Thursday, December 31, 2009

With Glowing Hearts

The Olympic Torch Relay rolled into North Bay last night, having made its way through the tiny village that is my hometown the day before. I went on the advice of one of my uncles. He is sarcastic and cynical, almost always dressed in black, and refuses to be photographed. He and my aunt once owned cats named Topper and Strummer after members of the Clash. So I figured that if he, of all people, was recommending the torch run as something to be seen, then it was worth seeing.

It was pretty commercialized, since Coca-Cola is a sponsor, but there was still lots of neat stuff--the live performances of musicians and acrobats, as well as several community groups. There were even fireworks at the end. My feet were pretty cold by the time that it was over, but that's what I get for wearing running shoes instead of proper boots.

I bought a new winter coat yesterday, after I finally admitted that the boiled wool peacoats that I adore (in a very pretentious, hipster way) are simply not warm enough to cut it in a northern Ontario winter. The coat I picked up is a skiing/snowboarding coat, and it attracted me initially because it has birds on it. (I am simple like that.) It also has a bajillion pockets (and armpit zippers for those days when I am skiing hard) and places to keep my electronic equipment. (Does anyone remember when coats were just coats? And your lift ticket went on the front zipper and it would fly up in your face for the whole night and you liked it? Those were simpler times, Gentle Reader.)

The best part is that it was a $200 coat on sale for $50. I do love a good bargain.

It's New Year's Eve, and I am spending it with the old roommates. I hope that it will be a good night. I really dislike New Year's - to me, it is the prom night of holidays: much ado about nothing, a night where anything could happen but nothing ever does.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Eve Eve

I am not grading exams right now. I should be, but I am not, because it manages to be both tedious and painful and I have developed seasonal ADD that prevents me from focusing my eyes on a single object for longer than twenty seconds.

It's totally a real medical condition, you guys. For real.

The Christmas shopping is all done, although I still have a few gifts to make, and mostly everything is wrapped and sitting in a laundry basket at the door, waiting to be taken away.

It's a bit too early to think about New Year's Resolutions, but I do want to think about the things I want to knit next year. So far, tentative knitting goals are include: 1) knitting ten sweaters (Rogue, Featherweight Cardigan, Coraline, Wrenna, St. James, Icelandic Star are all on the list so far--the really sick part is that I can knit all of these out of stash yarn). 2) My wedding shawl. 3) At least one project per month from my Three Irish Girls stash. 4) Socks. I love wearing handmade socks. I just don't particularly want to make them.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Take A Good Look At My Face

The school term finally ended on Wednesday, and I am still marking furiously to catch up to my students, who expect to get their essays back on Monday. They will then write the exam on Tuesday (at night!) and I will mark furiously to get it done before Christmas. Good thing I did not sign myself up for lots of Christmas knitting this year.

I did finish the one project I was really keen on: a Swallowtail Shawl for my grandmother. My grandfather has been very sick lately (and has just been diagnosed with a chronic lung condition) and my grandmother has been having a hard time, since she is his primary caretaker. She used to make all sorts of things: she knit, crocheted, sewed, smocked, etc. until her arthritis became too painful for her to continue. Her grandchildren definitely benefitted from all of this creativity, so I wanted to make her something to show her that I was thinking of he.

yarn 160

I also published my first pattern this week: The Celtic Moonrise Mittens are available for free on Ravelry, and I've already got an idea in mind for the next pattern, which will also be mittens. I had a lovely custom dyed merino-silk blend arrive in the mail this week that will be perfect for it.

Sometimes the knitting life is so much better than the real life. Although, in real life, I need to sing the praises of Vista Print. We ordered Save the Date announcements for the wedding on Monday night, and they were printed and at our house by noon on Thursday. The quality is really nice, and the prices were very reasonable. I have a calendar coming in the next few days, and I hope that the quality is as good.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Joys of Being A Pet Owner

We've had Bad Cat for approximately 18 months now, and for the most part, he has been a delight, and our lives have been all the richer for his presence in our house. (Exceptions to this statement include his need to have someone awake with him when he's awake, his need to eat--or try to eat--everything, his cries of distress to arouse sympathy from the neighbours, his...odorous...contributions to the bathroom, some occasional scratching, and the time he ate a plant and vomited bright green on our duvet.)

This holiday season, Cat has decided to contribute to the family by helping with the decorations. Mat and I set up our tree yesterday, but didn't have a chance to start decorating it. The knitting guild is having a sale/trade table at our holiday party in a couple of weeks, and while I was evaluating what parts of the stash I could be persuaded to part with, I found the Dread Sock. As Bad Cat has recently expressed considerable enjoyment in the unravelling of half-knit socks, I broke the yarn and passed it on to him.

Mat worked a night shift last night, and I went out for a few hours to attend a silent auction in benefit of the local AIDS Committee (alas, I did not win anything). When I got home, I saw this:

On closer inspection, I could see this:

Needless to say, Bad Cat is very pleased with himself:

He's lucky he's cute.

Friday, November 20, 2009

And your bird can sing

I have spent the last hour playing The Beatles Rock Band and I have sung myself hoarse. It's marvellous! Sometimes I like to imagine a world where karaoke is made for people like me: slightly tone deaf, but with a love of music that makes up for. Someone who isn't interested in singing Top 40 hits. I want Crowded House Rock Band and Elliott Smith SingStar. I want to sing songs that actually mean something.

I miss the Albion Hotel in Guelph. I miss the jukebox, and the Strongbow (one of my least favourite things about this town is the total lack of cider on tap anywhere). I miss eating nachos and putting ten dollars of quarters in the jukebox and pissing other people off because the next ninety minutes of music were all mine and I was going to be drunk and enjoy every word out of that beautiful lighted box.

Today was a good day at the end of a long week. Mat went hunting for deer, which left me alone with a queen sized bed. There is something to be said for having a whole bed to yourself. He came back last night, as the hunting party reached their quota quite early in the week (and it was raining).

The winter Interweave came today, along with my skein of Dye For Glory yarn: Three Irish Girls' Father Time. It's beautiful and manly. I got it on Finley Fingering, which I'm quickly realizing is one of my favourite sock yarn bases. It's very squooshy.
yarn 126

I also grabbed a few snaps of some finished projects. First is Caitlin's birthday rpesent, the ubiquitous February Lady Sweater:

yarn 130

I also finished the Ripley hat from Whimsical Little Knits 2:

yarn 137copy

And I have cast on a Swallowtail Shawl as a gift for my gramma.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In which I participate in gratuitous acts of commerce

Ian and I took a trip over to Sudbury today to visit our favourite warehouse super store, Costco, and to take in the other shops. It was a productive, if funny, shopping day. I was quite excited to get a Friends and Family coupon for Old Navy worth 30% off the prices, and I picked up some sweaters and long sleeve Ts. Ian used it to buy baby clothes. It was quite touching to see him pick out the little pink dresses and sweaters. My favourite was the hooded fleece sleeper--it has ears on the hood.

I also managed to snag a new Roots hoodie from their new "We're Not the Official Clothiers of the Canadian Olympic Team Anymore, So We'll Just Happen to Come Out With a Canada-themed Line Right Before the Olympics" line. It has thumb holes in the cuffs, which I love. Hurray for warm hands.

Once we got home, I took a quick trip downtown to the new yarn store. It's been open for a few months now, and I haven't bought much there. The selection is great; I've just been broke/living under the delusion of 'stashbusting'. I needed to pick something up for a swap I'm doing, and this store carries Misty Haven Alpacas' yarns. (As my swap partner lives in the Netherlands, I thought it would be great to send her some local yarn.)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

holding pattern

Gentle reader, the last few weeks have kicked my ass.

I managed to pick up the hinny, as we've taken to calling H1N1, somewhere, and while I have been better in every way that counts for about a week now, I'm still pretty tired and prone to taking naps whenever I can get away with it. The hinny was unpleasant: I was so miserable I didn't even want to knit. The worst part was the fever and chills. At one point, I was dressed in fleece pyjamas, wearing a housecoat, wrapped in a down-filled duvet, and wrapped in another blanket, and I still couldn't get warm.

Thankfully that is all in the past.

We had a beautiful day here today. It was sunny, and almost warm (about 11 Celsius); I raked some leaves in our backyard. The backyard is much bigger than I remember it being. (Our lot is 34'x125', so I know how big it is, but sometimes I forget what that actually means.) I really hope that next summer I can get my act together to give the backyard the TLC it needs, as it could be quite beautiful. Perhaps if it doesn't rain every other day next year.

I cast on my first knit sock in almost six months last week; I'm finding that my store bought socks are not cutting it in terms of keeping my feet warm. And it's not like I have a shortage of sock yarn...I was almost half finished my sock when I finally admitted that it was too small, and tore it out. Naturally, the excitement of yarn being frogged was too much for the cat to handle, and he grabbed the sock in his mouth and ran off with it. He managed to unravel it for me all around the kitchen and living room. He was having so much fun that I couldn't quite bring myself to stop him.

Now that I'm back in the land of the living, things should be more interesting around here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

drowning not waving

The first big markathon of the year has been underway for about two weeks now, and I am so close to being done I can taste it: I only have about 23 papers left to grade out of 173. I am also so close to being done that I am almost totally braindead. I have literally marked my way through three pencils. It's a wonder I can stand up right.

I've had almost no time for non-marking related activities, but I did manage to sneak down to Toronto to attend a baby shower for my cousin (who is first in our family to procreate) and to visit The Brides Project to try on wedding dresses. I had high hopes for The Brides Project (they sell donated dresses and then donate the proceeds to camps for children with cancer) but there really wasn't anything that tickled my fancy. Most of the dresses were too elaborate for my tastes. I tried on an Alfred Sung dress that was totally ridiculous: heavy, heavy satin, huge skirts, huge train, a sheer, beaded halter neck over a satin sweetheart neckline. It looked dreadful on me, but would have been fabulous on someone with the personality to carry it off.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Far from the shores of England

Yesterday was one of the best days I've had in a very, very long time. It's Fall Fair weekend here in the village, which means it's a time of parades and tractors and cows and oddly shaped vegetables. My father's Masonic Lodge was sponsoring a child identification program, and he had asked all of the sisters to volunteer for a few hours. It wound up being a lot more interesting and fun than I had thought.

When I was a child, child identification programs usually consisted of inky fingerprints on an index card. (Since our father was a police officer, all of the sisters have amazing fingerprinting technique--we were taught how to roll them out from a young age.) Child identification has changed pretty substantially in the 20 years since I was a child. The packages we put together yesterday consisted of digitally scanned fingerprints, digital photos, a short video clip of the child answering questions, a dental impression, and a DNA swab (along with their parents' information). The Masons were all quite impressed with our computer skills. It's good to know that when they aren't keeping the electric car down, they're actually doing good in their communities.

My dad took us (sisters + cousin) out for dinner to thank us for volunteering, and we went to the Wild Wing the next town over. I had never been to a Wild Wing before, and it was fantastic. I'm a fairly unadventurous sort, so I tried the medium wings and the Desperado wings (medium + maple). Youngest sister had something a dill sauce on top, which I was quite happy to skip. The wings were so good--just at the upper edge of what I can stand to eat, heatwise, and sharp and vinegary in taste. There was also ample celery, carrots, and blue cheese dip.

Youngest sister also managed to throw a bone right into my beer glass, because she is a jerk.

We had two pitchers of beer between the five of us (except me, who was driving and had her single glass of beer destroyed by an errant chicken wing), and my dad attempted to pass on the manly skill of how to pour a beer properly. This was less successful the more everyone drank, and we wound up telling stories of SOME of the stupid things that we had done as teenagers while drinking underage. Apparently, according to my dad, we were never quite as subtle about it as we wanted to think we were.

Mum comes home from Scotland today!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Alpacas Part II

Sadly there are no alpacas in this post, so if you only like things that are actually about alpacas, feel free to skip this one.

Remember that time I told you the story about the alpacas? Remember how, in the epilogue, I talked about my parents and their trip through Alberta's Badlands?

Well, I have something to show you.

These horses are just hanging out, doing horsey things.

These horses have just been yelled at: "Alpaca alpaca alpaca!"

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What do you mean, it's only Wednesday?

It's been a busy week here in North Bay Rock City. The T-1 year countdown to the wedding is on as of last Friday, my special snowflakes handed in their first essay assignments to me, and it may (or may not) have snowed at some point in the last seven days. I did not personally witness any of this alleged snowing, so I am opting to believe that it didn't actually happen.

I did, however, break down and turn on the furnace a few days ago when I got home and the thermostat told me it was 14 degrees in the house. Brrr!

I also had an appointment with a dermatologist on Monday. My body is covered in moles--I easily have between 200-300 of them. (According to the US Cancer Institute, most people have between 10-40 moles.) I also fall into just about every category of risk for melanoma: fair skin and light hair, freckles, UV exposure and sunburns, having more than 50 moles, and having many dysplastic moles.

There's one mole on my arm that the doctor described as being "just wrong", so it's going to be biopsied in December, and in the meantime I am not to ever sunbathe again, ever, and to wear long sleeves and a hat when in the sun. I also get to check myself over every month to make sure that nothing's changed mole-wise.

Then today Mat was playing with the cat and asked, "Is it the cat's ear bleeding?" It wasn't, but there was a large red bump inside his ear, and another one where his eyebrow would be (if he was human. Do cats have eyebrows?) Thankfully, the vet was able to see us today, and my poor kitty has neurogenic dermatitis--basically, he's stressed out and it's manifesting itself in these sores on his skin. He was given a cortisone injection and is now on the road to recovery, so hopefully he'll be all better soon.

We also got him on a scale while we were there, and my wee beastie weighs a not-so-wee 16 lbs., 8 oz.

A sweater for Caitlin is on my needles currently. It's another February Lady, but I've done the yoke in Noro Yuzen (a wool/silk/mohair variegated) and the lace part in Berroco Inca Gold (a silk-merino cable spun). The Inca Gold is heavenly to knit with. The finished sweater will be unique, but hopefully in a way that suits Cait. (And hopefully it will be finished in time for her birthday next month.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cool for Cats

The lovely Tara came up to visit for the weekend, and we had a smashing time. We visited the farmer's market, the library's annual booksale, the yarn store, the local eco-boutique, and had lunch at a pub. (The pub now offers sweet potato fries as an option. God save me from sweet potato fries, particularly if they are served with chipotle mayo. YUM.)

We also got to play with a spinning wheel. Tara did really well for her first effort; I started my second attempt at spinning this morning with the alpaca/merino/silk roving I bought at the alpaca farm. It turned out gorgeous--I can't believe how much better my spinning was this time than the first time I tried. The cat was also quite excited, and tried his best to help.

The other big news this weekend was that I finished my Rosamund's Cardigan. I purchased the buttons from The Hibou Boutique. They are made out of local oak limbs by the people at the Pie Bird Bed and Breakfast, and I love that the holes are drilled in a star shape.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The truth about alpacas

Intrepid, semi-anonymous reader R. asks, "What is it with the sisters Don and alpaca farms? Mystical kinship, like daemons in His Dark Materials perhaps?"

Well, R., let me tell you a story.

I have liked alpacas since I first started knitting. I think that they are really cute, which I will demonstrate with some photos of the last time we visited the alpacas:

alpaca 029

alpaca 025

I also really like their fibre, which is very different from sheep's wool. It's very soft, and super warm. It also had no lanolin (the heavy, oily substance that sheep naturally produce that softens their wool and is sometimes used in cosmetic products to soften your skin).

The family's obsession with alpacas actually dates back to the summer of 2007. That summer, my parents spent three months house and cat sitting on a tiny island off the coast of British Columbia.

(There were also some deer involved.)


Youngest sister and I were able to go out to visit them for three weeks at the end of the summer, and had a blast touring around the wee island, as well as visiting Vancouver Island. When we went off Island, we would take a ferry across, so any trips off really needed to be quite substantial. One day, we went driving to visit Coombs, BC, where there are goats on the roof, and my dad promised that each of us could choose one place to stop, with no questions asked and no protests from other passengers in the car.

One of the first places we drove past was an alpaca farm. I put in my request for a stop as soon as I saw it, but it was close to lunchtime and everyone wanted to eat, so I was told we could visit it on the way back. Youngest sister had never seen alpacas before, so she was quite excited; we could see about twenty of them grazing in the fields.

Coombs wound up being such a good time that we spent the whole day there, and by the time we were making our way back to the ferry dock, the alpaca farm was closed for the day. As we drove past, Dad slowed down so that we could have a good look at the alpacas.

"I want them to look at me," said youngest sister.

"You have to call the alpacas," said my dad. "If you yell, 'alpaca alpaca alpaca' really loud at them, they will look at you."

"Really?" said youngest guilelessly. She rolled down her window, stuck her head out, and yelled, "Alpaca alpaca alpaca!" very quickly.

Sure enough, all of the alpacas turned to look at her. It was quite funny. Perhaps you had to be there.

(A month later, when my parents were driving back the 4700 km. across Canada, they stopped in Drumheller, AB, to visit the dinosaurs. They drove past a field where some horses were grazing. My dad pulled over the van, snapped a picture of the horses, and then yelled "Alpaca alpaca alpaca!" and took another picture of the horses. In the second picture, the horses are all looking at the camera. My dad swears this is true.)

And that is the story of why the sisters Don are obsessed with alpacas--and that doesn't even get into the slew of awesome alpaca related puns that can be made.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Words, Stories, Ideas

The first week back went decently well. My grammar teaching skills are not great, but things got better as the week went on. It will be an exhausting semester, and I'm going to have try to extra hard to keep myself healthy. I'm pretty sure that I will get either H1N1 (Knit One Purl One, as my mom keeps calling it) or the regular flu this year if I let myself get run down. This is one of the "perks" of working with a university-age population: once it hits, it will hit our population hard.

Tomorrow, I get to make a trip out to the alpaca farm with Caitlin. I am really excited about this because I am going to buy the yarn to make my wedding shawl. I don't have a pattern picked out yet (although I do have a few in mind, and I have purchased Knitted Lace of Estonia). I'm also excited to see the alpacas, of course.

In one of my classes this week, we talked about how English majors are interested primarily in three things: words, stories, and ideas. I think that knowing which of these is most important to you says a lot about the type of person you are (literature student or otherwise). The importance of each has changed for me over the years. Right now, I would say that story holds the most importance: I've been watching a lot of TV lately, and I feel that TV has really come into its own as a medium of storytelling in the last eight or nine years. Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, LOST are only a few examples of shows that demonstrate the possibilities of storytelling.

I also like stories and storytelling because they are a part of my knitting. I love knowing where my yarn comes from, and how it has made its way to me. Part of my affectio for Three Irish Girls (aside from Sharon's obvious talent--she did win 4 of the 8 Dye for Glory categories she entered) comes from her use of Celtic names for her colourways, and also the fact that my sisters and I are three Scottish girls. I love that knitting connects me to my family's stories, too: both of my grandmothers were knitters, as are my mother and one of my sisters. It also connects me to my historic site, to the history of Huronia and to my time as an interpreter there. I love the ways that patterns can form parts of stories, whether in their names or in their content.

This is why I want to buy the yarn for my wedding shawl from Misty Haven Alpacas. I'm not getting married in North Bay, but this city is a big piece of my life, of my story, and including a local yarn in my wedding day will be a nice tribute to that.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

tell me why I don't like Mondays

The year begins for real tomorrow morning, at 8:30 a.m. sharpish. I am nervous but also not, which is about par for the course for me. I will have to brave the roundabout, possibly with actual people in it, which is possibly scarier than other things.

The gross thing about Mondays this year is that I have class from 8:30 to 5:30. There are some breaks in between, but it's not enough time to really do anything other than sit in my office and knit. (And mark, presumably, someday when assignments have been handed in.) Tomorrow doesn't have marking but it does have a department meeting. Our department is up for review again this year, so we'll be learning about that and the various other things that will happen this year, like library funding. Yay.

I am almost done the raglan increases upto the arms on my Rosamund's Cardigan. Once that's done it's into the more boring parts of the cardigan. The cables do keep it interesting, but other than that, it will be a good, simple knit, perfect for the office.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Return to Oz

I finished my top secret knitting project and sent it away. Once I'm allowed to talk about it, I can tell you about the new techniques that I learned and about my thoughts on the pattern, but for the meantime, I'll tell you simply that I got a great fit out of it and that I can't wait to have it back so that I can wear it.

My next project is Rosamund's Cardigan. There's lots of new techniques in this project, too, like reversible cables, and cabling without a cable needle. I actually much prefer cabling with a needle, and in fact had scripted a mini-rant in my head about how I don't understand why people think cabling with a needle is so hard. Then I went to a union meeting and forgot my cable needle, so I had to do a couple of rows without one. It wasn't quite as traumatic as I'd figured it would be, but I still like using the needle better. I'm hoping that I can finish up to the sleeves by tomorrow.

School started again year. I don't know who decided a Thursday start was a wise idea, but it's the kind of decision that makes it quite obvious that the people making the decisions are not the people who are teaching classes. I had one class today, and had to cancel my seminar sections for today and tomorrow, so the work will start in earnest on Monday. I have almost 170 students this year across 9 seminar sections, so it is going to be a rough working slog--the turnarounds for grading are supposed to be three weeks or less, and I fear that those will be three very unpleasant weeks.

I find myself feeling very anxious tonight, and I'm not even entirely sure why I am. Perhaps because the course I'm teaching is an entirely new course, and one focused on writing skills in general and academic writing in particular. I know how to write (and like to think that I wrote well as an academic) but I don't know that I know how to teach someone how to write, per se. There's also the part where my students are going to hate it...

One of my colleagues is teaching a course on online identities. I think that I will have to ask to sit in on that.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Joss is...

Girl Tuesday and I have spent the summer knitting while watching our way through Firefly, and we capped that off tonight by watching both Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog and Serenity.

The first time I saw Serenity, I hadn't watched the show at all, and came into it as one of those things that everybody kept raving about and that I was supposed to like. Every once in a while, though, there is a reason why you're supposed to like those things. I remember really enjoying Serenity when I saw it, and once I watched Firefly, I greatly enjoyed it. Seeing the movie now is such a different experience: I know the characters so much better, and that knowing makes the movie more uneven, somehow. It just wasn't as good as I remembered it being.

And also, Book dies, and that ticks me off.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Mat was supposed to have gone fishing in Quebec with his father this past weekend, but he couldn't get four days in a row off to make the trip. He did get Monday and Tuesday off, so we decided to head south to visit our parents and work on some of the details for our wedding.

All in all, it was a good trip home (if short). We got to spend time with our families, and made good progress on the wedding front. The highlight of the trip, for me, was visiting Burnetts and Struth, which is a company in Barrie that makes kilts and sells various other bits of Scottish-ness. We wanted to go with my dad to price out kilts for the wedding, and rentals for the groomsmen. My father had never been before, and I think he was very surprised at all of the neat things that they have for sale. (Actually, I'm quite sure of that; he has made a Christmas list of all the things that he would like.)

Once the saleslady ascertained that we were looking to order kilts in the Modern Dress Gordon tartan, she found a kilt on the rack to show us what the construction looked like. It was too small for my dad, but Mat thought it might fit him. The saleslady agreed once she'd measured him, and sent him into the fitting room to try it on. When he came out, she adjusted it for him, and it was a perfect fit.

For their custom kilts, you have three options: machine sewn, machine and handsewn, and completely handsewn, with price increasing according to the amount of handsewing. The kilt that Mat tried on was completely handsewn, which should have priced it at about $800. This one was on sale for $450. Apparently, when you're having a kilt made, if your body shape changes substantially, it is easier to start over than it is to alter an existing kilt. When this happens, they start over and then sell the original kilt at a discounted price. (The measurements for the kilt are more elaborate than just a waist measurement, too--there are knees and height/weight involved. Which is why they are usually custom and not off the rack.)

So what, then, are the odds that on a day where we've taken a spontaneous trip to Barrie, that there would be a handsewn kilt, made to my fiance's exact measurements, in my family's tartan, waiting for us at nearly half the actual cost?

We've bought our first thing for the wedding. Somehow that makes it seem more real.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

working for the weekend

I've been taping both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager on the PVR for the last several months, and the series of TNG went full circle last week. Unfortunately, somehow the PVR managed to tape only Part I of the finale. Colour me disappointed.

The clock is ticking on my return to work. We have a late start this year because of where our Labour Day falls, and things don't start in earnest until the 14th of September, so I have been avoiding accepting that my life will be very, very busy for the next few months. The course I usually teach has been split from a full year course to two half year courses, which dictates a much more frenetic pace to the semester. I also have approximately 165 students. It's going to be a lot of marking this year, that's for sure.

I'm helping an old roommate move in with his fiance today, and a friend from teacher's college is swinging by tonight. It is a cold, wet, and potentially miserable day here. If it weren't raining, I'd take my new February Lady out for its inaugral wearing. I made an Urchin beret yesterday out of a Fleece Artist kit I had kicking around in my stash. I held a strand of a thick and thin yarn with a mohair-wool-silk boucle, and it looks gorgeous. Exactly what I needed for my new grey wool coat. I have plans for another Urchin in a few weeks. I love patterns that knit up in a day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cat Beast

I have determined that the reason why I am so fond of How I Met Your Mother is that it is produced by the writers/producers of my beloved Clone High. I'm also into the third season of Buffy, which is a much better show than previously expected, although it does leave me feeling a little like Joss Whedon just keeps writing the same show again, pitting the characters in different settings. The parallels to Firefly are fun, but disappointing.

Basically, I want to be watching Battlestar Galactica again for the first time, and am always going to be disappointed that I'm not.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

world turning

Everything is a whirlwind. This weekend featured a quick trip to visit my parents, who had purchased concert tickets for the whole family to go see Great Big Sea down in Toronto. It's kind of nice to go to shows with my dad, who is of an age now where he doesn't see the point in having crappy seats, and is always willing to pay for better seats. The last time we saw Great Big Sea, back in November, we had front row seats (due to some Ticketbastard stalking on Dad's part). The seats weren't that good this time, but it was a good show.

I also got to do some shopping with my mum, including a trip to the yarn store in Barrie to check out their pre-fall inventory sale. The next thing I knew, I had eight balls of Sublime Organic Merino DK (how could I say no to that, at $2/ball?) and four skeins of Berroco's Peruvia Quick ($5/hank). The Merino DK honestly feels closer to a worsted than a DK to me, so I'm anxious to see how it knits up.

I was also able to pick up some new clothes for work. I've lost about 25 lbs. in the last nine months, and none of my old clothes fit properly anymore. It will take a while to build up a wardrobe that actually fits the way it's supposed to, but I've at least made a dent in it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

maybe I'm amazed

I had an entire post written about the wedding I attended this weekend, but Blogger managed to both eat the post AND the draft. Bollocks.

Thus, I will leave you with this, since I can't recreated the entire thing:

jess and aaron 033

aaron + jess // a short film about us from stillmotion on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In Conversation

[While watching So You THink You Can Dance Canada, we see a dancer use a very poor cover of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes"]

Me: You know, I haven't entirely given up on "In Your Eyes" as a wedding song.

Fiance: Really?

Me: Yeah. It's the whole "In your eyes/ I see the doorway to a thousand churchs" line. It's gorgeous.

Fiance: I think we're avoiding the real issue here.

Me: We are?

Fiance: Yes. Why don't we just accept the obvious?

Me: The obvious?

Fiance: Our wedding song is Distant Sun.

Me: It is? It is. It is! How did I not know this?

Fiance: You're dumb. I think we'd talked about a few months ago but decided against it for some reason.

Me: I don't remember what those reasons were, so obviously they weren't very good reasons.

Fiance: Agreed.

Me: Distant Sun is pretty much my favourite song ever.

Fiance: I know.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland

Scotland has been on my mind these last few days. I'm not really sure why this has come up now, exactly, although we are coming up on the sixth anniversary of the last time that I went.

I want to go back so bad I can almost taste it. I want to revisit many of the things that I did see, and I want to bring Mat with me so that I can show him these things and these places, so that he can understand where my family comes from. His family is French-Canadian (although franco-ontarienne and not quebecoise) and has been in Canada for many generations--so many so that no one really knows (or cares) how long. My dad, along with his parents and his sister, came to Ontario in the late 1950s; they travelled around a fair bit because my grandfather was an electrician for the Post Office (I think--I will have to double check that with my dad) but our family is from Dunfermline, in Fife initially. My great-great grandfather on my mother's side was from Glasgow (the Gallowgate to be precise) and came to Canada as a Barnardo Boy--orphans that were rounded up and farmed out to the colonies as domestic labour. My g-g grandfather was treated well by the family that got him, from what we can tell, which was not typical for many of these children.

I also want to see the things that I didn't see: Campbelton, in the south, where my dad was born; the pub my dad's grandfather owned; the Isle of Skye; the north; more of Charles Rennie MacIntosh's work; woolen mills.

My parents went last summer--my dad for the first time since he was 16, and my mum for the first time. They did a two week driving tour and saw more of the country than Mila and I did. My mum loved it so much that she's going back for ten days this fall. She and her sister are travelling to Loch Ness to run in a marathon (or a 5K in my mum's case) and then doing more sightseeing.

There is a knitting camp in Stirling next August, and I would love to go to that. Stirling was my second favourite place (the first being Dunfermline, where I got to spend the day with two of my great-aunts and eat my own weight in Scottish food) that Mila and I visited while we were there. The castle is wonderful, and the town is quite nice, too. We had lunch at a little pub, and Mila didn't know what Yorkshire Pudding was, so she gave her share to me (and regretted it later when she saw how awesome it was).

Unfortunately, it looks like I'm getting married next September, and all of my spare time and money for the next little bit is going to get funneled into that. I reckon it would probably cost me about $2000 Canadian to do two weeks in Scotland, and that's just not viable.

Maybe in a few years. I hope.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A Tidy Mind in A Tidy House

My office, aka the craft room, has been looking rather like some sort of yarn storm had hit it: There were project ends everywhere, uncatalogued yarn, and even a few sad, abandoned projects. So I did the only thing that someone who doesn't want to do the dishes could do: I cleaned my office.

I reorganized my plastic drawer sets so that all of my fabric was in one (and filled up an empty banker's box with more fabric). I then filled two drawers with sock yarn, and two more with worsted weight yarn. (That might seem like a lot of yarn to you. I assure you, it is not. It does not, for example, include the yarn in my giant plastic bin, the yarn that is stored in the three duvet bags on top of the wooden shelves, the bag of novelty yarns that people keep gifting me with, the aforementioned abandoned projects, or any of the yarn that is currently downstairs.)

You can actually see the floor now. I guess that means I should do the dishes.

Tonight is the finale of my one reality TV show guilty please, So You Think You Can Dance. I'm having a hard time caring much--it's been a really lacklustre season compared to previous showings. I'll still watch the finale and results show tonight and tomorrow, but I'm certainly not invested in this crop of dancers. Hopefully SYTYCD: Canada will be a better showing this fall.

I've finished my shawl for the wedding next weekend, and it has blocked out gorgeously. I made it bigger than the pattern had called for, and was terrified that I was going to run out of yarn--so much so that while I was visiting my parents on the weekend, I returned to the Purple Sock and miraculously found a second skein of the same colour. (It's Fleece Artist, so a second skein was not a guarantee.) Naturally, after I found one, I was able to finish the shawl with the yarn I had in the first place. Sadly, I still can't find my camera, so I can't even take a picture of the shawl in all its glory.

Perhaps I should go have a look for it.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Going to the Chapel

If you're interested in all in weddings, particulary in their early 21st century formation, this interview from IndieBride is a fascinating read. In it, Elise Mac Adam interviews Rebecca Mead on her book One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding.

We've just started planning for next year's extravaganza and it's already crazy. There are so many pitfalls that I'd like to avoid, and it just won't be possible to do so. The first one, of course, is the guest list. Already full of awkward. Not much we can do right now but ride out the storm.

Monday, August 03, 2009

So Say We All

As per usual, I'm several months behind everyone else. We finally finished Season 4.5 of Battlestar Galactica tonight. The last few episodes were so well written. The final episode got a bit lazy, writing wise; I liked it well enough, and I accept that when you're telling a story this epic, that some threads don't get woven in just because of the sheer scope of the thing (see also: X-files), but it felt weak. The Six and Baltar bits in particular bugged me: it was unnecessary and undervalued the audience's intelligence.

There's so much else to love about it, though. I don't know that there is anything else on TV that even begins to compare to it (sci-fi or otherwise). To me, the most compelling part of the show is its characters: you come to love those you hate in the beginning, but not because they have changed. Instead, you change as a viewer/reader (not unlike George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire). Awesome.

I'll write more once I've had a chance to digest a bit more. I want to rewatch the last few episodes so I can think through what it all means.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Hey lucky you, lucky me...

My parents recently returned from a fortnight in our smallest province, Prince Edward Island. While there, they did a number of very awesome things (of which they took very awesome pictures):

Sally's Beach, PEI

They also visited two wool mills. The first, Belfast Mini Mills, had a tearoom (with fresh cinnamon buns, which shut down any objections my father had to spending lots of time there). They got to see a variety of fibre animals and how their fibre is processed, including quivit (which my mum was quite taken by), and how the leftovers could be made into felt. Mum bought some really nice aran yarns there.

They also went to MacAusland Woolen Mills, which makes yarn and weaves blankets. Here mum got a baker's dozen of yarns there, which she had shipped home along with two wool blankets.

"How do you work with yarn in skeins?" she asked while she was on the island. "I tried to wind one off my feet in the car today and it didn't go so well. Your dad had to keep driving so I could finish."

My mum had never seen the ballwinder and swift before, so when I brought it home this weekend, she was amazed. By yesterday afternoon, she'd wound more than 30 hanks of yarn into balls.

I think my mom is a Knitter again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I tried to go camping on the weekend, but the weather put an end to that. I can think of few things quite as miserable as being damp...and when dampness combines with torrential downpours, nothing really goes very well. Particularly if you haven't eaten dinner yet.

Thankfully the last few days have been reasonably dry, as I've been doing some babysitting for some of my colleagues. I took care of the baby (who is now one) for part of June, and then his family went to Australia/NZ for a few weeks. I'm looking in on him this week to help out his parents (as I teach with both of them for first term). He is a lovely, happy, redhaired baby--as his mum has taught a few courses on Harry Potter, I made him a Weasley Sweater when he was born. (He's worn it on a few of the cooler days that I've babysat, and I must say that it's a relief to know that one's gifts are actually used.) Much to my surprise, he remembered me, and more than that, was quite happy to see me. It hasn't been the awakening of my biological clock that everyone else seems to think it should be, but it has been nice.

I'm headed to my parents' this weekend for a family reunion (not mine). The wedding shawl is coming along, although I'm terrified that I won't have enough to finish it properly. I really, really hope I won't have to rip back, but I'm almost 90% sure that I will have to. The other alternative is to finish it with a different yarn, but I can't decide if I like the way that looks or not.

As a final note: Battlestar Galactica 4.5 came out on DVD this week. I only have seven episodes left, and it somehow just keeps getting better and better.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I have a confession to make.

I love knitting lace. I love everything about it: the yummy yarns (luxury fibres are so much more affordable at this weight), the patterns, the final products, and the sense of satisfaction you get from working on a project where you can see the results so tangibly.

I'm currently working on Evelyn A. Clark's Heartland Lace Shawl. It's my second of her patterns (the first being the Swallowtail Shawl) and I cannot praise the clean, well written nature of her work enough. I'm working in Fleece Artist's Woolie Silk 2-ply in the Silver colourway, and the shawl will be a companion to my bridesmaid's dress for the wedding of my friends Jessica and Aaron. The wedding is August 15th, so I'll need to have it finished for about the tenth so that I can block it properly on the blocking wires that I just ordered from KnitPicks.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

I drew a map of Canada--Oh! Canada--
with your face sketched on it twice.
You are in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet.
--Joni Mitchell

So the only reasonable thing to do on your country's national holiday--particularly on a day that is grey, overcast, and unlikely to become appropriately sunny and hot--is to make yourself a Canada Day playlist. Of course, if you're a nerd like me, you might call Canada Day Dominion Day, since it marks that time when some of us (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick) got our shit together and decided to become the Dominion of Canada, as distinct from England.

I'm gonna start with this song and see where it takes me. Check out the results on at RadioFreeRhiannon

Sunday, June 28, 2009

frogging back

I've been having some problems with numbness in one of my arms, which has seriously cut down on my knitting time. I did no actual knitting for almost ten days. Not fun. (The 30-35 degree heat was another factor in the non-knitting.) I always forget how important of a stress management tool it is for me until I can't or don't knit for a while. Yesterday I decided to take matters back into my own hands and worked doggedly on a pair of Craic socks. Lovely (if challenging) pattern, and the product was lovely too...until I decided to try on the six inches I'd knit so far and couldn't fit the bloody thing over my foot.

I had no choice but to frog. Sure, I could've offered the socks to someone else, with smaller feet, but this is a) my Handmaiden Casbah, which is about the most luxurious sock yarn I own, with its 10% cashmere, and b) it's one of those patterns that only another knitter could really appreciate--and I am selfish enough to want to spend those hours of valuable knitting time on myself.

Since then, I've recast on for the Blackrose pattern from Knitty, and it seems to be working out much better.

Passchendaele premiered on the satellite tonight. I've been wanting to see it since it was in theatres, but couldn't quite sack it together at the time to do so. I fully expected to be quite happy with it--Canadian history, war movies, Paul Gross writing/directing/acting--but unfortunately the whole wasn't quite the sum of its parts. A friend had told me that it was superb except for the last fifteen minutes, and he was mostly right. I wouldn't call it superb so much as very, very good, but those last fifteen minutes are brutal. I want more from Paul Gross; I admire him and his work very much, and I think that what he does for Canada and Canadian film is so important...but this just didn't work for me.

In other news, there is a new yarn store in North Bay. I will write more about it later.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Your Ex-Lover Is Dead

Or, You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Post Is About You

Quick question for you, Gentle Reader. Are you friends with your exes? Is it possible to be friends with them? Do you want to be friends with them? What kinds of friendships do you have?

I haven't had many relationships, so my pool of experience here is pretty small. I've also been the instigator of the break ups in both cases, which I imagine alters my subjectivity on the matter. I think the answers to the questions above depend on a lot of things: The characters of the people involved; the length and depth of the relationship; the terms on which the relationship is ended. For me, these factors have always lead me to a single conclusion: friendship is not an option. I'm an intense person in a relationship, and I genuinely believe that after a certain point, you can't unring a bell: the possibility of friendship is, by necessity, gone.

Unfortunately, the exes don't always see it that way. "Why must it be awkward between us? Why don't we have anything to say to each other?" one asked me last weekend. Sadly, I was sober at the time, and was unable to indulge in a drunken tirade that would have put paid to such idiocy once and for all. As this conversation took place in a public place (a mutual friend's wedding reception), I didn't say any of the things that I wanted to say, which would have included the following statements:
  • We are not friends because I don't actually like you
  • It's awkward because making small talk with people you don't like is awkward
  • the details of my personal life are none of your business
  • Don't hug me and pretend to be happy that I'm engaged
  • We can't be friends because I haven't forgiven you for the way you treated me while we were dating
  • We can't be friends because I haven't forgiven myself for letting you treat me that way
  • What possible benefit could there be to anything beyond being superficially polite?

Thankfully, this was the last of our mutual friends to get married, so our paths shouldn't cross again for some time. If we do, though, I've promised myself that I will explain the above points to him, calmly and firmly, and continue to maintain my distance.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

In advance of Father's Day

Assuming that my plans for the weekend will likely prevent me from posting tomorrow, I wanted to get this posted today. I've watched High Fidelity twice in the last week (in shameful, US network censored versions) which has caused me to make a number of All Time Top Five lists in my head. I'm quite pleased with this one--and I can't think of anyone I'd rather make Top Five Lists for than my dad.

The All Time Top Five Songs for My Dad (Father's Day edition)

5. Rod Stewart - You're In My Heart: When my dad retired from the police force, he gave a really touching tribute to my mother. Being the wife of a police officer wasn't easy (particularly for someone who had to balance her own career as a nurse against the demands of a province-wide force), and the early years of their marriage might have broken up a lesser couple. He used part of this song in his speech.

4. Crosby Stills Nash & Young - Teach Your Children: One of my dad's favourites to play on the guitar: "Don't you ever ask them why/ if they told you, you would cry/ so just look at them and sigh/ and know they love you."

3. The Beatles - If I Fell: The Beatles are, of course, my dad's favourite band. This is his favourite Beatles song, near as I can tell--can you ever pick just one favourite song by your favourite band? I'm always kind of surprised by this one--it's an easy one to forget, I think, in term of the Beatles' overall oeuvre, but it is a good one.

2. The Animals - House of the Rising Sun: This song was the first 45 single that my dad ever bought, launching him on a music collecting career that's spanned about 40 years and several different media. At last count his CD collection comprised about 2500 volumes. My mom bought him an 8 gig iPod touch for his birthday in April, and he's already filled it.

1. Rod Stewart - Maggie May: His favourite of all his favourite songs. Need I say more?

Happy Father's Day, Dad! I hope you like your Darth Vader card. It beat out the Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own card by a very small margin. (And if the Tom Hanks one had said "Avoid the clap, Jimmy Dugan" instead of "There's no crying in baseball", it would've lost.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

left and leaving

My father was in town briefly yesterday, and he came over to check out the new guitar. He agreed with my assessment that it was in good condition, saying that it looked to him like it had hardly been played. He then tuned it for me, so I am playing around with it a little tonight.

It's been years since I've tried to pretend like I could learn to play guitar. I have no rhythm, and no particular musical talent. Strangely, my rhythm has gotten better as I've gotten older. While I'd never say that I'm good at Rock Band or GUitar Hero, my performances there aren't quite as EPIC FAIL as they once were.

Back in high school I used to spend a lot of time teaching myself bits and pieces of songs from the Oh Canada Tab Archive. The archive is still there, though it looks like it hasn't been updated in about 8 or 9 years. It is literally like living in 1999 again. Which manages to be awesome but sad.

Though sometimes I feel out of step with my generation, I'm glad that I wasn't born younger. I would've been an emo scene kid--one of the worst kind.

Monday, June 08, 2009

after the pity party

Thank you for bearing with me through last week's efforts at throwing myself a pity party. I'm working hard on keeping busy, at least until I think of another plan. Mat bought me a secondhand guitar last week, so that should help. Or at least eat into my knitting time.

My sort of-LYS, Sheepstrings, is closing. I'm not terribly surprised by this announcement, but am still sad. Girl Tuesday and I drove down on Saturday to visit the closing sale, but I didn't buy much. Hard to justify it with the looming house repairs. There was some remaining Mirasol Sulka for $4/skein, which was irrestible, but that was pretty much it.

Being responsible sucks. But I know it will pay off in the long run.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Against Despair

I don't like blogging when things are bad. Not that things need to be sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows for this, but I've started to realize that sometimes it's better simply not to acknowledge some of the negative aspects of life. I'm a person who dwells on things, and sometimes writing them out makes them real.

Thus, the radio silence around here as of late.

Things could be worse. *knocks wood* I have an unfortunate habit of manifesting my mental and emotional stresses with physical symptoms. My left arm went numb for about six days last week. It was very strange, and very uncomfortable. I couldn't knit (or do any number of other things)...and since knitting is my stress buster of choice, the feeling just kept perpetuating itself.

This time of year is always hard for me. I just don't know what to do with myself, and my end of year aimlessness is combining with my fear/anxiety (most of which is house related this year) to make me listless. I could accomplish so much right now, and I simply...have not.

Things still aren't great, but I'll survive.

I don't have any other choice.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

75 years ago today

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the birth of the Dionne Quintuplets. Annette, Cecile, Marie, Emilie, and Yvonne Dionne were born to Elzire and Oliva Dionne of Corbeil, Ontario (just outside of North Bay Rock City, for those of you keeping track) on May 28th, 1934. They were the first (documented) set of quintuplets to survive infancy; they were also the first and only set of identical female quintuplets. (The odds of that are unbelievable--the initial egg splitting, then each of those splitting again, and one of those splitting a third time. It boggles the mind. The "sixth" likely died in the womb.) Their combined birth weight was less than 14 lbs., and when you consider that they were born two months premature in a farmhouse, in 1934, to a mother who didn't know she was pregnant with multiples...the odds against their survival were substantial.

The story of the Quints is fascinating. The Ontario government took control of their lives when they were four months old, establishing the girls as wards of the Crown, and taking them to live away from their parents and their siblings on the grounds that Elzire and Oliva were unfit parents (though the Dionnes still got to keep their other five children). The girls were raised in a compound by the doctor who "delivered" them, Dr. Allan Dafoe (he was assisted by two midwives) and a few other caregivers. The compound, colloquially known as Quintland, included an observation deck where tourists would come daily to watch the girls playing inside the compound.

The Quints were big business. It's estimated that they earned approximately $1 million in 1934, and brought approximately $51 million to Ontario in tourism-related revenue. I know that sounds like a lot of money, but you need to think of it in perspective of 1934--you know, THE MIDDLE OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION. The girls' images were used to sell just about every product imaginable, including corn syrup, baby food, toys, candy, toothpaste, Lysol, Heinz, Victory Bonds, Carnation Milk, and cod liver oil. And, of course, this doesn't even begin to touch the commemorative merchandise that was produced to sell to the tourists.

The other half of the story is a very sad one. The girls' parents did eventually win back custody from the Crown, in 1943, and with it access to the girls' money. Having grown up separately, they had to be re-integrated into a family that treated the girls differently from the other children. Once they reached 18, all five left home and had very limited contact with their parents. Marie and Emilie both died quite young, and Yvonne passed away from cancer a few years ago. Before her death, she, along Annette and Cecile, revealed that they believed that their father had sexually abused them as teenagers.

With the way that our culture currently treats multiples--particularly with John and Kate Plus 8 and their reality show ilk--the story of the Quints is well worth remembering. I do believe those kids are being exploited, and I wish that people would remember that they won't be children forever. Someday they will be adults who have to live with everything that's happening right now.

Friday, May 22, 2009


There were a lot of things that I liked about Frost/Nixon. I liked the cast, and thought that both Frank Langella and Michael Sheen were excellent. I liked the staging, as well, and thought that the contrasts in location worked really well to emphasize the tensions.

I did not like the pseudo-documentary style, where the characters would occasionally break out of the established narrative to comment on themselves or other characters. This can be an effective device when used properly, but I don't think that it is here: it's dropped roughly halfway through, so it doesn't go anywhere meaningful, and ultimately just winds up being distracting.

The other problem that I have with it is that the climax of the film falls a bit flat. Actually, the real problem is that the climax is just fine; it's the rest of the movie that seems flat: We get to that point where Nixon says the unthinkable...and then we see almost nothing else of their interview. Did it really go nowhere from there? I find that hard to believe, so I will have to check out the source material.

It's a 3.5 out of 5, I think. Worth seeing, but not as strong as it could be.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Quick Poll on Buttons

If you needed buttons for a February Lady Sweater, would you choose:

a) Tudor Rose buttons


b) Epona* buttons?

**Epona is a Gaulo-Roman goddess connected with horses, and one of the antecedents of Rhiannon in the Mabinogion.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Against Despair

A recent facebook post by a grad school friend about her favourite Timothy Findley book, Pilgrim, inspired me to pick up my favourite Timothy Findley book, Headhunter today. (I haven't read all of Pilgrim. It was a bathroom book at my parents' house for a long while, and I really can't think of anything less suited to be a bathroom book.) Headhunter is, in many ways, deeply uneven--but it is also magical and inventive, and thoroughly engrossing.

I had lunch with my mother in Huntsville last week, and we wandered around downtown, and spent sometime poking through the antique shops there. (Sadly, the downtown is mildly less exciting since the yarn shop moved 25 km outside of town.) I was surprised by how many Royal Family-related antiques there were until my mom reminded me of who used to populate the Muskokas in the summertime--anyone who was anyone in Toronto owned land there, and summered outside of the city. And, naturally, anyone who was anyone in Toronto would be a staunch Royalist. In Headhunter, Findley describes this attitude as "more British than the British", which I think works quite well.

The cat would like to say hello. We've been travelling so much these past few weeks that he's been a bit lonely, and is a bit sucky as a result.

I still have to collect my thoughts about Frost/Nixon, but I think I'm closer to formulating exactly why it doesn't work all that well for me--or at least, why it doesn't work as well as I want it to.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

long weekend

I've had about five failed updates in the past week; for some reason I have found this particular time very difficult to write about. I suspect that the largest reason for that is that I haven't done anything particularly interesting in the past week. This academic year simply refuses to die, which is frustrating, as I'm less than two weeks from the end of this contract, and I would just like to bloody be done already.

The major accomplishment of the last few days has been watching Frost/Nixon with my dad. I need to think about it a bit more, but I'll post something more thorough in response once I've thought it through.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

She Goes On

I took the bandage off my finger yesterday, in hopes that it had sufficiently healed...but found it was not to be, as it started to bleed again today. This, coupled with the the few minutes of snow at 7:30 this morning, made for a rather inauspicious start to the day.

My mom's Mother's Day socks are coming along nicely. I will probably finish the first one today, and get started on the second one as quickly as possible, as I cannot wait to be done. I have the yarn for a February Lady Sweater waiting for me, and I really want to get started on that...or really, to be doing anything other than these socks.

I'm sad not to see my mother on Mother's Day. She's in Scarborough at a family gathering, I think, celebrating the mothers and our family's May birthdays. But she knows I love her no matter what--including that six month period where she persisted in omitting vowels from all of her emails and IM conversations with me.

Friday, May 08, 2009

One good turn...

I cleaned the craft room today in preparation for the purchase of a large file cabinet. My house is approximately 875 square feet, so space is always at something of a premium, and new additions need to be plotted out very carefully. The cabinet in question did not actually materialize, but I'm happy to have done some serious organizing in my room, and you'll be pleased to know, Readers, that I actually culled a whole bunch of acrylic yarn from my stash and sent it on to the Value Village.

I almost sliced off the tip of my right index finger last night when I was cutting onions on the mandoline. I was holding the onion with my hand, and thinking, "I wonder where the holder is for this. I'm probably going to cut off the tip of my finger." About three minutes later, I nearly did that. Fortunately I stopped in about 3/4 of the way through. It's not a deep cut, but it is right on the tip, so it is pretty sensitive. According to my mom, I should've superglued it shut--this is the new hot treatment in the ER for this type of wound, rather than stitches.

A strange thing happened, though. After I'd washed the cut out, and wrapped it in paper towel, I was holding my finger above my head to help slow down the bleeding. Suddenly, I just felt all of the blood drain out of my head. My vision went blurry, and sound went far away. Fortunately, I managed to get my head down between my knees before I keeled over, but it was pretty touch and go for a few minutes there. The same thing happened last summer when I sliced my ring finger instead of a cucumber.

I don't know what my problem is. I'm not an especially squeamish person, and I've certainly injured myself in much worse ways, involving much more pain and blood. (I wouldn't say that I'm accident prone so much as just a bit careless and a bit foolish.) I've treated people with much worse injuries--the time Fiancé fell off the wall behind Cellarman's, anyone? It usually doesn't bother me at all. And yet, these last two times...who knows?

I blocked both of my Ishbels tonight. They look great.
Ishbel the Red

Ishbel the Grey

Thursday, May 07, 2009

the kids rant

The Boyfriend (or rather, the Fiancé) has started a new job this week. In the process of getting to know his co-workers, he's (apparently) had to talk a lot about his relationship with me, and had to justify a number of the choices that we've made as a couple. The biggest one, of course, is our decision not to have kids right fucking now. (I should probably also add that there's been a lot of consternation over our decision to get married two years from now, and not this year or next, from quite a lot of people--friends, family, and otherwise.)

The Fiancé, when asked, told his co-workers that kids are part of the future, but unlikely to happen in the next two or three years. Why not? said the co-workers. Because we can't afford to have kids right now, said the Fiancé. That's stupid, said the co-workers. You should just have them--everything else will just sort of fall into place.

So then the Fiancé came home and asked me: Do you think that's true?

It is true, I imagine. For some people at some times. Waiting for more money probably sounds foolish to a lot of people--once you start down that path, is there ever really enough money to have kids? The people the Fiancé was discussing this with live on household incomes of about half what we make combined, he said, so why couldn't we make it work? (Can you tell that I'm the primary breadwinner and billpayer in our household?)

Why not? First, these people are eligible for support from the government that we wouldn't be because they make so much less than we do. Second, these people haven't just purchased houses. Third, these people don't have a combined $50 000 in student loans that need to be paid back. Fourth, these people don't work on ten month contracts, and have two very scary months where there is relatively little income. Fifth, these people have very different relationships than Fiancé and I--while we've been together for nearly 5 years, we've only lived together for one, and the other four have been long distance. We need (and deserve) time to figure out US together. Sixth, neither of us wants kids right now, and it irritates me to no end that I need to justify that to people.

We will have kids when we are ready to have them, and when we want to have them. Why is that so hard for other people to understand?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Follow the directions

I like to make fun of my partner because he is an inveterate non-follower of directions. Any time he is required to do something that involves reading from a manual and progressing through steps, he's usually convinced he should "just know" instinctively how it will work. This can lead to a particularly awesome combination of hilarity/frustration.

My students also don't follow directions. After every single test and assignment, I will stand at the front of the class and say, "The most important thing you can do to ensure your success is to read the directions carefully, and make sure that you know what the question means." But they don't. And then they lose marks, and say, "But my answer is right." And I say, "Your answer may be factually correct, but it doesn't answer the question as it was posed."

All of this is a lead up to say that I should probably practice what I preach. Back in February, Starlite75 came up for a few days and we dyed some yarn together. One of the things that every single set of directions for yarn dyeing tells you is that you should tie your hank of yarn in several places. I assumed that the two ties in my Knit Picks Bare skein would be sufficient. That assumption was incorrect, and I spent the better part of 45 minutes this morning detangling the skein on my swift. It wasn't a huge deal (I am the kind of weirdo who like untangling knots) but it could've been avoided pretty easily.

The offending yarn is now a pretty little pink and white cake, and I'm off to get started on some socks for my mom for Mother's Day. Good times.

Monday, May 04, 2009


Why are things often on sale when you don't really need them, or can't afford them? Pick Up Sticks is having a 20% off everything in the store sale, including the Dream in Color line. Damn!

I'm home from work today because I'm sick. I wore my contacts home, and forgot to pack my glasses. I was very excited to come home yesterday and take out my contacts, but when I got into the bathroom they were nowhere to be found. I wore my old glasses for a little while, but they are in such poor shape (they're four years old, so any anti-scratch coating is long gone) and the difference in prescription is such that I wound up with a lingering headache. I also wound up throwing up all morning, but I'm not sure whether or not that is related to the glasses.

Ugh. I hate being sick. I napped on the couch for a while, and felt much better when I woke up, but now that I've been up for about an hour I'm starting to feel woozy again.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

painted ladies and a bottle of wine

Not much new to report here. I'm back in the Bay, having survived the trip home and trip back with intense winds pushing away at my beloved tin can of a car. My mom and I went to a yarn store yesterday. It had been about five or six years since the last time I visited it, and it has changed a lot. Where previously there was lots of very overpriced acrylic yarns and snotty saleswomen who didn't believe someone in her early twenties could be serious about knitting, there is now a store filled with a wide variety of fibers (including the whole Rowan line) at reasonable prices. Having spent my money at the Frolic last weekend, I only picked up a couple of balls of Patons' recently discontinued SWS soy-wool yarn, but my mom actually bought a couple of things (including a Fleece Artist thrum kit for me to make her some mittens). As we left, she remarked, "I really feel like I should be buying more yarn."

And she has decided that once we find a yarn and a sweater pattern that she likes, I will make her a sweater.

Having just learned that we will not uncover the secret of the final Cylon until July, the boyfriend and I have decided to rent Miracle at St. Anna for a treat tonight.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

I love a man in (powder blue) uniform

Last night, my dad and I went to a Blue Jays game. Our tickets were free through the alumni association for the university. It was the first game I'd been to in probably about seven years. The organization is now doing "Flashback Fridays" in which everyone wears the vintage uniforms from the 70s, and I have to say that I like it. There's just something about the powder blue/royal blue combo that I love. If I ever find myself with a spare $100 I'm definitely going to get one of the replica jerseys.

The whole trip down was very nostalgic. We always come down the 400 to Black Creek Dr, and then head down Weston Rd. to Lakeshore. There's new row housing, and the Palais Royale has been re-done. Can I get married there? Please? If I win the lottery? (Side note: How cool would it be to get married in the venue that I've seen my favourite artists play concerts? I could make a much more persuasive pitch for a Finn song as a wedding song in that case, I think.)

The game itself was pretty awesome. Paul Molitor was the guest of honour, and they showed lots of video clips from the years (1993-1995) that he played for us. The Jays' victory was also pretty sweet. (Although I would've pulled Halladay before that last batter--brother had lost it, in my opinion. That said, Cito Gaston has two World Series rings and I have none, so take that for what it's worth.)

One of the biggest changes to the Dome itself (I am refusing to call it the Rogers Centre) is that there is now the Toronto Blue Jays' Level of Excellence--which is this club's version of retiring the jerseys. The most notable name in the Level of Excellence for me was that of Tom Cheek, who was given the number 4306. 4306 was the number of consecutive regular season games that Tom called on the radio for the Blue Jays, starting in 1977 and going up until 2004. I grew up with his voice (and that of his partner, Jerry Howarth), as my dad always preferred to listen to the radio commentary while watching the broadcast on TV. This was the first game that I'd attended since his death, and it was very strange not to have his voice in my ear--particularly as the Jumbotron showed the clips from the old games, when I can still remember the calls he made at the time.

The club is hosting the Stitch and Pitch knitting night in late August this year against the Oakland Athletics. Think there's any chance I can talk my dad into that?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Into the blue again / after the money's gone

Watching Canadian PM Stephen Harper talk about the whole Chrysler situation on TV this morning has me wondering what's going through his head. He's the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada--the man who united the right to take control of the country. He wants to minimize the influence of the government in the lives of private citizens--you know, all the usual good capital-C Conservative kind of stuff.

And here he is to tell us that the Canadian government, along with the government of the province of Ontario, and the United States, is becoming a shareholder in Chrysler: he is telling us that in order to 'resolve' the situation, the government has had to step in, pony up some cash, and take a seat at the boardroom table. On his watch, the government is now more involved in Big Business than even the NDP has dared to dream.

I wonder if, as he stood up to give that press conference, the lyrics from Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" flashed through his head: "How do I work this? Where is that large automobile? This is not my beautiful house...this is not my beautiful wife."

Thursday, April 30, 2009

After the boys of summer have gone...

The youngest sister made the trek up to visit me (oldest) and middle. Middle is currently employed as an administrative assistant for the local AIDS outreach group, and last night was their annual fundraiser, "A Taste for Life". In essence, local restaurants all agree to donate 25% of the proceeds for the evening to AIDS charities. Naturally, we all wanted to eat out for the cause.

Youngest has just finished her college program. She had to pass two sets of exit exams in order to graduate and be certified in her field, and passed them all in the first try. It's been so interesting to watch her grow through school. Youngest has never been an especially bookish or academic type, but as soon as she started in this program, she's been right on the ball. She knows more about the human body than I could ever imagine. Now that she's done she think she might take a gap year. She wants to do some volunteer work in Africa, and will be headed to Nicaragua with my mother in November.

I finished my first Ishbel last night. I made the larger shawl size, and I have to say, I don't love it. Now, I haven't blocked it yet, so that might change, but on the whole I think it works much better at the smaller, scarf size. Which is probably why everyone on Rav has made the small one. I've just cast on for the smaller one with my Three Irish Girls Finley Merino in Vintage Zinc. This yarn is incredible: soft, soft, soft, and such a depth of shade. This Ishbel I am going to love for sure.

Headed to the parents' again tomorrow--Dad and I are going to Toronto for a baseball game. It will be my first in several years, although I'd like to make the Stitch and Pitch later this summer too. I'm actually not sure I even know who plays for Toronto any more. Sad, really...there was a time when I could've named the entire roster and their stats.

There are 8 suspected cases os H1N1A in North Bay Rock City. I am not allowed to read Stephen King's The Stand until this is over.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Got $500?

V. – Thomas Pynchon

Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1963. 8vo. 492 pp. First Edition, first printing w. first-issue dj (table of contents on rear panel). Pale purple cloth with silver lettering on the spine and blind-stamped “V”s on the front panel. Top edge stained dark blue, gold endpapers. The price-clipped dj is slightly rubbed, with some chipping (esp. head & heel of spine) and a small tear in the middle of the rear hinge – a 1cm square tear at the top of the spine has been tape-repaired on the inside. The boards are clean except for a slight fading along the top edge, a square area at the head of the spine (resulting from the dj tear) and a slight discoloration at the heel edge, and very minor scuffing along bottom edge of front panel. Internally, the book is clean & sound.

Published in 1963 to critical acclaim, V. won the William Faulkner Foundation Award for best first novel, and immediately established Thomas Pynchon as a “Talent to Watch”. V. is a sprawling novel, filled with a colorful cast of characters whose various adventures and interactions range across a century.

My friend Mike is headed down to Toronto for the Toronto Book Fair this weekend. He sent me the evaluations of several books that he'll be offering for sale there, and it just made me itch to get my hands on some books. The language of selling books is simply incredible--I still dream of opening a bookstore some day, though it seems more and more distant all the time.

I read far too little of any consequence during the school year, so I'd really like to catch up on my reading this summer. Pynchon is on the list for this summer--what else should be?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If I am good...

If I am good I will finish my large Ishbel today. If I am better I will work on Caitlin's sweater. It's a variation on a toddler sweater I made last year. Apparently grown women are much larger than two year olds. Who knew?

I am a packrat. While this has obvious implications for my home life, it also spills over into my professional life. In some ways teaching is well-suited for this kind of behaviour: the culture of entitlement forces me to hang on to things that should simply be binned or recycled, because if I get called up to prove that a student earned (or didn't earn) a certain grade, I need to have all of my documents in order. This year, I am throwing out everything from last year--I figure 12 months is plenty of time to hang on to things.

Once my office is clean (which should take a few more days), I am going to start on my craft room at home. It's sewing time, I think.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Warning: This post is long and yarn-related. If you're not a knitting type, please disregard.

Toronto's Downtown Knit Collective held their annual Knitters Frolic this past weekend. It coincided, magically, with my hometown's annual Maple Syrup Festival (reportedly the second largest in Ontario), so I was quite excited to head on home. I brought Girl Tuesday down with me, and we stopped at The Purple Sock in Coldwater. After deciding that money spent there did not count as part of the Frolic budget, I picked up some Fleece Artist Woolie Silk 2 ply in their Silver colourway, and a beautiful wooden shawl pin. The next day, we met up with Starlite75 to have the traditional pancake breakfast. From there, we headed to Toronto. Naturally, the Don Valley Parkway was closed for cleaning, so we had to take an alternate route, which we promptly messed up, but thanks to the marvels of GPS we were able to correct our course and arrive in one piece. We even managed to get a totally sweet parking spot right by the door.

Inside the Japanese Cultural Centre was pretty overwhelming. We decided to make a circuit of the whole thing to get an idea of what was available. I got to see a lot of stuff that I had not seen in person before (Malabrigo lace, Dream in Colour, etc.) and we saw both the Yarn Harlot and Amy Singer walking around. I would have loved to talk to them, but didn't want to bother them. There was some stuff that I didn't see that I had hoped to, like Berroco, Brown Sheep, and Rowan, but I did somehow manage to find enough to buy...

Like this:
rhi 139

And this:
rhi 142

And these:
rhi 143 rhi 145

And this:
rhi 148

And this:
rhi 140

And of course no yarn would be complete without:
rhi 149

I also picked up Kristeen Griffith-Grimes' French Girl Knits, and am quite pleased that I did so.

Return from the netherworld

It has been a long time, hasn't it? In recent weeks my job has all but taken over my life; I feel like I've done little other than mark, knit, sleep, and watch Battlestar Galactica in the last two months. Even now, when I ought to be at the end, I'm not--missing exams and a couple of INCs mean that I won't really be done for probably another two weeks, but classes and exams are over, and students are off campus, and there's only a month left to this contract.

In addition to the heavy workload, in the last few weeks there's been lots of fun personal stuff to deal with as well. I won't dwell on the negatives (let's say that owning a home and a vehicle really is as expensive as everyone says), but the positive is worth mentioning: the Boyfriend is now the Fiance.

This past weekend was wonderful: I made the trip down to Toronto for The Downtown Knit Collective's Knitters Frolic. I stuck to my budget, but managed to buy some pretty impressive yarns...I need to head back to the house now, but I intend to post a full report of the awesome. Hint: I saw both the Yarn Harlot and Amy Singer.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Over and over and over again

It is finally Friday in a week that has often seemed as though it won't end. Even it being Friday hasn't really changed that--I only remembered last night that I have an exam meeting after all of my classes for the day, which will add another two hours to what I'm doing. :(

The weather has been very strange in the last day or so. It seems we are limping towards some kind of spring, so it has been slowly getting's not quite four seasons in one day, New Zealand-style, but it is strange. Yesterday, we had snow squalls in the afternoon, followed by hail, then freezing rain, and then a thunderstorm. It's quite odd to see lightning and hear thunder when there's still a good six feet of snow on the lawn...

The Watchmen is out in theatres this weekend; the boyfriend is quite excited. I am not. I know everyone who reads graphic novels is all like "OMG watchmen=best thing ever" but it's really never done all that much for me. I like some of the pieces, but I can't say that the whole quite adds up for me. The misogynism might be part of that.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I Hate the Recession, or, It's Called "Common Sense"

One of the things that irritates me most about this recession (aside from the big picture worries of the world coming to an end/the economy actually imploding/not being able secure another job) is the veritable pantheon of "Survive the Recession" advice that is flying at us from all corners. As a society, it is of vital importance that we be told not to buy $9 coffees (sidebar: I'm shocked that Kinder Bueno commercial is still on the air), because we certainly can't figure it out ourselves.

The advice bugs me mostly because it is impractical: Have a staycation (gag) instead of a vacation. Do your nails yourself instead of going to a salon. Consider buying a smaller model car. Well, if I couldn't afford to do any of those things in the first place, how does continuing not to do them save me any money?

And don't even get started on the terminology people invent for this. Recessionista? Srsly?

Some of the worst advice yet comes from the Knitting Daily newsletter, which comes from Interweave Press. Mostly I enjoy Knitting Daily: with free patterns, helpful columns, and the gallery so you can see how stuff actually fits real people, what's not to like? Sure, they do shill Interweave's books/magazines/etc. a lot, but it's a small price to pay for what you get in return.

This week's newsletter is "Knitting Creatively On A Budget." Apparently, one does this by only buying one skein of yarn at a time from their local yarn store (to make sure they stay open, of course) and then making hats, wristwarmers, iPod cozies, neckwarmers, and baby clothes out of them. Or, one might purchase Leigh Radford's One Skein (published by Interweave) to access a number of one skein projects, including (!) some tiny knit cupcakes! They're adorable!

So here is my dilemma: why am I buying yarn for the sake of buying yarn, and why am I using it to make stuff with varying degrees of usefulness? Sure, as KD points out, I can make several iPod cozies out of one skein, and give them as gifts to my friends, but surely each friend only needs one, and don't most people already own some kind of iPod cover? Why am I making knit cupcakes? Sure, they are cute, but they're also useless. Aren't I supposed to be trying to cut down on waste here?

Here is my advice on how to survive as a knitter during times when money is short:
1) Knit from your stash. You already own it, so it doesn't cost you anything.
2) If you hate the colours in your stash, dye them yourself. This can be done relatively inexpensively when compared with the costs of buying all new yarn.
3) Save all of your leftover yarn for use in future projects. Learn to make mitered squares so that you can make squares for a blanket. Try to do one or two a week. If you start now, you'll have something ready to put together by the time December rolls around.
4) Don't knit things just for the sake of knitting them, or because Someone Famous is. Yes, the Yarn Harlot has fabulous taste in patterns and yarn, but you don't need to make a Clapotis/Jaywalkers/February Lady Sweater just because EVERYONE ELSE is making them. Which brings me to my next point...
5) Make things that you like AND that you'll wear/use. If you like shawls and wear them, by all means, make a Clapotis. I like to look at shawls more than I like to wear them, so it would be a bad choice for me.
6) Only buy yarn when you know what you're going to use it for. When you are looking at it, think "I will use this for _____". If the blank remains blank, or you change the sentence to "I want to buy this because it's soft/pretty/cheap/I want to buy something", put it back, and think about it for a couple of days.
7) If you're a book buyer, ask yourself how likely you are to knit more than one pattern in the book. If you're not, don't buy it.
8) Similarly, only buy online patterns that you already have the yarn for.
9) Look for sales. This applies to both yarn and books. Again, though, don't think, "OMG, Kidsilk Haze for $5/ball. Must buy." if you hate mohair. Yarn you hate or won't use is never a bargain, no matter how cheap it is.
10) Use the destash function on Ravelry. If you play your cards right, you can either get rid of stuff from your stash, and use that money to fund other yarn, or you can pick up yarn you need (for a project, of course) for less than you might pay at a store.
11) If you belong to a knitting group, arrange a destash night. My guild did this in January and it went really well. We had a table for stuff that was free, and a table for a stuff for trade. If people had anything really valuable, they were allowed to put a figure on it ("I want $40/equivalent trade for this skein of Blue Moon Ribre Arts Luscious Single Silk".)
12) When knitting for others, make things that are appropriate for the recipient. Don't use luxury fibers for newborn gifts. I know you want to make something awesome, and a cashmere layette makes a great statement, but no new parent will thank you for a gift that requires such delicate treatment. Similarly, if you are going to make something for an adult, make it something they will use.
13) Prioritize. If you really want to try that Tilli Thomas or Wollemeise, think about what you're willing to go without to get it.