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.

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.
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.

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
• 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.


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.

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.

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?

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.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

One Skein

I finally couldn't take it any more last night: I had to knit with something bigger than 2.75mm needles.1 So I grabbed the leftovers from some mitts I made for a Christmas present last year, along with some gloriously large2 needles, and cast on to make a swatch for an idea that's been floating around in my head.

I belong to a yarn of the month club, which means that I get a monthly package full of fibery deliciousness.3 The club in question is Three Irish Girls' Stash Menagerie, which I really like--it's all different and interesting yarn bases, dyed by one of the best indie dyers going. Sharon's business model for the club seems pretty optimal: every month you get a choice between two colours (variegated and semi-solid), and you can order as many skeins as you want. Unfortunately, I usually can't afford to step outside of the one skein/month that I've already paid for, so I am accumulating single skeins of lovely yarn at an alarming rate.4

The previews for the August yarns went up the other day, and I am just in love with Evangeline, the semi-solid option (photo from Three Irish Girls):

The yarn is a single-ply merino-silk blend that just glows. I've only used it once, to make the mittens mentioned above. I really want several skeins of this, but since I am still in the Summer of Unemployment, it simply isn't happening. Thus, I want to find something really special to do with this one skein. Once I started thinking about it, though, I realized that I actually want to do something special with all of my singleton skeins.

I started to wonder if I could design a project a month for my lovely yarns. Ideally, what I would like to do is have a pattern ready for each month's mailing, but I don't think that is feasible, since I don't own a lot of the yarns. I'd have no way to get things test knit in time. So I think that what I might do is design something every month, post the pattern as a work-in-progress, and work on building a more polished piece from there.

First up is a lacy shrug for the Evangeline. Thankfully I had nearly half a skein left over after the mittens, so I've actually been able to swatch in advance, and I can work on building a pattern from there.

1 It is well worth noting that I usually knit socks with 2.25mm needles, because my gauge is so loose.
2 Which in this case means "5mm".
3 Sometimes actual Deliciousness, which is the name of one of the yarns (a 100% alpaca tweed)

4 Or one skein/month, which is not really that alarming.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fascinated by Fascinators

Thanks to an intrepid reader, I've found a tutorial that, while not the one I had originally used1, is close enough that I should be able to recreate my favourite bags without too much trouble (and hopefully lay in a supply for future gift giving. They are good bags for anyone, even if they're not knitters). They are excellent stash busting projects. Why do I have a fabric stash? I honestly don't know. I don't sew a lot, and certainly not enough to justify the amount of fabric that I own. I seem to have a knack for finding fabric stores just as they are closing or renovating, when everything is on sale.

I've been trying to figure out what to do with my hair for the wedding. I have the world's most boring hair. 98% of the time, it just sits on my head. Every once in a while, I will put it in a pony tail, but for the most part, what you see is what you get. I have no mad skillz in the hair department. To be fair, my hair itself is no help: it is very, very fine, and wavy. (I've been growing it out, so it's okay right now because the added length helps to weight it down and keep it from doing the various wacky things it likes to do when I keep it short.)

So what I've tentatively settled on is that I'll have it put up in a bun (excellent for hiding how pathetically little hair I have) and wear some kind of awesome fascinator.2 The only problem is that most fascinators appear to cost an arm and a leg. The solution is obvious, of course: I should make one. I've sourced out various supply shops online, as I doubt I'll be able to find anything along those lines here, and once I head back to work in August I'll make an order and get cracking. I'm a bit nervous about the idea of sewing with feathers, but I think that I could, potentially, come up with something really interesting and unique.

Or just make a really big mess.

1 One of the finishing techniques is substantially different
2 When mum was in Scotland last year for the Loch Ness Marathon, she kept running into people's weddings while touring around, so she has a whole bunch of pictures of some the awesome stuff the girls were wearing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blackbirds, lost tutorials, and grey days

It is a rainy day here (or it will be soon). It's the kind of day that feels a bit like Wallace Stevens's Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird:

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Thunderstorms are due this afternoon and tonight, but for now it is just grey and damp. And I am waiting.

I've done some cleaning already, and only have the kitchen left to take care of. I thought I might reward myself by doing some sewing. (Friends both online and in town have been doing all kinds of insanely cute sewing lately, and there's nothing like a new craft to help you procrastinate on the things that you should be doing, like knitting the world's most boring man's knee sock.) The last time I had a sewing burst (just before Christmas) I cut out a bunch of lining fabric for some very cute square bottomed drawstring bags that I'd found a tutorial for online.

yarn 184

Unfortunately, seven months later I cannot find the bleeding tutorial again. My google fu has totally failed me here, and I am super sad. I still have one of the bags, so I can probably reverse engineer it from that, but I am lazy and would prefer just to find the one I used before. Today is the kind of day where I would like to make about twenty of these small project bags and just store them up. Small bag+ skein of yarn=instantly awesome gift.

I watched the Doomsday episode of Doctor Who last night, and was a bit ashamed that as Rose was telling the Doctor that she loved him, I kept being distracted by how awesome her handwarmers are, and the fact that I still have a skein of Three Irish Girls' Galenas Merino in Narcissa, which would be exactly the right colour to make those in...that said, it was a very solid episode, and I will confess to tearing up a bit at the end. I'm quite curious to see where the show goes from here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shades of Mediocrity

I attended Conspiracy of Three last night, which is a monthly meeting of writers from the area, who gather to read their works and drink. There are some really talented writers who attend, and others who are not so talented. Last night's crowd was actually pretty solid: even some of the writers whose work I don't normally care for brought work that was well written. The theme was "sex and/or animals," so I was quite surprised (since that combination is kind of a receipe for disaster).

I surprised myself by actually reading. I hadn't intended to, and didn't bring anything to read, but through the magic of wireless internet I was able to grab the rough copy of the story I've been working on the last few nights. There really is nothing like reading aloud to make you recognize all of the flaws and faults in your own writing; it will never sound quite as ridiculous as it does the first time you speak the words. Even though I don't know how much I like what I'm writing, I intend to finish it: I have written three (count 'em) short stories in the last six years, so simply the act of finishing will be gratifying enough on its own.

Not much else is new to report. My mum has been talking again about the possibility of going to Afghanistan. She figures that if she goes for three months, she'll make enough money to pay off the school debts of all three of us girls. I'm not sure how I feel about this. As she's gotten older, her desire to do good for others has increased, and I know that working in Afghanistan would make her feel like she was making a difference to someone.1 That said, I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of my mum doing this to pay off my debt. My parents were already quite generous with helping to finance my education, and I've been making small but important headway on paying it off on my own. If she were doing it for herself, I'd support that.2

1 She has done medical work in South America previously, but her recent experiences there have left her feeling like she's not really making a difference to anyone.
2 Sure, I'd worry about her constantly, but it would be her decision to go.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Best Parts of Lonely

Every time I hear Owl City's "Fireflies" (which is relatively frequently, since it gets a lot of airplay up here), it makes me sad because I always have a moment of "Yay, new Postal Service...oh. Damn." It also makes me irritated, because one of the lyrics states "To ten million fireflies/ I'm weird because I hate goodbyes," which is just...stupid. Does anyone really like goodbyes?

I said goodbye to two things last night: David Lynch's Twin Peaks and my friend Sean. We watched the last five episodes of Twin Peaks, got some Indian take out, and had a pretty casual last evening. I got to try the True Blood energy drink, and it was delicious. Not $9/bottle delicious, but very tasty nonetheless. (I am a sucker for blood orange drinks. President's Choice makes one that is exactly what I think Orangina should taste like.) The end of Twin Peaks was quite interesting--uneven in a lot of ways, but also delightfully Lynchian. I still have a hard time imagining how people felt watching it when it happened, since it's totally unlike anything on television. (I also can't believe that the network allowed it to be aired in that form. They must have been so happy that it was over.)

Saying goodbye to Sean was a bit harder. We taught the second half of the Intro course together this past semester, and working with him has been the most fun that I've had in this job. We have a lot of fun outside of the classroom as well, and it's been good to have a friend in my department. (Not that my other other colleagues aren't friendly, but Sean and I are the only people under 35, so the dynamic is a bit different.) He's been enormously helpful in getting me to think through some of the decisions I have to make about my future as an academic.

At least it gives me an excuse to visit Ottawa. And he's promised me that when I come, he'll take me to a club that has an 80s night, and to the university library. (I will probably be on my own for the knitting stores, but that's okay.)

Speaking of knitting, I have little progress to report. The foot of sock #2 is determined to take forever, it seems, aided in part by the warm temperatures 'round these parts lately. Thankfully, the heatwave seems to have broken today: It's overcast and only 23 degrees, which means it should be excellent knitting weather. (Possibly excellent weather for watching the first season of Angel, as well.) I had contemplated doing some baking, but we will be headed out of town for the weekend (hopefully) and I don't want to make anything that won't get eaten before we go. I think that my new food for the week should be something baked, though. Perhaps some Martha Stewart Molton Lava Cakes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pontypool Changes Everything

One of my weird quirks as an adult is that I will watch movies that I own on DVD when they are on television. I don't know why I do this, but there are just some things that I have a hard time saying "no" to watching. Bruce MacDonald's Pontypool is one of those films for me. It's a strange little film: a zombie movie that takes place in a single room, inside a radio station in central Ontario. I don't want to give away the movie's twist, but suffice it to say that the story is something that appealed to me enormously. I highly recommend it if you can find a copy. It's not especially gory (there's a single scene that's bloody) but it is very tense and strange.

Speaking of tense and strange, I will be spending my afternoon and evening finishing up the remaining five episodes of Twin Peaks with a friend before he moves back to Ottawa. I'll be quite sad to see him go, even though it does give me a reason to visit Ottawa, which is one of my favourite cities in the world.

Also speaking of tense and strange, Mat and I watched Moon last night. I would highly recommend this one as well. It wasn't at all what I thought it would be, at least in terms of how the plot unfurled itself, but it was an interesting and thought provoking piece. And of course, it brings to mind one of the most important maxims in science fiction film: Never trust the robot. (Who is voiced by Kevin Spacey here.)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gnocchi and sushi and knee socks, oh my

Remember back when I was doing that thing where I was going to try to make at least one new dish every week? Well, it didn't end up working out to be quite every week, but Mat and I have done a pretty good job of trying to do new things, and today I tried something that I've wanted to make for a long time: gnocchi. The idea of gnocchi has always really appealed to me, but the ones at the grocery store are always made with potato flakes, which seems...kind of icky to me.

I made mine with Yukon Gold potatoes1, ricotta cheese, flour, and egg yolks. I paired them with an oven-roasted tomato sauce flavoured with onions, garlic, rosemary, and bacon. All in all, it was pretty tasty, although I do wish I had a potato ricer rather than a masher.2

The second kilt ho is coming along very slowly, but I have acquired some Big Love and Damages to keep me company as I move through it. The part that I'm on right now is the most boring part--once I hit the Eye of Partridge heel it will go much faster, I think.

Mat and I celebrated our sixth anniversary with a trip to the new sushi restaurant in town, which was quite fun. It was our first visit to "Sushi Island" and it was decent. It is not the best sushi that I've ever had, but the selection was decent, as was the service, and the price is decent for what you get. I had lots of the salmon sushi, which are my favourite, and Mat tried the Yellow Dragon roll, which has mango on top. It was a really nice way to spend the evening with him. We've both changed so much in the six years we've spent together, and it was good to take some to reflect upon the past that we share as well as what we want from our future.

1 Which, for those of you keeping score at home, were engineered at the University of Guelph, where I did my MA.
2 I also discovered that we can add cooked potato to the list of vegetables that Bad Cat will eat.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Q From Bond, Not Star Trek

We are riding out the heat wave here in NBRC, though I don't think it's as bad as it could be. (Currently it's about 25, headed up to 30.) It is much warmer to the south. I am so happy not to be in Toronto right now, and very thankful that my lungs and respiratory system are healthy.

photo 162
I have finished the first of the kilt socks. I've been reliably told that the single of kilt hose is "kilt ho" so I shall endeavour to refer to it as such. I can't wait to have both done. I want to knit other things very badly, but I know that if I let myself become distracted by other, more exciting knits, I will suffer from a truly epic case of second sock syndrome. It will not be good.

Which is too bad, because I've got my eye on Evelyn Clark's Shetland Triangle shawl for my mum, done in a lovely wool/mohair blend from Wellington Fibres. I've also got a scarf to test knit (my first knit in Kidsilk Haze and my first beaded lace, how exciting), to say nothing of poor mum's Rogue...which may end up being this year's Christmas gift as well as last's.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Saying goodbye

Sad times today--in a little over an hour, I'll be going with a friend to have her cat put down. Bing is a small but vocal black cat, who is quite fond of knitters, particularly when they act as warmers for any seat on which he might like to sit. The poor guy is seventeen, which is quite old for a cat, and his health has gone downhill in these last few months. He's stopped eating now, and dropped below 5 lbs. I don't envy Girl Tuesday the decision she's had to make, and I figure that it's the least I can do to go with her. God knows I wouldn't want to be alone if it was Bad Cat in the same position.

So if you have pets, make sure that you give them extra hugs and maybe a treat today, so that they know how much you love them.

Monday, July 05, 2010

To Marry Or Not To Marry

Whilst perusing the internets in hopes of finding some good readings for our ceremony (so as to avoid 1 Corinthians, which is beautiful, but also used by everyone) I came across Charles Darwin's list of pros and cons in answer to the question of "To Marry Or Not to Marry?" I've excerpted it here for you:

This is the question


Children — (if it Please God) —
Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, —
object to be beloved & played with. — —better than a dog anyhow. — Home,
& someone to take care of house — Charms of music & female chit-chat. —
These things good for one's health. — Forced to visit & receive relations
but terrible loss of time. —

W My God, it is intolerable to think of
spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing
after all. — No, no won't do. — Imagine living all one's day solitarily in smoky
dirty London House. — Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with
good fire, & books & music perhaps — Compare this vision with the dingy
reality of Grt. Marlbro' St.

Marry — Marry — Marry Q.E.D.


No children, (no second life), no one to care for one in old age.—
What is the use of working 'in' without sympathy from near & dear
friends—who are near & dear friends to the old, except relatives

Freedom to go where one liked — choice of Society & little of it. —
Conversation of clever men at clubs — Not forced to visit relatives, & to
bend in every trifle. — to have the expense & anxiety of children — perhaps
quarelling — Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings — fatness &
idleness — Anxiety & responsibility — less money for books &c — if many
children forced to gain one's bread. — (But then it is very bad for ones health
to work too much)

Mr. Darwin and I obviously think along the same lines.

If you have suggestions for readings that aren't 1 Corinithians, please feel free to send them my way. Mat has suggested the lyrics to There Is A Light That Never Goes Out but I'm not sure that "to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die" quite sets the right tone.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Fit to Flatter II

After writing my first Fit to Flatter post, I realized how much I wish I'd thought more about body type and fit before I'd started trying on wedding dresses. I didn't really have an idea of what I wanted before I started trying on dresses1 and bridal magazine weren't much help--they were full of insipid articles like, "How To Get Your Man Involved"2 and some really terrible photography.3

So my mother and Youngest came up to visit, and we went dress shopping. They made me promise in advance that I would try on anything that they asked me to try on, which lead to some pretty ugly dresses. It did, however, help me to learn a lot about how dresses fit and work, which I have no doubt will be totally useful in a future age where I get to wear ball gowns at least twice a week.

The first dress I tried on was this one, which I picked out myself:

It's not too bad, overall. The main problem here is the the way the ruching at the waist looks like horizontal stripes, which ultimately widens me at my narrowest part. It wouldn't be so bad if it stopped sooner--like at my waist. The way that it continues down over my hips is not cool, particularly when combined with the flower detail, which also adds weight.

The next one, picked out by mom, was much plainer:

Again, not too bad. The lines seem nice and simple, the bodice fits nicely, but again the ruching across my stomach does me no favours. The other problem with this dress is the back:

It's plain, but unfortunately here that equals boring, and also draws attention to my butt. And considering that my butt will be facing my guests during the ceremony, I figure that's something I'd like to avoid.

This one, aside from being decidedly too princessy for me, does great things for my waist. Unfortunately, those great things come at the cost of my bust, which looks enormous here, which is not helped by the fact that all of the beaded detailing is right across the bust. The waist on this one is funny too; I really don't like the way the gathers puff up when they start, as it interrupts the flow of the skirt.

I think that my posture in this dress says it all. The top makes me look flat, and the way that the waist--again with the ruching--connects to the skirt just widens me at all the points that I shouldn't be widened at.

This is my favourite of all the dresses that I didn't buy. Youngest made me try it on because she liked the flowers on the skirt.4 The bodice is fully boned, which I wound up liking far more than any woman who considers herself a feminist should really admit.5 The corset does all sorts of lovely things for my upper torso: it smoothes everything out and pushes everything up. When combined with the fullness of the skirt, it makes for a very pretty silhouette. The plainness of the top contrasts nicely with the frou-frou bottom, and it draws attention to my chest without making me look like I'm about to topple over. This was the most expensive dress I tried on, at $1200.

1 It is shocking, I know, that a woman in Western civilization hasn't spent every day of her 28 and 3/4 years on this earth thinking about her wedding dress.
2 You can do this, apparently, by letting him take on such tasks as choosing the DJ or arranging for transportation, because men love music and cars, and can't be trusted with anything else.
3 Why yes, I do always wearing my wedding gown when I hang out on scaffolding. Obvs.
4 Naturally, they are my least favourite part of the dress.
5 But, oh, the lumbar support. Seriously.