosity with suspicion, others with cautious curiosity and awe and some with delight. I had a front row seat to watch this theatre of munificence. It was wonderful to see children excited about books, showing their parents the treasures to be found between the leather wings of an old book. It was a bit sad to see many adults approach with bystander curiosity but put up their defenses as soon as they were offered a free book, noses tuned only to mistrust.

Many grateful bibliophiles walked away with armfuls of books, magazines and other printed gifts, faces bathed in joy and awe. Many others left that ferry ride with at least an interesting story to tell.

I was gifted with a number of old books, including a complete collection of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a collection of Bryon and a wonderful old magazine:

Thank you Biblio-Santa for sharing your treasures with us. I hope you get some sleep.

My stay in Vancouver was one never-ending meal. The highlight was dimsum at Sun Siu Wah on Main street with my sisters, DH, and his sister and BIL. I Heart Sun Siu Wah. It’s my favorite Chinese restaurant and they have the best dan taht (egg tarts). These are two bite marvels with a beautifully light but buttery pastry shell and a just barely set flan. The haw gow (shrimp dumplings) are full of nothing but shrimp and the dumpling wrapper is thin and tender. One dish I didn’t see was lo bok gao (turnip cake). It’s the homeliest looking cake you’ve ever seen but it’s so tasty. It’s a steamed rice flour based cake filled with daikon radish, dried shrimp, bbq pork and other tasty bits. It’s cut into squares and pan-fried. Considering how crazy and hectic everyone’s life is these days, it’s a blessing to be able to get anyone out for a cup of coffee, let alone a whole meal.

Later that evening we joined family and friends to help celebrate my cousin’s birthday at Yaletown Brewery. Thank goodness I brought along those extra scarves. Happy Birthday Anita and Pat!!!!

We returned home Sunday afternoon. After a reviving cup of tea, I gussied myself up and headed over the my dear friends, Barbara and Lorne, for what turned out to be a multi-birthday party. I brought my Christmas cake to add to the already full buffet table. There was cheese, sausages and some of the finest smoked fish I’ve had in ages, all local of course. Barb had made a yummy spicy butternut squash soup that helped melt away any residual chills I had in my bones. The birthday celebration was topped off with five birthday cakes and live music. It was a lively and spirited celebration! Happy Birthday to you all!!!

Back home that night, I sat down with a glass of Cedar Creek chardonnay (a gift from my ma), my DH at my side, and wound down the weekend with some knitting. I actually managed to get some progress on my MIL’s sweater:
I love how the rich the colours are and they certainly brighten any dreary cold day. Considering how wet and windy today is, I’m hoping to get more done today. Hopefully, the universe hasn't scheduled me in for anything ;)




abby said...

Hi Jen

First off thanks for all your lovely comments. Secondly happy belated birthay to you! I miss you mucho and hope I do see you soon. We are back in town on the 22nd, perhaps we can make a date.
I want to make your parsnip cake and try some of your other recipes out. I'd also love to have you over for a meal.
Much love

Gina said...

What a wonderful impromptu weekend -- made all the more magical by the man giving away the books. Great story.