Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Wrap Up

It has been a miserable couple of days around here: Mat and I have both been violently ill for the last 48 hours, which is not good at the best of times, much less when you are coming off the complete and total circus of Christmas.

All things considered, Christmas wasn't actually as crazy this year as I had been afraid that it would be; we managed the family gambit as well as could be expected: Christmas Eve at Mat's parents' place, Christmas morning at my parents, Christmas dinner at my aunt's in Toronto, and Boxing Day at Mat's uncle's in Sudbury. We were exhausted by the time that we got back to our house...and then the plague hit.

I managed to finish all of my knitting but one in time for Christmas. The Fornicating Deer hat went over quite well, as did Youngest Sister's cowl (she hardly took it off the whole time we were home). Youngest Sister also created the most wonderful thing for me--a Yellow Submarine/Beatles bag. I'll have to get some pictures of it soon...just as soon as I get my brand new Nikon D3100 DSLR camera. It should be here on Friday. I am thrilled. I have had a devil of a time trying to track one down in person, but managed to find an online retailer who not only had it in stock, but had a slightly lower price on it. I've spent the last couple of months trying to re-train myself to look at the world with a photographer's eye, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what I can do with something more than a point and shoot camera.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Countdown to Giftmas

The last week or so has been a frantic exercise in grading on a deadline whilst attempting to prepare for the holidays. Some parts of it went quite well. (Grading finished 24 hours before it needed to be, yay!) Some parts of it didn't. (No tree or lights or other Christmas decorations at the house, boo!) In good news, I have almost all of my Christmas business figured out, and have only a few small gifts left to pick up. Heck, I've even got stuff wrapped already, which is quite unusual. All I have left to knit is a pair of mittens for my cousin (made from some soft semi-local baby alpaca--yum), which likely won't take more than a day or so. Actually, now that I think about it, I need to finish the hat I'm working on for Mat, but that should be easy enough to finish up today.

The handmade piece de resistance for this year, though, is the hat I made for my father-in-law:

deer_medium

Monday, December 13, 2010

A storm front moved westward through NBRC yesterday, gifting us with about 40 cm of the white stuff. Today, we've got a different storm front moving east from Montreal, but this one is only bringing 10ish cm and a great deal of wind. The schoolbuses are cancelled throughout the city; my sister's office has closed for the day. The university is still open because the city buses are still running. (Those jerks would keep driving through the apocalypse, I think.) Fortunately, I had no plans to go to the school today. Classes finished on Friday, and my exam isn't until next Monday, so it's all grading from here on out. I can't think of a better day to spend holed up with some essays, the cat, some knitting, tea, apple cider, and some knitting.

The knitting guild's holiday party is tonight. I'm making pulled pork in the slow cooker, and serving it with tiny slider buns. We're also doing a blind stash exchange, where people will wrap up things from their stashes and we'll pull numbers for them, so I need to figure out what I can bring.

I grafted the hood on mom's sweater last night. I am quite proud of this--grafting in pattern is not an easy challenge, but somehow I managed to get it right on the first try. Unfortunately, I am now about 90% sure I don't have enough yarn to make the sleeves, and I am freaking out. I think that I need to step away from the project for a while so that I can figure out what I want to do about it. There are a few people on Rav who have yarn from the same dyelot, but I feel strange about PMing someone and saying, "Hey, want to sell me some of your yarn that you obviously have earmarked for other projects?" Currently I'm kind of leaning towards just buying more from Knit Picks and alternating skeins if the colour shift is too dramatic.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Touring History

Mat and I are beginning to put togethr our plans for our honeymmon, which we will take in February during my reading break. The honeymoon itself has been the source of some vexation for both of us, as we have very different ideas about where such a thing might take us. He would like to go to a resort and bake in the sun for a week; I would much prefer to do something more cultural.1

Obviously, I want to go to Scotland. I'm not so sure I want to go to Scotland in February, per se, but that's where I want to go again, and soon.

However, we have arranged a compromise: New Orleans. It has food, history, culture, music, and a nightlife. The flights for the week we want to go are relatively inexpensive, and there is just so much to do there. The historian in me is thrilled by the idea of haunted tours, cemetary tours, Garden District tours, French Quarter tours, walking tours, swamp tours, etc.

The humanist in me (and perhaps, dare I say it, the pinko Commie in me), though, has mixed feelings about two of the possible tour offerings: Plantation tours and Hurricane Katrina tours. The relationship between history and tourism is always an uncomfortable one, as it has to preclude learning at some point and move towards spectacle: "Come see where the levees were breached! Marvel at the hard working people of the Ninth Word as they attempt to rebuild thier lives!" or "Come see where B'rer Rabbit was written! Eat lunch in honest-to-goodness slave quarters!"

Which is not to say that these things are not interesting to me, nor that there isn't value in seeing them--it's more just the way that they are marketed that disturbs me. When history becomes spectacle, there is substantial danger in losing the significance of the events. Eating a meal in slave quarters, to me, validates a particular period and a particular lifestyle in a way that I'm not comfortable with.

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1 I can spend approximately 30 minutes baking in the sun on a beach before I am bored out of my mind, and I can't imagine doing it for a whole week. Yes, you're right--"relax" is not in my vocabulary.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Counting down the days

We went away for the weekend for the first time in more than a month, and we did it for fun for the first time in more than a year. It was very exciting to get out of the city. We visited old friends of Mat's, who are becoming my friends too. We ate Thai food (mmm summer rolls) and went shopping for crafts and books. Michaels, which is about the only big box craft store we have in Canada, does a line of $1.50 accessories that are colour and pattern co-ordinated, and the pre-holiday set this year was knitting themed. My favourite part? The best wrapping paper ever:
wedding 056
There are matching cards, notebooks, pencils, pencil cases, etc. I also have a roll of blue cabled paper, but I haven't broken into it yet.
We are in the final week of school, at long last. My students will hand in their final papers today, and I'll be grading well into infinity. There are about eight inches of snow outside, and I have yet to solve my winter boot dilemma. (I have a gorgeous pair of Hush Puppies, which are knee high and lined, but they also have a three inch block heel, which I feel is a bit dubious in times like these.)
I finished three hats in the car this weekend, but the hood on my mom's Rogue is continuing to kick my butt.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Decemberween

Happy December. My sore throat has come back full throttle, along with some sinus pain. Seriously, can I not be done being sick now? The area between my nose and my throat feels bruised, almost. Ugh.

This is the last week of the calm before the storm: on Monday, my students will begin to hand in their final papers, and then it will be a mad dash to get everything marked for the exam on December 20th, and then it will be a mad dash to get the bloody exam marked quickly so it doesn't hang over me for the whole holiday as per last year. At least this year we have a late start in January, which should afford me some breathing room.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew with Christmas knitting this year, but I guess I'll need to have something to break up the monotony of all that grading. I really want to CO stuff for myself, like some nice warm socks, and maybe a pretty shrug, but I can't. I need to finish my mom's sweater (still plugging away on the hood; it looks gorgeous with all of cabling but I just want it to be done), a fornicating reindeer hat for Mat's dad, a long cowl for Youngest (why-oh-why didn't I just buy her the one at American Eagle that she wants me to remake for her?), mittens for my cousin, assorted hats...at least hats are quick, right?

There's no time to blog--if I'm gonna get this done before Christmas, I better get cracking. Back to the hood!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Strange Days Have Come

On Mondays, I only have one hour of class, and it's a class that I don't even teach in, and it's a class at 3:30 in the afternoon. At the beginning of the term, when I found out my schedule for the year, I was thrilled--how could I not be? Unfortunately, my peaceful, easy Mondays began to fill up quickly, and now most of my Mondays involve 7+ hours at the school or in meetings.

Today was no exception, and it was made all the more frustrating by the quality of the meetings. The first was derailed by an unfortunate discussion of the merits of social media (and a refusal on one party's part to acknowledge that not wanting to join Facebook is a legitimate position) that took up the first 50 minutes of the meeting. The second was with a former student, whom I normally quite like, who was exhibiting some decidedly snowflake-like behaviour. It was a very uncomfortable situation: I'm torn between my desire to help my former student and my desire to point out that she has been hoisted entirely by her own petard here, and that now is the time to quit making excuses, to quit complaining, and to start doing instead.

I'm twenty rows in to the hood on mum's sweater and it looks pretty cool.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Big Sneezy

The cold rages on, and I am so flipping happy that it's the weekend. Winter arrived quite suddenly today in the form of about 10 cm. of snow. Naturally, I had taken the car in for an oil change just yesterday, and I had contemplated bringing the snow tires along to get them put on, but Mat talked me out of it: "I figure we've got at least another couple of weeks before we'll need them," he said to me. Foolish boy.

But then, I'm the one who listened to him, so I'm actually the bigger fool there.

The annual downtown Christmas walk happened tonight. I didn't make it through the whole walk because it was cold and windy, but I enjoyed the little bit I saw: a Salvation Army brass quartet, later joined by a piper; a guy roasting chestnuts on an open (propane) fire; 20% off at the yarn store...I was good, though, and only bought one skein of yarn. (Dream in Colour Classy in Wisterious.) The chestnut--my first--was very good, though.

I have been meaning to share this project for a while, as I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. A while ago, back when I had borrowed GirlTuesday's spinning wheel, I turned this:

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into this:

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Like most of my handspun, it looked just fine in the skein and seemed pretty content to stay that way. Then, I was given a beautiful handmade teapot (with matching cream and sugar set) by Grrly as a wedding gift, and all of a sudden, my handspun knew exactly what it was meant to become:


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The pattern is Baby it's cold outside, written by my friend Trisha. I had to adapt the pattern because of the Asian-style handle on my pot, but this worked out quite well for me since it meant that I got to knit it in the round. I did a buttonhole for the spout, and used ribbon to lace everything up. It works extremely well--I think I need to make matching cozies for my mugs.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

New Patterns

Some days you have to take the good with the bad. Last week, I had a very sore throat and swollen lymphs nodes in my neck for most of the week, which seems to have transitioned into a full blown cold this week. As of last night, my voice is starting to fade. The good, I guess, is that my students are all involved in a peer editing exercise during class this week, which means that they work hard and I don't have to talk much, which is optimal for everyone involved.

I've been making good progress on the sweater - the back is now worked to the shoulders and bound off, and I'm plugging away on the front. The sleeves are what concern me most: I don't have a good track record with set in sleeves, but I figure that as long as I am patient and take my time, I can do this.

The best news from yesterday, though, is that the two patterns that I submitted to Three Irish Girls have been published and are available for sale on their website. Strangely enough, both patterns are mittens--I don't actually make that many mittens but apparently that's all I can write patterns for. The Breakfast at Jessica's mittens are done in a beautiful blue wool-silk blend, with picot edges and white bows reminiscent of a Tiffany box. The Glasgow Cathedral Mittens are modeled after the Millenium Window in Glasgow Cathedral. I had originally envisioned them in brilliant shades of blue, but the green-based handpaint in the sample is quite fetching.

Three Irish Girls released a whole new lookbook for Fall 2010, with 41 patterns and 33 new colourways. The lookbook can be seen here, if you're inclined to go looking for some yarny loveliness. My favourites are Carey, Eavan, and Mairin

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When I first started blogging, all those years ago, I assumed that the act of blogging would serve as an outlet for my emotions. I thought there would be a cathartic release from sharing how I felt with anonymous strangers on the Internet. What I have found is actually the opposite--when times get bad, I tend to post less and less.

There are lots of reasons for this: Sometimes, the problems that I have are with people who read this blog. In my first year as a blogger, I wrote something about a friend that criticized how she handled a situation. Months later, she read what I had written, and reacted by cutting me completely out of her life. I was young and foolish, and I had a hard time negotiating those barriers between the public and private, and it cost me a friendship. Now that I am older and supposedly wiser, I try to deal with my problems in person rather than delving into the passive aggression that the internet fosters so easily. It doesn't always work, but at least it doesn't create any more problems.

I also don't write about the bad because committing it to words makes it real. I've owned a house for two and a half years now, and it is easily the most stressful thing that has ever happened to me: we've had carpenter ants, mice, sewage backups, a basement flood, plumbing problems, a roof leak, and lots of much more minor things. Writing about these events and the pure, unadulterated panic they entailed would actually have made things worse for me. (In fact, I can feel my blood pressure rising even now when I'm mentioning them in passing.)

So things have been quiet here lately, as I'm sure you've noticed. I had such a good posting record over the summer, and I completely blew it when I went back to work. I love my job, but it is both intense and stressful, and this year I am involved in a fair amount of extra-curricular stuff that is also intense and stressful: I've been negotiating a new collective agreement as part of my union. It has been practically a part-time job in and of itself since August (consuming 10-15 hours a week of my time). Things have taken a turn for the worse this; the administration has decided to cancel all future meetings, effectively ending negotiations for the time being. We get to file for conciliation soon, which means that my bargaining preparations will now be preparations for other things.

I've also been knitting my mom's sweater. I've promised her it will be finished for Christmas, and I intend to keep that promise. I think I hate the yarn, though.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Conversation With My Father

Blech. My beloved has gone deer hunting for the week, and I am ill and behind on my work. In absence of a real entry, I'd like to share with you a conversation that my dad and I had over Thanksgiving weekend:

Kilt Hose in the Wild

Dad: I really like the kilt hose that you made for Mat.
Me: Thank you. I really like them too.
Dad: I like them so much that I want a pair for Christmas. I'm putting in my order now.
Me: As long as you have no illusions about there being a pair of kilt hose under the tree on Christmas Day, I would be happy to make you a pair.
Dad: That's fine.
Me: I'll find some patterns this weekend to show you and you can pick one.
Dad: No, that's okay. You can just make me the same ones in the same colour.
Me: If that's what you want. [silently dies a bit inside]
Dad: Do you know how much kilt hose cost?
Me: Not really...as much as you want to pay for them, I guess.
Dad: The ones your mother bought me cost $40.
Me: That's nice. I like the colour of those ones. [They are a nice forest green.]
Dad: I like the ones you made more. I bet you could easily sell those for $40.
Me: Dad, they have handmade kilthose at Burnetts and Struth. They're made by little old ladies in Scotland.1 Do you know how much those cost?
Dad: Not $40?
Me: No. More like $100. And the yarn that they're made from is not as nice as the yarn that I used.2
Dad: So I shouldn't tell other people you'll make kilt hose for them?
Me: Probably not.

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1 The name of the person who knit them is on the tag. It's kinda neat.
2 If you know anything about yarn, I used Knit Picks Bare in the sportweight. The B&S kilt hose are knit in a worsted weight heritage yarn like Briggs and Little--very heavy and very itchy, I should imagine. There's nothing wrong with this--it's just not as fine as what I used, and results in a very different looking sock.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Sharing Birthdays

The day before I turned 3, my mother went into labour, and produced Middle Sister. I was sorely disappointed: my mother was in the hospital for my birthday, and Middle was not what I had believed her to be. She was not the fully formed playmate I had wanted, and she had failed to materialize in time for Hallowe'en, so we didn't get to go trick-or-treating together. Such is life when you are 3.

We went out last night to celebrate our co-birthdays, and we had a really lovely evening with our friends. I had to give Caitlin an IOU instead of her actual gift--I'm buying us tickets to see Hawksley Workman when he comes to town next April, but the tickets haven't gone on sale yet.

Today has actually been pretty quiet. A few of my students made me a birthday card (on lined paper with highlighters) and Mat made me a cake. The most exciting (questionably so) thing that has happened today is that the computer in my office stopped working halfway through the day. My office computer is an IBM NetVista Pentium 4, complete with original floppy drive, and it has been getting increasingly cantankerous these last few months. It currently takes over half an hour to complete its turning on cycle. I am hoping that I will be able to have it replaced fairly shortly, as it makes it very difficult for me to get anything done at work.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

C'est l'Hallowe'en, hey!


(A wee trip down memory lane for those of us educated in Ontario's public school system- Matt Maxwell was a mainstay of our French program.)

We will be attending the annual Hallowe'en party that friends of ours throw tonight. Mat works today, so we are getting off to a late start and jetting down. He is excited to be going to a place where people will recognize his costume. I am excited because I am part of a group costume.

The roommates and I used to do group costumes when we were in school--we did both Star Wars and X-Men themes--but after I moved out, that just sort of...stopped. Last year, I had the best idea for a group theme: we could dress as the characters from Clue. Unfortunately, the H1N1 hit and I had to bail on the party, leaving my poor Miss Scarlet costume to go unworn.

This year, my friend Jessica and I decided to dress as the White and Red Queens from Through the Looking Glass. She had the further idea to make our costumes burlesque themed, and once that happened, the whole thing snowballed: we're being joined by a burlesque Cheshire Cat, as well as Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and a straight-thugging White Rabbit. The only thing we lack, funnily enough, is an Alice.

For my costume, I purchased a red and black corset on eBay. I then bought a sewing pattern for a saloon girl costume, and madea bustled skirt in red satin with black lace trimming. (Jess found an online free pattern here but I was unable to wrap my head around how it got put together, so I went with a commercial pattern.) I have stockings, garters, shoes with a t-strap, a lace fan, gloves, and jewelry, as well as a bobbed black wig. It's going to be awesome.

I'm currently working on designing a cloak to wear, since it is flipping SNOWING outside.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nameology

Now that we are married, the question of what to do with my name has been a fairly frequent one. I am keeping my name for a variety of different reasons: I like my name; my mother regrets changing hers; I can keep my red and white health card1, etc. Mat has offered to hyphenate his name if I want to do the same. I figure that we can take some time to decide--I can't change anything until we get our marriage certificate, which will be roughly 10-12 weeks after the wedding.

I've been very surprised by how controversial this decision has been. There have been unexpected moments of support (my dad is really pleased that I want to keep my name), but a lot of people have been quite negative about it, like the woman who sold us our marriage license. The latest in this line of people has been a supervisor at our local bank.

We received a couple of cheques as wedding gifts that were made out to Mat and Rhi FrenchLastName, and we went to try to cash them on the weekend. We weren't sure if we'd be able to, but figured that since people get married all the time, the bank would have some kind of contingency in place.

Not so. The bank teller had to get her supervisor, who told us that it was impossible to do anything--even deposit them--without the marriage certificate and change of name documents, and that we would have to go back to our guests and ask them to write us new cheques. "It's only naturally for people to assume that you'll take your husband's name," the supervisor said to me.

But the point, I think (and I did say this at the time) isn't that I don't intend to change my name. Even if I wanted to change it, I couldn't until I had my marriage certificate, which would still take nearly three months, which is an awfully long time not to cash a cheque that someone's written for you. "But at least you'd have the paperwork," sniffed the supervisor, which is also not true, since you have to send away for it all to a processing centre that's 14 hours away.

So I came home and did a little creative googling, and it turns out that there are no formal rules about these things at banks2, and that it seems to depend largely on who you speak to at the bank. Fortunately, I have a friend who works at a different branch of the same bank on the other side of town, and we'll be going to see him later this week.

On the knitting front, I have been picking away at my mother's sweater in hopes of having it finished for Christmas. I also knit a cozy for my teapot out of my very own handspun. It's quite lovely looking, I think. I have also wet finished all of my Targhee handspun, and I'm looking forward to turning it into a hat and mitts soon.

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1 Several years ago, the Ontario government decided to switch our plain health cards, which look not unlike a social insurance card, to photo ID health cards. The photo cards (which do not count as a legal form of government ID) have to be renewed with a new photo every five years. The red and white cards have no expiry dates. Every time someone in the medical field sees my card, he or she tells me to guard it with my life.
2 Well, probably there are, but they don't seem to be observed with any consistency

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Would Be Happy Just To Hold The Hands I Love

It's been eleven days now since I got married, and I think that I have finally decompressed enough to actually give a proper write up. The weeks leading up to the event were pretty stressful, as a lot of stuff needed to get done (including my bloody fascinator *and* all of the jewelry for the girls). At the same time, work started to get busier (a trend that has, unfortunately, continued up until the present). Mat made the mistake of saying, about five days before the wedding, that he didn't think planning a wedding was really "all that much work." Let me simply say, for the record, that he's quite lucky that he said that in a public place in front of other people, because if we'd been alone I don't know what I would have done to him.

The day itself was sunny but cold. We had been really worried that it was going to rain, and prevent us from having the ceremony outside. It was grey and overcast early in the morning, but the sun did come out and the rain held off. I was much calmer than I had thought I would be, and everyone kept commenting on that. One of the few advantages to getting married far away from here was that I had to have everything ready before we left on the Thursday, so by the time I arrived at my parents' place, there wasn't anything left to worry about.

Once we arrived at the museum where the ceremony was to take place, we went upstairs to hide out. It was then that the first (of two) almost-bad thing happened: my poor mother fell down the stairs, ass over tea kettle. She tore the skin off of one of her knees and one of her elbows, and she now has a bruise the size of a grapefruit on her arm.1 My poor mum. Her Haruni shawl was beautiful, though.

Outside, we lined up around the side of the building with my friend (and former THSWSNBN boss) Larry, who graciously agreed to pipe us in.




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Just as Larry was gearing up to play Paul McCartney's Mull of Kintyre for us, Youngest Sister suddenly realized that she didn't have Mat's ring anymore: it had been in her purse, which was now with one of our cousins in the audience. We had to call off the start of the ceremony so that she could go find it...and then it began.



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We were married by a provincial court judge, who was Mat's Boy Scout leader when he was a child.2 We had three readings as part of the ceremony: a Neil Gaiman poem that Mat picked out; a selection from Le Petit Prince, done in both French and English; and a few verses from the Song of Solomon. We wrote our own vows, and Mat either broke down and cried during his or was attacked by a vicious swarm of insects.



Wedding Party


Between the ceremony and the reception, we were able to get a few pictures over at THSWSNBN:


North-west Bastion

At Ste. Marie

The reception went beautifully: the hall looked wonderful, the food was plentiful and delicious, the speeches were funny and brief, and the DJ was excellent. We really could not have asked for anything more.3

Oh, and for those of you who've asked, this was our first dance:


Song for a Winter's Night-Gordon Lightfoot
Uploaded by StonewallStudios. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.
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1 It has been speculated that she gave herself a mild concussion, but we'll never know--she refused to go to the hospital, saying she would not go to her own ER on the day of her daughter's wedding with a head injury.
2 And also the father of the friend who introduced us.
3 Except for my grandfather to have been there, but at least he is in a safe place now

Sunday, October 10, 2010

To Tide You Over...

Yes, I know I haven't blogged about the wedding yet. I promise that I will soon--I just want to make sure I do it justice.

In the mean time, here is a picture of my fascinator to tide you over. I made it two days before the wedding. Naturally.

Fascinating Fascinator

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Mostly. It has been a hell of a couple weeks around here. I might have to write this entry as a bullet point list for the sake of clarity. I'm hoping your regularly scheduled blogging will resume shortly. Anyhow, here is what I've been up to:
  • Collective Bargaining - I sit on the bargaining committee for my union, and we have finally started negotiating a collective agreement with the university's administration. Things have gone quickly so far, but we still have the big stuff--compensation and workload--to get through. It will be very interesting to see how this goes--the Ontario government has asked for a two year wage freeze for all public servants/groups that receive transfer funds; it is likely that we will be offered 0-0 for the next two years.
  • New school year. You'd think, since this is my fourth year in this job, I'd remember how hard that first week of classes is: a million names to remember, new schedule and locations to memorize, no more napping in the afternoons...but I didn't remember, and last week just knackered me. I'm so lucky to have Mat in my life--if I were left to my own devices, I would probably eat pizza for the entire first month of school because I am just exhausted when I get home from work right now.
  • Test knitting. I'm almost done my second test knit. The first was a stranded pattern done in sport weight yarns, so it was a slow(er) project. I've only knit one other stranded project in my entire life, so don't ask me why I came up with a fairly involved stranded design...but I did. My second knit is in a worsted weight yarn, and I'm so happy that I saved it for last because it's working up like a dream. I'm going to mail them out tomorrow, and then I just have finish writing the patterns.
  • Bachelorette party. This was a very good night. The theme was "Wear It Again" (as in, wear a dress that you've only worn once) with a side of "underwear" (everyone brought me a pair of gotchies and I had to guess who brought me which). There are lots of photos here, although I will warn you that there are pictures of a) crocheted thongs, b) phallic pastries, and c) firemen having hoses pinned on them.
  • Various and sundry wedding planning. I finally have all the fascinator things, but haven't quite figured out what I'm doing. I do not have all the jewelry things, which is irritating. At times like this I feel like the persecution complex that I have in relation to Canada Post is actually quite justified.
  • My cat hates me again.
  • I AM GETTING MARRIED IN TEN DAYS FRAK

Monday, September 13, 2010

With a bang and a whimper

There are two sayings that I like to pretend were said by my grandmother, although I think I probably picked them up from all that nineteenth century literature I read when I was a kid. They both essentially mean the same thing, I think. The first is, "it never rains but it pours" and the second is "if it's not chickens, it's feathers." So I'll leave it to you to guess what kind of week I had.


Collective bargaining began this week, and occupied six hours of my time on Thursday, plus countless hours of my thoughts since then. I also had dinner with my mother and one of her friends from nursing college. On Friday, I attended a Deans' Breakfast for the frosh, followed by an information session for the English majors, and met with the union's Scholarship Committee. On Saturday, I volunteered for the local AIDS Committee's annual AIDS Walk, and somehow got suckered into doing work with Excel spreadsheets.1

Saturday night made it all worth it, though. Friends of mine put together a record label for artists in North Bay Rock City2, recorded an e.p., and held a record release party at one of my favourite bars. After the week I'd had, I had more or less talked myself out of going until one of the performers emailed me to tell me that he thought I should go--so I got out of my comfy pants and into some other clothes.3

This was the best decision I'd made all week. The martinis were $5, I was only minorly socially awkward, and the music was amazing. Generally, when you've got a multi-artist e.p., you're going to wind up with something that you don't really care for, but this was not the case on Saturday. Everyone who took to the stage was awesome: there was a great mix of originals and covers. (My favourites were Matt Murphy belting out Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz," Tyler MacIver's version of Tommy James & the Shondelles' "I Think We're Alone Now"4 and Kyle Fowle's Sonic Youth cover.5)

Headliner Craig Cardiff played a set mid-show, which felt very intimate as he invited people to sit down on the floor and on the stage. I didn't because I didn't want to abandon my totally sweet bar stool, which was still less than ten feet from the stage. His set was excellent even without my favourite song, "Albion Hotel," and he played a lovely cover of "What A Wonderful World" as his last song.

I'm always a bit worried when I go to friends' creative endeavours, because there's always that slightly possibility that your friends are going to suck, and then there's some awkward lying involved about how much you enjoyed stuff.6 Fortunately, no lying would've been required for this show: I had a great time, as evidenced by the fact that I stayed out til 2 a.m.

Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better night out, with one exception--I forgot to grab myself a copy of the e.p.
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1 There really aren't words to describe how much I hate Excel/how stupid Excel makes me feel. Also, it was Excel for Windows Vista, which is even worse. I really hate the MS Office suite for Vista. Obviously, no one at Windows has ever heard the phrase, "If it's not broke, don't fix it."
2 Despite the nickname, North Bay is very seldom a Rock City.
3 I tweeted about this at the time, but I still want to know: What does one wear to indie concerts when one is a grown up? This was so much easier when I was 16 and could wear a pair of Converse One-Stars and a t shirt I'd painted a slogan on myself. I ended up in a (machine) knit dress and a pair of jeans.
4Yes, it is the same song that Tiffany covers; it just sounds more impressive if you know the original artist.
5 Though, as I tweeted at the time, every time I hear Sonic Youth now, it reminds me of the part in Juno when Juno is angry at Mark and she tells him that she bought a Sonic Youth album and "it was just noise!"
6 This is undoubtedly a residual effect from one of my exes, who--while he was a talented guitar player--definitely thought he was a lot better than he actually was, and would get upset if he wasn't given what he thought was his due after shows.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Les Invasions Barbares

I've written approximately four half posts here in the last few days, but I just can't seem to settle on anything. I have only a few days left before the semester starts, and the time seems to be filling up quickly: I have meetings with my chair, with the scholarship committee, with the collective bargaining committee, and a breakfast with the first year students, as well as a visit from my mother. (One of her best friends from nursing school is teaching in town for a few days, so she's driving up to visit Middle Sister and I, and have dinner with her friend.)

I've also got knitting to do. I sold two patterns to Three Irish Girls a few months ago, and the yarn arrived last week for me to work up my samples. I need to finish them quickly so that I can mail them away to Minnesota. (I'm very glad that I started with the fingering weight project first; the worsted weight one will take less time to knit up.) I'm still plugging away on my mum's Rogue (the goal is to finish last year's present for this year's Christmas). I've also got the idea in my head that I want to make a Little Sister Dress for a colleague whose wife just had a baby girl.

The competition list for the Elmvale Fall Fair are up now, and I am bound and determined to enter some of my hand knits this year. There are several different knitting categories, which generally have fewer than five entries in them. I also have this crazy idea that I could throw together a few sewing projects for that too...plus the sewing and knitting projects I want to have done for the holidays this year.


Speaking of holiday knits, I finished these yesterday, and I foresee a fair few pairs in my future. The embellishments are done by needle felting, and I added a few of the beads leftover from when I made Larisa.







Wednesday, September 01, 2010

From The Office Of...

I am at work, in my office.1 I've been asked to present at the New Faculty Orientation today on the union's contract negotiations with the university2, so I am dressed and professional and wearing heels, and await the presentation. I am also basking in the air conditioning. It was 29 degrees in the house when I left, and I don't imagine that's much improved.

Thus, I am taking advantage of the opportunity to organize my fall knits list, and to think about what holiday knitting (if any) that I want to pursue this year. I've been plugging away, slowly but surely, on my mom's Rogue sweater (which I'd love to have done for Christmas this year). There are a couple of things that I'd like to knit, but I've got some yarn coming to knit samples of two of my designs. Once the yarn finally gets here I will have a fairly tight turnaround with those, so I'm trying to stick to simple and in progress projects in the meantime.

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1 The comma there is quite important. Without it, the sentence would've read, "I'm at work in my office," which is not, strictly speaking, exactly true.
2 Or lack thereof.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Drinking the Haterade

With four weeks to go, I think I might be finally losing it. The last couple of days have been pretty stressful, between trying to track down RSVPs, another shower, and a friend's sudden announcement of her plans to marry a few weeks after us.

Unfortunately, my attempts to track down some of our non-RSVPers has resulted in the realization that a friend of a friend from the Historic Site Which Shall Not Be Named is getting married the same day we are. There is some overlap in our guestlists, and so far I've had three people tell me that they can't come because they're attending his wedding.

I am taking this far more personally than I'm really comfortable admitting. There are quite a few people not attending our wedding for various reasons: work, school, family obligations, and that doesn't bother me...but for some reason, this does. I'm really hurt that these people are choosing not to come to our wedding. Why not us? Don't we matter?

Thus, my goals for this week are to finish my placecards, start my seating chart, and to try my best to accept that if people choose not to come to my wedding, the only people who will miss out are the people who aren't there. I am going to think nice thoughts. I will not dwell on things that I have no control over. I will not, as Middle Sister puts it, drink the Haterade.

Oh, and I'll knit these.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

happiness is a warm nerd

My beloved's first language is not English. You'd probably never guess, to speak to him:1 He has virtually no accent and does not speak his first language often.2 He speaks it most when around members of his family, although the odd time when we're talking, he won't be able to find the right English word and will say it to me in French. He often jokes that he spells like a drunken sailor in English. The only time I really notice, though, is with his use of idioms, as he has no grasp whatsoever of English idioms.

This is mostly funny, as he will mix metaphors in ways that make no sense, or get an expression ever-so-slightly-wrong. Every once in a while, though, he'll use an expression so completely incorrectly that I'm completely flabbergasted by it. This actually happened yesterday, when he came home from work. He'd picked up a bathroom scale3 and wanted to buy something else, but, as he put it, one of the other workers had "snafu-ed" it from him.

"Pardon?" said I.

"She snafu-ed it from me," he replied.

"I don't understand what you mean," I said. "AT ALL."

"She snagged it before I got it," he said. "Snafu-ed."

"That's not what snafu-ed means," I said. "Not even close. It's an acronym for Situation Normal, All F---ed Up."

"No it isn't," he said. So I made him google it.

In other news, his place of employment is gearing up for Hallowe'en, which is the biggest event of the year for the store. The managers are expected to be in costume for the whole month of October, so Mat gets to wear several different Hallowe'en costumes. Last year, Capt. Mal was his default costume. Last night, he decided that this year, he's going to add Doctor Who to his repetoire.4 Awesome.

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1 Though his name, Mathieu, might give you a clue.
2 This is likely because of me, since it is my second language and the older I get, the more I struggle with it.
3 Which does not work, unsurprisingly.
4 David Tennant's Doctor, to be precise.

Friday, August 27, 2010

spinning and food

While I was home on the weekend, Mat's mum gave me a giant basket of tomatoes from her garden. When I got to my parents, my mum said, "Oh, you got tomatoes already. I was hoping to pawn some off on you." It has been, apparently, a ridiculously good growing year in the region where I grew up: the corn came in early, the tomatoes plants have nearly exploded, and the cucumbers are also quite plentiful. So I have a basket of tomatoes to turn into a tomato sauce at some point today, and I bought a basket of Ontario peaches yesterday that I'd like to turn into a peach crisp.

Even though Girl Tuesday brought over her spinning wheel almost two weeks ago, I haven't had a chance, really, to do anything with it until yesterday. I picked up some of Fleece Artist's Merino Sliver1 at the store downtown, and I've got the first braid half spun and half pre-drafted.






The cat thinks the spinning wheel is just about the coolest thing ever.

It's shaping up to be a beautiful day here, so I'm going to get outside and enjoy it.

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1 I love this fleece. It's merino, handles really well, has all of Fleece Artist/Handmaiden's signature great colours, and it's generally about $7 CAD for a 50g braid.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

doing the grown up things

One of my most popular posts here at academia nuts is the one where I wrote about not knitting a Cowichan style sweater for the Ravelympics during the Vancouver Games. (My other most popular post is the one with the chart for the Hearthstone from World of Warcraft.) It's a topic that I'd like to revisit some time: I think that the sweaters represent a very interesting and very vexed space in Canadian culture, and I've hardly done them justice. I only bring it up today because I've just discovered that Briggs and Little have released the HBC Cowichan-style sweater pattern as a free download on their website. It is a beautiful sweater, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to knit it. Unfortunately, it's written for their Country Roving, which is not one of my favourite yarns (picture pre-drafted pencil roving that feels like Lopi). If it were the Heritage yarn, that would be another story.

I'm in the process of sorting through the kitchen, a process which is probably long overdue. We've lived here for just over two years now, and I suspect that since that time we've just been putting things in the cupboards without really paying attention to what they are. Now that I have so many nice new kitchen things, I'm trying to sort through what we can keep, what we can give away, and what we can toss. Now that I have my standmixer, I don't need my handmixer anymore, but it will work quite well for someone else. I also have about three different half sets of dry measuring cups and spoons, which I'll be pleased to get rid of and replace with lovely stainless steel ones. I have also found our large colander (hurray!) which had fallen in behind the pots.

I also cleaned out the fridge today. Not a "let's toss the gross stuff" clean, but a real, remove-and-wipe-down-the-shelves type of clean. I also--I think/hope/pray--found the source of the rather unpleasant odour emanating from the fridge these last few days. Remember that time I made pavlova? When I separated the eggs for the meringue, I saved the yolks intending to make lemon curd...and then forgot them until this morning. Gross.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

an embarrassment of riches

I am chez les parents for one last night, though I will be up and on the road quite early tomorrow morning. One of my aunts in Toronto hosted a bridal shower for me today, and it was a really nice afternoon. There was sushi, cupcakes, fifteen different kinds of cheese1, wine, tea, champagne, sandwiches...so much delicious food.

When my friend Jess got married last summer, she told me that one of the biggest surprises about getting married is how generous people are to you. And even though I knew that was true, I didn't realize exactly what that would mean for me until today: It truly is an embarrassment of riches to be loved by your family and friends. The shower was a recipe shower--my sister sent out recipe cards with the invitations, and everyone brought recipes and kitchen supplies to the shower. The best recipes are the family ones, copied out by my grandmother from her cookbook, where her mother originally wrote it, or from the Women's Institute cookbook my grandfather's mother helped publish up in Timmins in the early twentieth century, or my cousin's recipe for cream filled Easter eggs.

I am so very lucky. Even if they did make me wear the bra.

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1 Maple cheddar! Guinness cheddar! Caramelized onion cheddar! Cheesegasm!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wedding Bell Blues

This is a wedding rant, so if you are uninterested in my wedding, you may make your exit now.

Gentle reader, if there is anything that I have learned in the last year that I feel is necessary to pass on to you, it is this one piece of advice: Just elope. 1

Things have been relatively calm up until this point. There have been a few hiccups along the way, of course, but in the span of about five days, everything got stupid. For example:
  • Wedding rings: Did you know that the price of gold is at an all-time high? It is. Which means that my plain, simple band cost almost $250 more than the price we were originally quoted.2 It actually would've been cheaper to buy the pre-fab band encrusted with diamonds that we initially vetoed as being too expensive.
  • The back up venue for the ceremony, which my father-in-law had assured us that we would be able to get (for free) is in fact booked. Most of the other possible venues? Also booked. Most of them in the last two or three days. Except for the one restaurant, which told my father-in-law that he normally charges about $200 to rent the space, but since it was a wedding he'd have to charge $500.
  • Two of the three people that we'd intended to ask to do readings at the wedding are...not coming.
  • The RSVP deadline was on Sunday and only 55% of the invitees have responded so far.
  • My aunts on Facebook are talking about the black bra of doom.3
  • None of the fascinator or jewelry supplies that I've ordered online have arrived yet.

The end result of all this is that I have taken to obsessing about things I cannot change. For example, I have just noticed that one of our floors is a bit slopy. The house is eighty years old, and I've lived here for just over two. I am sure that the floor has been a bit slopy the entire time, and that I've just never noticed before now. But now I cannot not see it or feel it every time I walk on it. There is not a damned thing I can do about it either.4

So in the meantime, I am going to breathe deeply, exhale slowly, and tell myself to accept that things are what they are, and that I need to conserve my energy. And then I'm going to go home and have a really kick ass weekend there.

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1 My wedding has, in fact, driven me crazy. Mad. Loopy. Barking. 'Round the twist. I am losing it. I can't believe that there are still five weeks to go because I can't imagine living like this for five weeks without resorting to the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol.
2 Not really the jeweler's fault--we got a quotation for price back in February, and gold has done nothing but go up since then.
3 It is an absolutely enormous bra that women in our family get to wear at their bridal showers. You are supposed to stuff pieces of wrapping paper from your gifts into it. The last person to wear it was my tiny, tiny cousin. I, unfortunately, pretty much fill out the bra to begin with.
4 Which is to say, not a damned thing that doesn't involved ripping up the floors and replacing them, which is not really a feasible solution at this juncture.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dreaming of Expeditions

To summit or not to summit, that is the question. One of my Rav groups is the midst of organizing a major expedition to Sock Summit 2011, which will take place next summer in Portland, Oregon. They're coordinating hotel rooms etc., and I've been offered a spot if I want one. So I need to decide soonish if this is something I want to do. I want to go so bad.1 I think that it would be so much fun to take the classes, visit the marketplace, do the Rav-type stuff, and meet some of the people that I've spent just over two years talking to online.

As best I can figure, it would cost me somewhere between $1000-$1500, with the variable being how much money I want to take to the marketplace. And theoretically that might not be too bad--I could sock away2 about $100 a month between now and then and that would get me enough money...but can I justify spending that kind of money on what is essentially a frivolity? There are so many other things that I could do with the money.3 To say nothing of the fact that I don't know what my employment situation will be like...

Chipmunks McGee is recovering slowly. He doesn't feel very good day, I don't think, so we'll continue the resting and the Firefly re-watch. Any tips on good, protein rich soft foods?

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1 Which is kind of funny when you consider that I don't even really like knitting socks that much.
2 Pun intended.
1 Mostly very boring, house-related things, like furnaces and RRSPs.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chipmunks McGee

Poor Mat had his wisdom teeth out yesterday, and he is now all kinds of puffy and jowly about the cheeks. He had all four out, although only two were impacted. (Hurray for dental insurance from work, I must say; it's rather an expensive operation.) The poor guy--the day before, we had gone grocery shopping to lay in some provisions for his recovery. He had looked up a couple of recipes for vegetable soups on the internet, and bought the stuff to make them. When we got home, I asked if he wanted me to help chop stuff up and get things ready for the soup. "No need," said he. "I'll just make it tomorrow."

I decided that this was one of those moments in our relationship when I could either tell him the truth or just keep quiet. I opted for staying quiet, as sometimes telling the truth causes the other party to accuse you of being a know-it-all or a bossy bessy. Needless to say, he was not up to soup making yesterday, poor guy. He seems to be in much better spirits today, although he hasn't actually made it out of the bed yet so I suppose time will tell.

I am currently working on a little cap sleeve top made from Fleece Artist's Peter Rabbit, which is an 80-10-10 angora/wool/nylon blend. The fabric is pretty much the softest, floatiest dream. I've converted the pattern to be knit in the round, though, so now I am stuck in the endless stockingette circle. I just have to keep in mind that the finished product is so awesome as to be worth it. Besides, today is Day Two of the Great Firefly re-watch, so it will be good to have something relatively mindless to work on while we watch.

I'll be headed to my parents' this weekend, and then down to Toronto for a bridal shower on Sunday. It'll be good to have some time with them and Youngest Sister. It will also be good to get my first paycheque of the year, although that does mean I will have to resist all temptation to visit any of the yarn stores on the way home...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

weekend

Another hot and humid day. We're waiting on a thunderstorm, and my head is just aching. I've taken two extra strength ibuprofen, which has taken the edge off, but I can still feel the ghost of the headache. Brutal.

It's been a good cooking week here: I made a delicious thin crust pizza. (Okay, not "made" so much as "assembled"--I used a Presidents Choice crust.) I topped it with a plain tomato sauce, proscuitto, sliced boccocinni, shaved parmesan, and fresh basil leaves. It was fantastic. This morning I also tried my hand at salted caramels. (Perhaps not the wisest choice on such a hot day.) The caramels came out pretty well, I think, though I still have to finish cutting and wrapping them. I think I may have cooked the sugar a little too long, as they have a slightly burnt/crème brulée taste to them, but it's not a bad thing. I used a grey sea salt, and I think I would put in more next time. Also: silicone baking pans for the win! I literally just popped my caramel out of it by flipping it inside out. Awesome.

I'm almost done Larisa (like two more pattern repeats and then the last beading section almost done) which is great. I want to keep it for myself, but one of my aunts is hosting a bridal shower for me, and I'm a bit stuck on a gift for her. I need to pick out my next project carefully. Mat is having his wisdom teeth removed on Tuesday, and I am his primary caregiver. He has suggested that we get the first season of True Blood to watch while he's all incapacitated, and I want to work on something that I can finish in short order because...

I have simple knitting to do! I sold two mitten patterns to a dyer, and hopefully the yarn will be on its way shortly, because I have a very tight turnaround. Good thing mittens are usually quick knits...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Knitting Round Up

WARNING: This is will be a knitting and fiber heavy post, so if you are uninterested in those things, now is the time to wander away.

Larisa

A few months ago, Karie mentioned on Twitter that she was looking for test knitters. I volunteered right away, but I didn't have a chance to cast on for her lovely scarf until last night, owing to first the kilt hose, and then the Haruni shawl. The Larisa scarf is knit out of Rowan Kidsilk Haze and bookended by a few rows of beading on each side. It is both my first time using KSH1 and my first time beading. I was able to pick up the KSH in Barrie at the Knit and Quilt shop, which is the largest yarn store I've ever been in, and well worth the stop if you are in the area. The beads proved more problematic--there are a few beading stores in town, as well as WalMart, but I had absolutely no luck finding 8/0 seedbeads anywhere. Lots of 6/0, lots of 10/0, but no 8/0s. Just as I was about to succumb and just buy some from the internet, I had a flash of inspiration and decided to check my bead stash to see if I had any. I had a single packet of 8/0s (which I do not recollect buying) that were somehow, mysteriously, the exact colour (hematite) that I was going to order from the internet. Obviously it was meant to be. The grey of the beads looks pretty fab against the red of the yarn, if I do say so myself.

Haruni

I was able to cast on for Larisa because I finished my Haruni this morning! The second chart involves increasing very rapidly and results in approximately 530 stitches before you begin decreasing again. That's a lot of stitches to knit back and forth, so the last chart really felt like a long slog. The leaves are just gorgeous, though. For some unknown reason, I own approximately 4 crochet hooks in a 6.0/6.5mm size, but none smaller. The crochet bind-off required a small crochet hook, so I had to run out to Wal-Mart last night at 9 p.m.2 I wasn't sure if they'd have my size (a 3.75mm) because I wasn't sure if they'd do quarter millimetre measurements in crochet hooks. That shows you how little I know; they actually had over twenty different sizes of crochet hooks, and apparently on the smaller end of the spectrum they actually make them in 1mm increments. Crazy. The Haruni is made from Fleece Artist's Woolie Silk 2-ply, which they have since discontinued (sniff sniff). It's lovely stuff, but I already have a shawl made in this colour, so I'm considering overdyeing it.


handspun

The other thing I got accomplished in the last week was the washing and setting of my second skein of handspun yarn. I spun this ages ago on Girl Tuesday's wheel, which is a Louet S17 and then left it to languish. Girl has been pushing me to borrow the wheel again for a few weeks3, so I decided that if I wanted to do that, I need to actually make something from what I made last time. It's an alpaca-merino-silk blend from my favourite alpaca farm, Misty Haven Alpacas and it is destined to be Kink from the latest Knitty.

It is Mat's birthday today. I will not tell you how old he is, because he is embarassingly young. This year, I have been trying to write blog posts on people's birthdays about all of the reasons why I love those people, and what I think are the neatest things about them. I am not going to write about Mat now, though; I'm going to save it for a pre-wedding post. We are going out to a new pub tonight, which has both of our favourites on tap, and that is a good thing.

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1 And I can definitely see why some call it Crack Silk Haze.
2 I do generally try to avoid shopping at Wal-Mart, but when it's 9 p.m. and you need a crochet hook, there are relatively few other options.
3 I suspect, though I can't confirm, that she hopes that if I have the wheel and she can't spin, that she will stop buying roving on Etsy. ;)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Licensed to Wed

Great news today--Girl Tuesday, who manages the A/V department at the local library, has brought a new project to fruition: she's worked out a deal with the Ontario Library Service's OverDrive program that allows library card holders access to a sizable database of audiobooks (which can then be downloaded to a computer, or uploaded to a listening device). I'm just browsing through the selection right now, and it's quite impressive--Atwood's Year of the Flood, any one? (I will pass on Android Karenina, though.) It even has an iPod app, so that you can download directly to your iPod. You can borrow up to five books for up to seven days. I foresee tremendous awesomeness.

Mat and I went down to city hall today to apply for our marriage license this morning. It was a very ineresting experience: you have to declare your religious affiliations on the form, so I foolishly wrote "none" instead of "Protestant" and had to change it to "no religion" when we got there. I know this is going to be a bit pedantic, but having no religious affiliation is not the same as having no religion. We also had to take an oath that we are not affinated nor consanguinated, and swear to that oath by placing our hands on the Bible. It's interesting to me that even though I have "no religion," an oath on the Bible is still considered binding for me. I wonder if that would be different if I had declared myself to be Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist. (Somehow I doubt it.)

I had a very strange dream the other night where someone (possibly one of my co-workers) wanted to pay me to read the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series. I'm pretty sure that even in the dream, I refused.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Of Pretzels and Pavlova

When I decided a few months back that I wanted to post more regularly here, I read a couple of articles online about blogging. The best piece of advice that I got was that I should blog in the morning, and that I would be better able to keep myself posting consistently if I did so. I didn't put much stock in it at the time, since I tend to think about posting more in the evening, but I'm starting to think that it might be the better way to go.1

I've been putting the stand mixer through its paces, and have made both soft pretzels and pavlova this week. The pretzels were okay--it was a very humid day, which made for very dense pretzels. The recipe claimed to make 8 pretzels, but if I made it again I would make 16 smaller pretzels. I would also salt them more. The dough hook is awesome though--it kneaded my dough for me in about 3 minutes. I only used the meringue recipe from the pavlova, and it came out different than I'd anticipated. The recipe uses cornstarch and vinegar instead of cream of tartar, and it made a meringue that was crisp on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside. It was good, but very, very different from what I'd anticipated. (I served it with a raspberry coulis and homemade whipped cream, in case you're wondering.)


Yesterday, I washed and set a skein of alpaca-merino-silk yarn that I spun several months ago. It's drying now. It's so pretty I can hardly believe that I made it myself. I am going to make this pattern from Knitty with it, I think, which will be the first time that I've knit anything with yarn I've spun myself.

I am off to somewhere this evening for round two of Not My Family Reunion, because Mat managed to get tomorrow off, so we're going just for tonight. I was saying to him this morning that I thought I would be better able to deal with it if the two reunions weren't back to back; if we were fully able to attend both we'd have only three days between the two because of the long weekend. "That's too much time with too many people for an introvert," I said. "Dude," he replied. "You were an interpreter on a historic site and gave tours in two languages to huge groups. You've lectured to nearly 200 students. How are you possibly an introvert?"

Being an introvert, I explained, is not about being shy, although I was painfully shy for the first 18 years of my life. Being an introvert is more about finding it difficult to engage in social interaction for extended periods of time, and about valuing your own company as much as (if not, in some circumstances, more) than the company of others. One of the things that I like about Mat's job (aside from the sweet spousal discounts on used books and clothing) is that his schedule does not overlap with mine, which means that I get to spend a reasonable amount of time by myself every week. He is definitely an extrovert, though, so that's part of why he doesn't understand.

I need approximately three more hours in the day. If you could arrange that I'd be eternally grateful.

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1 I.e., thinking about posting is not the same as actually posting.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Another Long Weekend

August is a busy month for Mat's family. The Simcoe Day weekend (known to other Canadians as the Civic Holiday) is a family reunion for his dad's side of the family, which is always hosted at my in-laws' house. The following weekend is the reunion for his mom's side of the family, with a different location every year.1 The week after that is Mat's birthday.2

So this weekend was the paternal family reunion, featuring a grand total of 31 people. I should probably preface all of this by saying that I love my inlaws very much: they've always been very accepting of me, despite our cultural and religious differences, and they've never made me feel anything but loved when I am at their house. That said, there are very real cultural differences, and a long weekend of that can be very overwhelming, especially for an introvert.

It was especially bad this year because of the wedding. There were guests at the reunion who are not invited to the wedding. (Mat's great aunts and uncles and some of his second and third cousins; we've had to draw the line at our first cousins because it would've added approximately 50 people to his half of the guest list. I am meeting almost of all these people for the first time this summer.) Most people, I think, would be fairly sensitive to the delicacy of these situations, but we got asked more than once where these relatives' invitations were. Awkward. I also got to attend a Passion Party put on by my future sister-in-law, along with her cousins and aunts. More awkward but eventually hilarious.

I got to have dinner with my parents and spend a few hours with my mom, which was really nice. My grandfather's condition is worsening (mentally at least; not sure about the physical) and he's been hospitalized for the time being. He will probably move from the hospital into an old age home. This has been a long time coming; it has been very hard for my grandmother and some of my aunts to admit that my grandfather's needs to go beyond her ability to care for him. I'm hoping that the transition goes well for both of them. Growing old is scary.

I skipped out on a good chunk of the 50 Days of Tea since I wasn't at home, but I did have a peach-mango white tea today. Very nice taste; lots of scent; not convinced that Lipton's much vaunted pyramid-style tea bag really makes all that much difference.
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1 Yes, this does mean that every five or so years, they will host back-to-back reunions for about sixty people total.
2 I have bought him an iced tea set, and I will be buying him a sgian dubh for his kilt.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Early in the morning

I had to drive Mat to work for 5 a.m. today, which is one of my least favourite things to do. I have discovered, through the course of our two years living common-law, that I don't necessarily sleep well when we sleep together. It's not so bad during the school year when my job does a fair job of exhausting my mind, but I've been a little understimulated this summer1 and have often found myself quite awake when Mat wants to go to bed. This is especially problematic when he has these 5 a.m. shifts, as they usually necessitate him going to bed between 9:30 and 10 o'clock at night.

Now, I love the man dearly, but he is a very restless sleeper. He talks; he kicks; he chatters his teeth. He also, on occasion, snores. If I go to bed at the same time as him, it usually isn't too bad: once I am asleep, I stay asleep, but if I don't...he'll keep me up.2

All of this is to say that I am quite tired, and that I am skipping out on today's portion of the 50 Days of Tea because I want a cup of tarry black orange pekoe, and by George, I am going to have it. It is also a perfectly balmy 8 degrees here in NBRC, so a hot cup will be marvelous.

We looked after Abigail, the six-month old daughter of one of my old roommates, for a few hours last night. It went well until she started to get a bit fussy, which quickly turned into very fussy and then into full-on screaming. I was trying to make dinner while Mat watched her, and we quickly realized that it was our faces that were upsetting her: every time I came into the room, she'd look for her mom, and realize that I wasn't her, and get even more upset. So we strapped her into her chair, turned her away from us, and were careful to enter and exit the room out of her line of sight. She stopped screaming within five minutes of not being able to see us, and fell asleep within ten.

I'm headed to the in-laws' for a family reunion this weekend. 31 people will be there, which will be quite chaotic; hopefully I'll be able to slip out for a bit to visit my own parents and touch base with a couple of friends. My future mother-in-law has requested that I make some soft pretzels for the occasion. I haven't actually made them in years (as in at least three or four) so it will be interesting to see how that goes. I'm considering making a practice batch before we leave today from an Alton Brown recipe. If I do, I get to try out the dough hook on my stand mixer, which sounds like it could be fun.

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1 You are shocked, I'm sure, to discover that wedding planning is not rocket silence.
2 I also have issues with knowing that an alarm clock will be going off in the future, since I'm paranoid about sleeping in. If I know an alarm has been set, I will wake up periodically throughout the night to make sure that I haven't slept through it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Of Mousse and Men

Today I really did clean all the things. Or at least most of them. It was quite gratifying. I also went to the mall and picked up my brand new KITCHEN AID STAND MIXER, which is quite gorgeous and also weighs quite a bit. It is a thing of rare and singular beauty. I made the Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse I mentioned a few days ago, which was a very interesting experience. I've never made any kind of caramel before, so melting the sugar was a bit scary. I was especially scared by the crust of sugar left in the pan, but it actually completely dissolved after I let it sit in some hot water for about twenty minutes. I also managed to spill a single drop of boiling sugar on my thumb, which resulted in a LOT of pain, and a very nice blister. I haven't tried to knit since I did that, so I'm not sure if it will affect my knitting. The mousse is quite delicious, though.

One of the neat things about working in a university is that it's a research climate, which means that there's a lot of opportunity to participate in different studies. Today I got to sit in on a focus group discussion of Millenial students in post-secondary education, and how teaching practices at the post-secondary level have changed because of them. Very interesting stuff.

Today's tea was TAZO's Zen, which is my favourite green tea and my favourite of the Starbucks teas. It's green tea blended with spearmint and lemongrass, and it makes a beautiful cup of tea, particularly when my throat is a bit sore or when I don't want the kick of black tea.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Of Tea and Books

As I was sitting down here at the computer desk, I somehow managed to glance my elbow off the sharp corner of the tower section, and gouged a chunk out of my skin. It's been about ten minutes, and it still smarts.

I went to the public library's monthly book club this afternoon. Girl Tuesday runs it as part of her job, and she's been asking me to come for ages. Naturally, this meant that it was always scheduled to happen at the same time as one of my courses, so this is the first time I've been able to go. The book was Yann Martel's Life of Pi, which I've read several times and have also taught for a few years, and it was nice to have a chance to revisit it. It's an interesting exploration of philosophy, religion, science, and storytelling. The other book club members are all women in their late 60s/early 70s, and they felt that it was a book better suited for younger women. Next month is Margaret Laurence's The Diviners, which is one of my favourites, and hopefully I will be able to go back then.

The Haruni shawl is working up nicely. The pattern calls for fingering weight yarn and 3.5mm needles, and after working the first chart, I wasn't sure about how it looked, so I washed and blocked it.

swatch 034
It isn't quite as lacy as other lace projects, so it seemed quite dense, but now that I've seen it blocked, I'm okay with it. I'm using a 3 ply fingering weight yarn in 80% mohair/20% wool from Wellington Fibres, a semi-local yarn. It is a bit strange to knit with, and it has a fair amount of vegetable matter in it.1 It softens up beautifully on washing, and I think the final product will have a gorgeous drap to it.
Today's tea was a Masala Chai from Teaopia. I made a latte from it. It was delicious, and I am unfortunately almost out. Ooh! On the website, they have an iced tea brewing set...that would make the perfect gift for Mat for his birthday. I like how this is shaping up.
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1 Which is totally worth it for a local-ish, environmentally friendly yarn

Monday, July 26, 2010

Good, Bad, etc.

Today is a sad day. I just found that my favourite university blog, Rate Your Students, is dead. There's a new one called College Misery, but the quality of the posts is severely lacking--RYS was a far superior read.

On the plus side, I found a recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse. That might be a good project for later this afternoon...I also want to do the Molten Lava Cakes this week, but we'll see.

Today's tea was TAZO's Awake, which is a black tea. It was decent. M had a friend over last night for drinks and RockBand, and we wound up staying up until 3ish, so the black tea was a must for today. I feel much better now that I've had a cup of tea. I've got a union meeting at the school in an hour, and I will most definitely be hitting up one of the Tim Hortons once I get there.
Several hours later:

swatch 026

Kilt hose are done!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Clean all the things?

It's Earl Grey day today, which is another of my Stash teas. Not one of my favourites--the bergamot overpowers the black tea. Weird as it might sound, the TAZO (which is Starbucks' in-house brand) is nicer.

The knitters and I recently went out for drinks at a local pub. It was a most enjoyable evening, since about eight of us came out and there were bellinis to be had. There were also drunk people to be confused by our knitting, which is always a good time. A few people were discussing the blog Hyperbole and a Half, and I am here to tell you that I now understand everything I need to know about myself as an adult, and if you click here, you can too. I also recommend The Sneaky Hate Spiral, but I don't recommend drinking anything while you're reading it, unless you like it when liquids come out your nose.

Just in case you were wondering, I vacuumed *all* the things today.

I also bought myself a pre-wedding present: a KitchenAid stand mixer for $200. Mat wasn't quite sure why I would want to spend $200 on a stand mixer when I have a $20 hand mixer. Perhaps this is one of those things that non-bakers don't understand? I don't bake often, but it's definitely something I'd like to do more of...especially once I have a good quality tool to work with. I'm thinking that my first mixer experience might have to be some kind of Pavlova.

In the "trying new foods" category, I made a beet/carrot slaw with an Asian dressing today, and it is pretty tasty (and my hands are quite pink now). I also hit on a truly inspired idea: I have a small, stainless steel martini shaker that came as one of "gift with purchases" on a bottle of vodka a few years ago. It's cute but largely useless, since it makes about half a drink by the time you get some ice in there. It is, however, exactly the right size and shape to make my own salad dressings. Awesome.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tea On the Brain

Today's post is brought to you by Stash's Ginger Peach Green tea . I'm pretty sure that this must be one of Mat's, since I'm usually not much on green tea. This was actually pretty nice. I drank it black (green?) and it had a lot of flavour and fragrance. I'd let it steep for about five minutes in the kitchen, and could smell it from the next room by the time I went in to get it. Definitely not the harsh, caffeiny kick that I like first thing in the morning, but quite pleasant otherwise.

Now that I'm doing all this thinking about tea, I'm struck with the sudden urge to get more. I don't have a really good Earl Grey right now (just a decaf Tetley), and I haven't had any Lady Grey in a long, long time. The Tea Emporium , which has some of the best Royal Earl Grey I've ever had as well as a very nice website, also has both a Blood Orange tea. I'd also like to get some Genmaicha, which is green tea with toasted rice.

Not until I drink through my cupboard of tea, though.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Tea Challenge

As mentioned last week, I have a lot of tea--a whole cupboard full, in fact. The cupboard is in serious need of weeding out, so I have decided to set myself a challenge: for the next 50 days1 I will try a different kind of tea each day, and decide what I want to keep, what I want to get rid of, and what I can donate to the AIDS Committee.2

I started today with my default tea: Tetley Orange Pekoe. This has been my tea of choice for most of my adult life; I've had so much of it by now that I don't taste any nuance in its flavours anymore. (I am hoping that this new tea challenge will wake my tastebuds up a bit.) There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but there's nothing particularly great about it either. I drink it with milk and a little bit of sugar. I drink 1% milk, and when I get tea in public places, the milk is usually 2%. I miss how rich and creamy tea seems with 2%.

I have finished knitting the second of my three hanks of yarn into the kilt hose, and the third is wound and ready to go. If all goes well they should be finished within the week and I can finally knit something else.

We saw Inception the other day. While it is very good, it was not quite the life changing experience that so many other people have described. The characters (other than Leo's Cobb) are very one-dimensional. This bothered me most about Ellen Page's character, as there was no real motivation for her to act the way that she did. There is also too little explanation of the world and how the characters' roles fit into the world...but those are fairly minor concerns compared to the overall scope of the movie.

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1 Or however many it takes.
2 They host coffee hours for LGBT people in town, so they go through a fair bit of tea.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Boxy Drawstring Project Bag Tutorial



For someone who likes to pride herself on a keen critical understanding of contemporary culture, I am a sucker for packaging. Put two things that I don't need in a neat box, and I'll buy it. I'm very aesthetically oriented in that way, and in particular with my crafting. I love the variety of different project bags that are available for purchase on Etsy (to say nothing of the more upscale options, like everything that Jordana Paige or Namaste makes). I've got a strong streak of "but I could just make that" which usually prevents me from buying things,1 particularly with sewn items since I own rather a lot of fabric for someone who doesn't really spend all that much time sewing. These bags are the perfect size for small projects like socks. They also make good gifts for non-knitters. Here is what you will need:

Materials Needed:
• One fat quarter of fabric (or two if you intend to line it in a different
colour)
• Contrasting thread
• 9 mm ribbon, two 30” lengths
• Sewing machine
• Iron
• Cutting mat/ruler
• Scissors
• Dressmaker chalk (or other way to mark fabric)
• Pins
• Seam ripper

I made a few of these bags last winter, but neglected to save the tutorial that I made them from. Unfortunately, it seems to have disappeared in the interim: my Google-fu was not good enough to track it down again. Thus, I have created a pattern based on what I remember. I've written up the notes for my project bag as a PDF tutorial, which is available for download here. I've never written a sewing pattern before, and I welcome all feedback. If you are the author of the original, please let me know and I will gladly credit you.


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1 Which is foolish, because just because I can doesn't mean that I will.


The Angry Consumer

I've worked a pretty substantial portion of my life in the service industry, and I've done a fair amount of training on customer service. I'm usually pretty sympathetic towards people in customer service positions for that reason; I've certainly been on the end of some very irrational tirades from irate consumers. Unfortunately, my sympathy has its limits, and those limits are reached very quickly when I have to deal with customer service representatives who a) don't care what my problems are, b) don't listen (or read) when I explain the difficulties I'm having, c) just keep repeating the same things, or d) all of the above.

I've been trying to find a good pair of shoes to wear for the wedding, and I thought that I had found the perfect pair last week on the Spring Shoes website: McCombs. I like Spring's shoes a lot, and I've ordered from them online before. The prices are decent, and they usually have a good mix of fun and classy. The shoes I picked out have a pretty vintage style, and a relatively low heel. They're also only $40, which is a price tag I can get behind. So I ordered them last week, and got a shipping notice soon after. When I went to click on the tracking info, it would take me to a page that said my billing info had been voided, and the package hadn't been shipped after all. Huh. I figured I'd give Spring the benefit of the doubt, since this was on a weekend, and well within the delivery window.

On Monday I logged in to my account on the website to see if it had any updates. It didn't, so I logged back in yesterday, only to find that my account had disappeared. It wouldn't take my password, and when I entered my email address on the password retrieval screen, it told me that there was no account registered under that address. Not cool. So I emailed the customer service department, and that's where things began to unravel:

ME: Hello, I'm having difficulty logging in to my account because it tells
me there's no account associated with my email address.

SPRING: So, there was an issue with your order. The shipping notice got
sent out but the shoes didn't ship. So we've cancelled the order and you should
see a refund on your PayPal in 3-5 days.

ME: Thank you for letting me know about this1, but
that isn't what I contacted you about. I can't log in to my account, etc.
etc.

SPRING: Go to the password retrieval page and type in your email address;
we'll send you your password.

ME: No, I can't do that. It tells me there's no account associated with
this email address.

SPRING: We looked up your name/email combination and you have an account on
the American website. That's why you can't log in. You're not in America. You
should start a new account on the Canadian website.

ME: I don't want to start a new account; I want access to my order history.
Also, why was I able to access the account up until today?

SPRING: You can't place orders from or hold an account in a country that
you don't live in. So you can't have an account on the American website. Start
one on the Canadian version.

ME: I had an account up until yesterday, which was on the Canadian
website2. I have placed orders before through this
account. I will not start a new account until you tell me what happens to my
order history.

The whole thing has been unnecessarily aggravating. I don't know what to say to the CS rep to get them to understand what's going on here; they obviously can't be bothered to do anything other than tell me that I've done something wrong. The worst part is, I still want the shoes.

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1 Although this makes me wonder when, exactly, they would've informed me of this.
2 I'm pretty sure of this. It listed my closest store as Sudbury, and charges me HST, which the US site wouldn't do.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Of Tea and Tea Cozies

My parents, both of whom worked shift work for years, have been ardent coffee drinkers for as long as I've known them.1 Though I love the smell of coffee, I almost never drink it2. Tea has always been my hot caffeinated beverage of choice. In my mother's family, it is customary to take tea after dinner, and being allowed to have tea after dinner waas a marker of being "grown up" for all of us grandchildren. After finishing the Girl Guide program, I spent two years in Pathfinders,3 where one girl was responsible for tea and snacks every meeting. No one ever remembered to bring milk (we were in a church basement) so I drank a lot of strong tea with stomach turning amounts of sugar in it.

As an adult, I drink lots of tea. One of the advantages to working in a university is that there are three separate Tim Hortons locations in my building, which makes it very easy to enjoy a cup. The disadvantage, of course, is that it makes it very easy to enjoy four cups in one day. (I do, occasionally, have eleven hour days up at the school.) I put a single cup coffee maker in my office last year and used it to heat water for me, which was also not helpful in the "restraining caffeine consumption to normal levels" department.

At home, we have an entire cupboard dedicated to tea. It's also got some hot chocolate and apple cider mix in it, but most of it is tea. I think we had 50 different kinds at last count. Some of it is Mat's, but most of it is mine. Strangely, for someone who owns this much tea, I do not own a nice teapot. I have a functional Pyrex one that looks more like a diner coffee pot, but it's much too large for my purposes, and it lacks character. I would really like to have a teapot with charm, and especially one that I could make sweet tea cozies for. 4

So, dear Reader, I must ask you: What kind of teapot do you have? Do you like it? What is the ideal teapot? What is the ideal tea cozy? Do you prefer one that fits on the pot, or one that covers it like a hat?

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1 My mother occasionally likes to joke that the success of their early marriage was largely because they worked opposite shifts for a while, and thus never saw each other.
2 Except when visiting my parents, because they have a Keurig and it's delightful. Also, cream is delicious.
3 Don't tell my mum, but I do actually regret not finishing the program, just like she said I would.
4 The current tea pot is roughly the same shape as a roll of toilet paper, so if I made a cozy for it, I'd adapt one of the sushi toilet roll cover patterns.