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.