It's a clear summer evening, one of those rare calm nights where all the regular nighttime noise is silenced. It's the type of night that most definitely does not call for microwave dinners and sitcom reruns. You need to be outside, underneath the stars, gazing up at the tiny sparkling lights that make up the universe. Summer stargazing is a great way to while away the hours, and you'll enjoy it even more with a crash course in astronomy under your belt. Whether you simply want to impress your companion by identifying the Little Dipper or you're looking to start up a skywatching club, here's a few tips on how to get the most of a starry summer's night.
Read up When embarking on any new hobby, it's likely that not only have others treaded the same ground, but that one or two of them have become an expert on the subject. Benefit from their experience by browsing through the astronomy section at your local library or bookstore. Here are a few titles to look for:
• Firefly Astronomy Dictionary (Firefly Books): A comprehensive A to Z guide to astronomy themes and terms, with lots of illustrations. • National Audubon Society Pocket Guide to Constellations (National Audubon Society Pocket Guides): This compact book (it really can fit in your pocket) has enough maps and information about finding constellations by season to keep any budding astronomer busy. • Astronomy for Dummies (Stephen P. Maran): The For Dummies series offers a fun, easy to read guide to skywatching in your backyard, with plenty of star maps and charts. • The Kids Book of the Night Sky (Ann Love & Jane Drake): Yes, it's a children's book, but the colourful illustrations and simple instructions make it appealing, as does a refresher on the planets in case sixth grade science class was a long time ago.
Get the gear All you really need to observe the night sky is your own eyes, and if you aren't planning on getting fancy, don't bother with all the bells and whistles. But if you really want a closer, more focused look at the constellations and star clusters, you might consider investing in a good-quality pair of binoculars (7 x 50) or a starter telescope (60 to 90 millimetre lens with refractor scope). The binoculars will cost quite a bit less than the telescope. The further involved with astronomy you get, the more gear you'll want to purchase, but start slow and work your way up.
You might also want to pack a few essentials for your night under the stars, like a star chart -- and a flashlight to read it with -- and your own astronomer's log, to write down what you see. If the night is chilly, layer up; grab a blanket or jacket, so you can stay out longer.
Get the terminology down It doesn't hurt to use the proper language when describing the night sky, and its even better to understand what you're saying. Here are a few basic terms to get you started.
Asteroids Asteroids (also called planetoids) are smaller than a planet or a planet's moon, and believed to be fragments of larger objects that broke apart during the early beginnings of the solar system.
Constellations A grouping of stars that form a pattern in the night sky (example: The Big Dipper).
Corona The outer layer and hottest part of the sun's atmosphere.
Galaxy The giant mass of stars, interstellar gas and dust that make up the Milky Way (our galaxy) and the billions of other galaxies.
Nebula Celestial objects that have a fuzzy or cloudy appearance and are mainly made of gas and dust.
Planet A celestial body that orbits a star -- composed mainly of rock and dense gases.
Meteor Commonly known as a shooting star or falling star, it gets its light from the heat it produces as it enters the Earth's atmosphere.
Retrograde When a planet appears to “travel” backwards, or in a direction opposite its usual one.
Star Cluster A group of stars within the Milky Way, bound by gravity. (example: the Pleiades, aka Seven Sisters cluster).
Fashion stylist Skye Kelton explains how to take the "less is more" approach to your wardrobe.
If you’ve come to the point where your closets are bursting with clothes, but you still have no idea what to wear, a minimalist overhaul might be for you. Minimalism helps weed out the unwanted and unflattering items you’ve been hanging on to so you’re left with a chic, satisfying wardrobe. Plutino Group fashion stylist and minimalist expert Skye Kelton breaks down how to attain an easy, modern style that you’ll feel great in.
Shop with purpose
Before you hit “add to cart” on an online store or visit the plentiful racks at the mall, make sure you’re shopping with focus and not buying haphazardly. Your minimalist attitude should start at the point of purchase. Try to visualize your current wardrobe as you browse and mentally create outfits. “Choose fewer pieces of higher quality,” says Kelton. “If you’re building a new wardrobe, start with seasonless items. The same cream culottes can be worn in spring with sling-back pumps or flats, and in fall, with an ankle- or knee-high boot.”
Make it fit
A common quality among minimalists is fit; their entire outfit is perfectly structured, almost as if the clothing was customized. Never compromise on fit. “Tailoring can drastically elevate an outfit,” says Kelton. “Alter your trousers to hit at the perfect spot on your ankle to better complement your pump.” Think of Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) from House of Cards as minimalist inspiration for fit and tailoring.
Choose natural fibres
Because this look hinges on simplicity, any item, whether a jacket or a blouse, needs to exude excellence. “Opt for natural fibres, such as 100 percent cotton, silk, linen, wool, cashmere and leather,” says Kelton. “A simple item in these fabrics automatically feels more luxurious and intentional.” With fewer pieces in your wardrobe, you’ll be able to spend a little extra on essentials. A classic white cotton button-down is a necessity for the less-is-more approach.
In order to really perfect this style, it’s important to exercise restraint when it comes to accessorizing and wearing prints. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a good pattern, just don’t overdo it—and definitely don’t mix motifs. “Large graphic prints work better than minuscule prints, so try geometric patterns or stripes,” says Kelton. As for jewellery, she recommends wearing one standout piece, such as a cuff or a statement ring. “Experiment with proportion and form rather than pattern and colour.”
Add interest to your outfit
The last thing you want is for your outfits to appear boring. The goal should be to look sleek, which is effortless if your items have interesting elements. Kelton suggests choosing clothes with cutouts or asymmetrical lines to add modern flair to your minimalist ensemble. Another way to step it up is by layering with various textures and fabrics. “If you layer a crisp cotton shirt under a cashmere sweater under a sharp blazer, then top it off with a wool duster coat—all in white and cream—the effect is still minimal,” says Kelton. This helps create depth, and it expresses that your selections are mindful.
Assess your current wardrobe
Before you run out and purchase a whole new wardrobe, raid your closets to see what you have in your current inventory—you’ll be able to achieve your minimalist goals even faster and do a spring cleaning at the same time. You might be surprised at what you find. Remove any clothing you haven’t worn in ages or that don’t suit your needs. Consider getting some alterations on what you do have before purchasing anything new. What you thought was just a plain jacket might turn out to be a key item for your less-is-more style. Oh, and if you come across a trench, definitely hang on to it.
Also called: Malaysian grapes Size: Ranging from 24 to 36 inches (60 to 91 cm) high or larger Foliage: Broad deep green leaves with pleats Other attributes: Wonderful grapelike clusters of pink flowers throughout autumn and winter, followed by purple nonedible berries Exposure: South is best; east or west also works Water requirements: Very thirsty Rate of growth: Slow Soil type: Rich, humusy potting soil with compost included Fertilizing: Early spring to late autumn Issues: Drinking habit can be a deal-breaker if you're not home Companions: This is a stand-alone specimen, but begonias, nerve plants, orchids and prayer plants might grow in tandem
Nerve Plant (Fittonia)
Also called: Mosaic plant, rattlesnake plant, silver net plant Size: Creeps along the soil surface Foliage: Bronze with white or red veins Other attributes: Makes a good ground cover below other plants; terrarium-worthy Exposure: East, west or south; might endure north Water requirements: Keep soil moderately moist Rate of growth: Medium Soil type: Rich, humusy, peaty potting soil with compost included Fertilizing: Early spring to late autumn Propagation: Easily rooted by cuttings; runners will have roots and can be detached Issues: Will wilt, but revives readily; if you forget to water often, it might get aphids Companions: Great for underplanting beneath a low-light-loving treelike plant such as ficus, Norfolk Island pines, ponytail palms, prayer plants, scheffleras and tradescantia; good with begonias in a separate container
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
Size: Ranging from 15 to 20 inches (38 to 50 cm) high Foliage: Dark green initiating from the base Other attributes: Profuse white jack-in-the-pulpit-like flowers Exposure: East or west Water requirements: Can wilt if you forget to water Rate of growth: Medium Soil type: Humusy potting soil with compost included Fertilizing: Early spring to late autumn Issues: Can be prone to leaf diseases if stressed by continual wilting Companions: Aglaonemas, begonias, crotons, dracaenas, ferns, ficus, ivies, mosses, polka dot plants, nerve plants and peperomias
ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
Size: Ranging from 15 to 36 inches (38 to 91 cm) high Foliage: Fat, juicy stems lined with shiny, rounded leaves; very tidy Other attributes: No flowers, but bulletproof Exposure: East or west Water requirements: Keep soil lightly moist but not soggy Rate of growth: Slow Soil type: Good potting soil with compost included Fertilizing: Early spring to late autumn Issues: Slow to form a good-looking plant Companions: Ferns, ficus, mosses, prayer plants, rhipsalis, sansevierias and tradescantia
Keep those toes nice and warm this winter with this super simple knit.
Keep your tootsies toasty with a cozy pair of hand-knitted socks that are sure to be the favourite pair in your drawer. This easy (and free!) pattern is knit in Fine Tweed Yarn, which is made up of a mix of superfine alpaca, soft merino wool and viscose for warm and soft sock.
Knitting Tips: The Anthony Socks are an intermediate level pattern, and a great first foray into knitting socks. You'll have lots of practice picking up stitches, purling and knitting in the round on double pointed needles. Don't be intimidated by the heel, it isn't as hard as you think. By the time you finish the first sock, you'll be tackling the second with confidence and excitement.
Materials: - 1 skein (Women's size S, M, L), 2 skeins ( Men's S, M, L) of Americo Fine Tweed (25% Superfine alpaca / 55% Merino Wool/ 20% Viscose) 100g / 465 yards (425 m) - 2.5 mm (US 1) set of 4 or 5 Double-pointed NeedlesNOTE: if you prefer a denser fabric, you can use 2.25 mm needles. Socks will be slightly smaller, but not significantly - Yarn needle or crochet hook - Stitch holder
Note about the yarn:Americo Fine Tweed is available through Americo Original online and at select yarn stores. You can substitute for other fingering weight yarns in your stash. Remember that you will need 1 skein for women's size S, M, L and 2 skeins for men's S, M, L.
Gauge: 36 stitches and 44 rows = 4 inches (10 cm) in stocking stitch using 2.5 mm (US 1) size needles or size needed to achieve gauge.
Abbreviations and Terminology: K, k: knit P, p: purl Rib: Rib (bed), ribbing – a pattern stitch – has vertical columns of knit and purl stitches, side by side, with elastic properties. Examples: (K1, P1) aka 1 x 1 ribbing; (K2, P2) aka 2 x 2 ribbing etc. k2t (slant to R): Knit 2 together - Insert the needle into the front of the 2 knit stitches from left to right. Draw the yarn through to the front knitwise, and drop both stitches from the needle. p2t (slant to R):Purl 2 together - Insert the R needle into the front of the next 2 stitches, from R to L. Draw yarn through both stitches purlwise and drop these stitches from the needle. ssk (slant to L): Slip-Slip-Knit - Slip 2 stitches knit wise onto the R needle. Insert L needle into the front of both slipped stitches and draw yarn through to the front. Drop both stitches from the needle. DPN(s): double pointed needle(s) - A needle with points at both ends; used in sets of used singly or in sets or 4 or 5, for knitting in the round; also used for working narrow pieces of knitting, or for cable patterns Grafting: Hold the needles parallel with the purl sides facing each other and the needle tips pointing in the same direction. Thread a tapestry needle with a tail of yarn long enough to get across the entire row of stitches that are being grafted. Before you begin grafting you need to do two actions to set up for the technique one time only. First: Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the needle closest to you as if to purl it and pull the yarn through leaving the stitch on the needle. Second: Insert the needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit the stitch. Leave the stitch on the needle and pull your yarn through. Now you are ready to follow the 4-step technique called grafting: Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the front needle knitwise, and slip the stitch off the needle. Step 2: Insert the needle into the next stitch on the front needle purlwise and leave it on the needle. Pull the length of yarn through gently. Step 3: Insert needle into the first stitch on the back needle purlwise, and slip it off the end of the needle. Step 4: Insert the tapestry needle into the next stitch on the back needle knitwise and leave it on the needle. Pull the length of yarn through gently. Repeat these four steps for a few inches / cm. End at the end of your steps so you know where to start up again. Use a crochet hook to adjust the tension of the yarn you have been weaving through the stitches to match your gauge. Continue to end. Tip: I find an easy way to remember what I am doing after the initial set up row is to say over and over: Knit 1 slip it off, purl 1 leave it on, purl 1-slip it off, knit 1 leave it on. Eventually you just remember what you are doing.
Finished Foot Circumference: Woman's S, Woman's M, Women's L, Man's S, Man's M, Man's L 7.5 8* 8.5 9 9.5 10 inches 19 20.5 21.5 23 24 25.5 cm
Instructions: Leg: Using a 2.5 mm (US 1) size needles, cast on 68(72, 76, 80, 84, 88). For a stretchy cast on, we used the Twisted German Cast on for our sample. Instructions for it can be found here. Alternatively, you can use a long tail cast on using a needle one size larger for the cast on only. Arrange stitches as evenly as possible on 3 DPN's. Place marker and join, being careful not to twist the stitches.
Work k2, p2 ribbing until piece measures 3 inches (7.5 cm). Now work in stocking stitch, until piece measures 8 inches (20.5 cm), or desired length, from the beginning.
Heel: Knit across 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) stitches. Turn work, and purl across 34(36, 38, 40, 42, 44) stitches. These are the heel stitches.
Place the remaining 34(36, 38, 40, 42, 44) stitches on a spare needle or stitch holder to be worked later (called Instep stitches ).
Heel Flap (using the Eye of Partridge stitch pattern) Work back and forth on the heel stitches as follows: Row1: (RS) *Slip 1 purlwise with yarn in back (wyib), k1: rep from *. Row 2:(WS) Slip 1 purlwise with yarn in front (wyif), purl to end. Rep Rows 1 and 2 until the following number of rows have been worked 34(36, 38, 40, 42, 44)
There will be 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) chain selvedge stitches on both edges of your work.
Turn Heel: Row 1 (RS): Knit across, 19(20, 21, 22, 23, 24) stitches, ssk, k1, turn work. Row 2 (WS): Slip 1 purlwise, purl 5, p2t, p1, turn. Row 3 (RS): Slip 1 purlwise, knit to 1 stitch before gap, ssk (1 stitch from each side of gap), k1, turn. Row 4(WS): Slip 1 purlwise, purl to 1 stitch before gap, p2tog (1 stitch from each side of gap), p1, turn.
Repeat Rows 3 and 4 until all heel stitches have been worked, ending with a WS row.
There will remain 20(20, 22, 22, 24, 24) stitches.
Heel Gusset: Knit across all heel stitches and, with same dpn (needle 1), pick up and knit: 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) stitches, along the selvedge edge of heel flap: with another dpn, (needle 2) work across the held instep stitches; with another dpn (needle 3), pick up and knit: 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) stitches along the other side of the heel, and knit across half of the heel stitches. Total stitches: 88(92, 98, 102, 108, 112) stitches.
The round now begins at the Centre Back Heel:
Round 1: Knit to the last 3 stitches on needle 1, K2tog, k1; knit across all instep stitches on needle 2; at beginning of needle 3, k1, ssk, knit to end - 2 gusset stitches have been decreased.
Round 2: Knit.
Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until there remain: 68(72, 76, 80, 84, 88) stitches.
Foot: Work even in stocking stitch until piece measures from the back of heel: 6.5(7.5, 8, 8, 8.5, 9) inches [ 16.5, (19, 20.5, 20.5, 21.5, 23) cm ]OR about 1.75(2, 2, 2.25, 2.25, 2.5) inches [4.5(5, 5, 5.5, 5,5) cm ] less than desired total foot length.
Toe: Round 1: Needle 1- knit to last 3 stitches, k2t, k1; Needle 2- k1, ssk, knit to last 3 stitches, k2t, k1; Needle 3- k1, ssk, knit to end (4 toe stitches decreased). Round 2: Knit.
Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until there remain: 32(36, 40, 40, 44, 44) stitches.
Repeat Round 1 only until there remain 12 stitches for all sizes.
Knit the stitches from Needle 1 onto Needle 3. There will now be 6 stitches on each of the two needles. Cut yarn leaving an 18 inch (46cm) tail. Graft the two sides of the toe together.
Finishing: Sew in all loose ends.
Americo Original is a Canadian yarn company and online knitting shop with its own line of quality yarns, knitwear patterns and accessories. Americo’s yarns are made exclusively in the Andean highlands of South America, using only natural fibres, including luxurious wool, llama, alpaca, cotton, linen, silk and cashmere. Americo and its in-house design lab are based in Toronto, offering international shipping from its online store: americo.ca/shop.
Forget oversize luggage—pack smart with our space-saving tips for your next vacation.
You’ve been there before: You squeeze four pairs of shoes, nine bottoms and nearly every top in your wardrobe into a suitcase. Then, during your week-long beach vacation, you end up wearing only a third of what you packed. And, of course, there’s your beauty arsenal of toners, lotions and special shampoo. Needless to say, after all that heavy packing, lugging around a massive suitcase through the sand isn’t all that relaxing.
So we turned to Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton, cofounders of WHOA Travel, a boutique travel firm that plans adventures for women (think hiking Kilimanjaro or kayaking in Costa Rica). Read on for their top tips on packing lightly and smartly for your next beach holiday.
Beauty picks: Only the essentials
To pack your beauty must-haves, head to your local drugstore and purchase a traveller’s set of mini squeeze bottles for transporting moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner and cleanser. It’s a much more compact alternative to packing full-size products.
Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and an after-sun treatment. “If your skin is sensitive and you don’t know how it’s going to react to a new sunscreen, bring your own,” says Fleece. “And finding aloe vera is not always the easiest thing.” Another beauty essential for travel is baby powder. It’s perfect for degreasing hair and removing sand that’s stuck to your body. Just sprinkle the baby powder onto your legs and feet, and the sand will come right off.
Pack, then edit
When it comes to clothing and shoes, stick to multipurpose items and eliminate duplicates. You’ll never need two pairs of bright-colour shorts or two wrap dresses. Thornton recommends having a pair of flat sandals that swing two ways: comfortable enough for walking around town and dressy enough for dinner and dancing. Once you make your selections, always reconsider each item that you’ve packed. “I pack everything I think I need, leave it for a few hours, then come back to it, and suddenly I realize what I don’t need,” says Thornton.
Keeping the contents of your luggage organized will help you quickly find what you need. Resealable produce or freezer bags are your best bet for keeping smaller items, such as socks, underwear and bathing suits, at the ready; your clothes are easier to find when they’re kept together, and see-through plastic will allow you to identify them quickly. Or you can invest in a mesh garment bag, Thornton and Fleece’s must-have travel essential. “You can stuff them with scarves, T-shirts and other clothing. And pushing all of the air out saves a lot of space,” explains Thornton. If you decide to bring a few small accessories with you, empty painkiller bottles are a great place to store rings and earrings. Meanwhile, dainty bracelets and necklaces can be slipped into straws and taped at each end to prevent them from knotting.
Keep electronics to a minimum
All-in-one entertainment is another way you can keep your luggage light. Instead of packing books, download them onto your tablet. “It’s all about knowing what I’m going to need,” says Thornton. “I leave my laptop at home and get everything I need on my phone.”
Pick a souvenir you’ll wear while you’re there
Leave a little space in your luggage for souvenirs you pick up upon arrival, and opt to purchase goods that you can wear or use during the course of your trip. Fleece’s go-to souvenir is the sarong. “You can use it to lie on the beach, to wear as a wrap when you grab a cocktail from inside the hotel and in evening when the sun goes down,” she says.
Other souvenirs to consider buying when you arrive at your destination: a wide-brimmed hat, a bathing suit and jewellery. “People always comment on the stuff we buy on vacation,” says Fleece, who has a collection of accessories from the beaches of Rio and the Bahamas.
Sample packing list
Here’s our list of beach-vacation essentials (not including the obvious toiletries, underwear, cellphone and pajamas). Use it as a guide when packing for your next exotic getaway.
-One cotton T-shirt
-Two sleeveless tops (one casual, one dressy)
-One pair of trousers
-One pair of shorts
-One maxi skirt
-Two breezy dresses
-One long-sleeved shirt or blouse
-One cardigan or sweater (for cooler evenings)
-Two bathing suits
-One pair of flip-flops or pool shoes
-One pair of day-to-night sandals
-One pair of hiking boots, water shoes or sneakers, depending on what adventures your vacation entails
-One pair of sunglasses
-One beach bag