Wednesday, October 19, 2011


So remember that time a few months ago when I wrote this post and was all like, "Blogging is AWSUM and I will never give it up!"?


I may have spoken too soon on that front.

I think I might be done with this blog.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Mysteries of Simple Cat


Very recently, the little cat taught me how to play fetch with him. Middle Sister had left a couple of sparkle balls (think pompoms with tinsel) , and little Hob is quite taken with them. One day, I was in the kitchen when he came in with a ball in his mouth, and he dropped it at my feet. I picked it up and tossed it into the dining room, thinking that it would get Hob out of my way. (He gets stepped on in the kitchen at least once a week.)

He tore off after it, and then, to my surprise, he brought it back to me and deposited it at my feet. I threw it again and the same thing happened. And thus, a monster was born--I have to hide the sparkle balls at night or he would want to keep playing. It's ridiculously cute, especially since every once in a while, he will bring the ball to me, and realize as he drops it that it's a sparkle ball and sparkle balls are the most fun ever and then there's five minutes of batting around the ball and chasing it before he finally brings it back to me to throw.

The most interesting thing about the sparkle ball, to me, is that it's made me re-conceptualize how I think about my cat's intelligence. Hob has developed a reputation as "The Simple Cat", largely because he spends a lot of time doing this:


Or getting swallowed by the couch like this:

Simple Cat Is Simple

Here's the thing, though--he's not simple. Our adventures with the sparkle ball have demonstrated a much greater capacity for reason and logic than I would have thought possible. He brought the ball up on to the bed one night (it was about this time that I realized I would need to hide them at night) and accidentally knocked it down the side of the bed, where it fell underneath. He looked at where it had fallen for a few minutes, jumped down, and fished it out from under the bed. A few days later, he knocked it under the stove in the kitchen. Unfortunately, it's too far back for me to fish it out without moving the stove, but every time I go in to the kitchen now, Hob tries to herd me over to the stove, and he shows me how to get the toy out. It never occurred to me that he had that kind of capacity for memory.

He has also taken to putting the sparkle balls in his water dish when I won't or don't play with him. This is fascinating to me because the only other fetching cat I've ever known also did this, although her toy of choice was hair elastics.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The hands I love

This, believe it or not, is the man I fell in love with:


We met in the spring of 2004, on the steps of the only original 19th century building at The Historic Site Which Shall Not Be Named's Sister Site (a 19th century British naval and military base, in case you're wondering). A mutual friend introduced us. We were fast friends. I had actually been dating someone else for almost two years when we met, and that relationship was in the process of dying.1 My near-instant feelings for Mat complicated things enormously.

(Small "awwww!" and/or nausea-inducing sidebar: A few weeks after we met, we went out for coffee with the friend who introduced us and his girlfriend. After dropping me off at home that night, Mat went back to his house and told his mom he was going to marry me.)

A trip to PEI with my family in 2005. It's amazing we stayed together, especially considering that a) his hair looked that stupid for the whole summer, and b) he had *no idea* who Anne of Green Gables was.

This first year of marriage has been surprising. I had no huge drive to get married--I certainly wasn't against it, but if Mat hadn't been so gung ho on it, it wouldn't have bothered me to stay common-law. That said, I love *being* married; it has brought me an inner peace that I didn't realize I was missing.

Our relationship isn't perfect; we fight, we squabble, we hog the bedclothes, we nitpick at each other. But we are still invested in and committed to each other, and I hope that we can maintain that commitment as we go forth from here.

Happy anniversary, love.

1 For a variety of reasons, including the fact that my ex thought grad school was a dumb idea and that I shouldn't go.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Weekend Away

The weekend's wedding festivities were lovely, and the trip to Sudbury was exactly what I needed. In addition to getting to see my husband in his kilt (and with his new muttonchops), I got to have dinner with my in-laws, to share drinks with good friends, and to dance to some awesome music. (The DJ played the B52s' "Rock Lobster" without us requesting it. Awesome.)

I had managed to forget that the Sudbury International Film Festival (which goes by Cinefest and not by SIFF, which is probably good) was happening, despite the fact that I have friends on the festival circuit. Once Mat discovered that it was happening, we decided to take in a film the next day. The only one that really worked for our timeline was Billy Bishop Goes to War, a film version of the play, written by Eric Peterson and John Gray. Eric is probably most famous for his roll as Oscar Leroy on Corner Gas.

Billy Bishop Goes to War is one of the most performed plays in North America, but neither Mat nor I had seen it before. The film version is very interesting; it clearly emphasizes the staged-ness of its own performance (it's performed on a very small stage surrounded by a sea of empty seats) at the same time that it uses huge, sweeping shots to emphasized its filmed-ness. Both actors are incredible; Peterson plays 18 different characters, shifting from person to person with only the use of a hat or an accent.

The best part is that Peterson was actually at the screening to do a Q & A session afterwards. It was very interesting to hear him talk about his experiences with the play. He and Gray wrote Billy Bishop when they were in their early 30s; Peterson will turn 65 later this week. He played Bishop extensively in his 30s, revisited him in his 50s, and has now made this film in his 60s, when he is older than Billy Bishop lived to be. What an interesting and unusual experience for an actor to have. The film is profoundly affective and effective--well worth watching.

It was a lovely weekend away with my husband. It's so easy to fall into the same old traps here of always doing the same things, and it's sad to have to go away in order to spend that time with one another, free from the distractions of our lives.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On the back burner

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately.

Mostly about my future.

When I finished my M.A. year, I was burnt out. Personal and academic stress wore me out that summer. I earned my B.Ed. to please my parents and because I didn't know what else to do with myself. I taught high school after that because I needed a job and I didn't know what else to do with myself. I was then both burnt out and miserable. Somehow, through a series of coincidences and some incredible luck, I came to apply for the job that I have now. This is my fifth year at this job.

Over the years, I've had a lot of questions about my plans for school and when I would be going back to do my Ph.D. For a long time, I couldn't face the idea of returning to school, but eventually I began to soften as I realized that I miss my intellectual pursuits. When I got this job, I thought to myself, "This is the universe speaking. You are meant to go back to school." Some of my friends and colleagues put forth compelling arguments about the experience of graduate school. It all seems so exciting.

But I can't do it.

I love the idea of pursuing a PhD, but I can't commit to the reality of it.

A PhD gets me nothing but the glory of the intellectual pursuit. In my current job, where I am hired at the Instructor level, I don't need a PhD. If I got one, it would make no difference to my employment situation: no raise, no change in responsibilities. If I wanted to pursue a job with a higher status, I would have to give up what I have now--and what I have now is pretty good. I make more than most adjuncts do, with pension and benefits to boot, and I have a decent amount of job security. I've gotten used to making money, to paying back my student loans, to eating decent food, to owning a house. I also have other things to think about: the possibility of having children, for one; travelling, for another.

I would love to do it some day, for its own sake. In the meantime, I have a life to live.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


We went to see Steven Soderbergh's Contagion on Monday night. In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit up front that I was fully prepared to enjoy this movie: the genre of virus films is something that I find eminently satisfying, and this one has a director and cast superior to most.

I like Soderbergh's visual style a lot, and he puts it to good use in this film, conveying both the germ-fueled claustrophobia of the individual characters as well as the vastness of the epidemic itself, particularly as society goes in to decline. The acting is not quite as impressive as you would imagine, given the cast, but those limitations are the result of an unclear plot and lazy storytelling rather than the actors themselves.

The biggest problem with Contagion is that it wants to be several different movies; there are very distinct narrative threads that (I think) are intended to wind together to create a cohesive whole, but the whole falls short of the mark. Characters are dropped from the narrative without explanation as the story progresses; obviously, some have to die from the virus, but others are simply gone. It makes me wonder if some of the story has been lost in editing, particularly with the final scene with Matt Damon's character and his daughter: I understand that it's meant to have an emotional impact, but I don't get why it's supposed to--why does this particular thing matter to his daughter? (I also don't understand why Damon's narrative unfolds the way it does; there is simply no way that the only guy in the world who has demonstrated an immunity to the virus is allowed to go on his merry way by the government.)

I would gladly watch any of the separate narratives as movies: Jude Law's conspiracy theorist blogger, Laurence Fishburne's CDC doctor, Marion Cotillard's WHO doctor, even Matt Damon's heartbroken-but-immune father, but together they don't quite add up.

Bottom Line: Contagion is well worth seeing, just don't expect everything to add up entirely at the end.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

School Is In Session

I am currently on the hunt for a new knitting project.

I spent most of last week working on three shawls. Mat's childhood best friend1 is getting married next weekend, and I had offered to make his fiancée a wedding shawl. She was so excited about the idea she asked me to make two more shawls for her flower girls.2 After a false start on a Swallowtail Shawl, which has gone into the gift basket, I figured out that Annis was a much better choice for this task: it was faster, since it has both short rows and stockingette, and it also has a mini-size, which is perfect for tiny toddler flower girls. Thanks to this flash of knitting genius (with thanks to paperbirch and grrly), I was able to crank out 1 full sized shawl and 2 mini shawlettes in 7 days. Huzzah. Special thanks to Dorian for his help and supervision.



The little one is quite sweet, actually, and might be just the thing for that skein of cashmere silk I've got hanging several months, anyway, when I'm not completely sick of the pattern.

Since finishing the shawls, I've started a test knit of a pair of intricately cabled socks. This pattern is probably one of the hardest things I've ever tried to knit. (Not in a bad, frustrating way, more in a challenging, read-closely-and-pay-attention-to-detail way.) The frequent cables, thin yarn, and tiny needles are also giving my left wrist fits, so I need to find something more relaxing to knit. Big yarn and big needles, and maybe a project that will work up quickly. I'd hoped to start on the first of my fall sweaters, but after careful perusal of both the pattern and my substantially increased waistline, I've come to realize that I will need to go up a size from where I thought I was when I bought the yarn eighteen months ago. Naturally, it's a yarn I purchased at the Knitters' Frolic, so getting more involves finding somewhere to order it from...

The new school year starts today for me, since I don't teach on Mondays this year, and I definitely want to have a project on the go at work.

1 James used to work in the restaurant at THSWSNBN, so I have actually known him longer than I've known Mat.
2 Yes, this conversation happened about a year ago, so obviously I waited until six weeks before the wedding to start working on the shawls. Sigh.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Pair of Ragged Claws

When I was about 11, I was at a Toronto Blue Jays game with my dad and my grandmother, and noticed a weird set of bubbles under the skin of my hands. Over the next few days, I noticed that the tiny blisters would swell whenever I washed my hands with warm water, and that when I showered, they would often burst, leaving me with scaly hands afterwards.

When I showed them to my mother, she promised to ask around at work for me.1 One of the doctors told her that it was an eczema commonly caused by too-frequent hand washing of dishes. "Don't worry, though," she told me sarcastically. "I told him that wasn't possible for you." Our family doctor proscribed a cortisone cream for me, which never made a difference to the eczema, which would appear, burst open, and slowly heal off and on.

Many years later, the internet was kind enough to give me a real name for it: Dyshidrotic Eczema, so called because it was once thought to be associated with excess sweat. I learned that cortisone treatments were largely useless for this, and that not much could be done for it other than to care for the scaly skin after. I learned that mine is atypical, because mine is worse in the winter2 than in the summer, and I also learned that mine is relatively mild compared to what some other people have.3

Over the last month, I have had two or three large flare ups of my dyshidrosis,4 which is unusual for me because it's usually much calmer in the summer. Today I woke up with blisters across the tips of a few of my fingers, as the blisters had spread up from the sides of my fingers. A few rounds of dishes and the cracks began to show.

Since becoming a knitter, I've become extra aware of my hands and how I treat them. Rough, cracked skin can snag delicate yarn as it slips through my fingers. Conversely, minimally treated yarns often retain their own lanolin, which gives moisture back to my hands. I've been knitting primarily with fine yarns (fingering/sock weight) for the last few months, and I'm yearning to move up to a worsted or aran yarn now that the weather is cooling off.

How do you take care of your hands?

1 One side effect of having a mother who was a nurse in one of Ontario's vastly overused hospital emergency rooms during the 1990s is that you are totally paranoid about seeking medical attention because you continually suspect that you are "not sick enough" to warrant taking up time and space at the ER.
2 Likely because it's so flippin' dry up here in NBRC.
3 Seriously. Check out the pics at the link above--knowing how painful mine can be for how minor it is, I can only imagine how these people feel.
4 Yep, mine is stress-related.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sister, Sister

Yesterday I helped to pack Middle Sister's life up into our parents' van and sent her away. She is headed back to school next week, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in Toronto. Her program is interesting (it's a Scholar Practitioner program for people who already have undergraduate degrees) that focuses on placement hours. Her placements are with Toronto Public Health, which is perfect for her and will hopefully allow her to continue the kinds of work she's been doing here with safe needle exchange.

It's such a fantastic opportunity for her I almost don't feel sad that she's leaving me. Almost.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jack Layton

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
--Jack Layton, from his "Letter to Canadians"

Jack Layton's funeral isn't until tomorrow, but as I won't be in Toronto, I thought I would take a few moments today to remember one of the greatest leaders our country never had.

Jack Layton took charge of the NDP in 2002 at a time when its stock was pretty much at its lowest, with only 14 seats in Parliament. This was not a kind time for the NDP: the West was a lost cause, Ontario was gun shy after its provincial experiment with leftism resulted in Rae Days, and even the East had brought diminishing returns for the party. There did not appear to be much hope that the Canadian public would turn away from the Liberals and the Conservatives, but that didn't matter to Jack. In both 2004 and 2006, he fought the good fight for his party; even when his horse was lame, he was still there, smiling, slugging it out. And then things began to change. Earlier this year, the NDP made considerable gains in Quebec, resulting in a record number of seats in Parliament and the mantle of Official Opposition. These gains were very much because of Jack's quiet charisma.

I didn't necessarily agree with Jack Layton politically; he was often more left than my generally centrist beliefs. However, I admired him enormously: He had compassion, conviction, and commitment in a way that no other leader has had (at least in my voting lifetime). He was personable, charismatic, and...well, normal. His commitment to our country was incredibly; no matter how bad the NDP's fortunes seemed, he was always working, always committed to his vision of his party and our country.

It's heartbreaking to know that he lost his battle with cancer so soon after the greatest victories of his political career, to know that he'll never get the chance to explore his new position to its fullest.

Friday, August 19, 2011

On Why Knitting Is Bad Ass

I usually don't respond to inflammatory things on the internet, mostly because I doubt that I have anything relevant to add to the discussion, and also because I don't believe in baiting trolls. Peg Aloi, over at the Huffington Post, writes one of the most condescending and insulting articles on feminism that I've ever read: it's irritating enough to bring me out of my self-imposed blog hiatus. The article laments the rise of a performatively 'femme' feminism coupled with a return to the domestic. I knew the article was going to be bad from the fourth sentence, which reads, "Even BUST magazine is sponsoring a craft fair in NYC." I'm not entirely sure why this is news, since BUST's E-i-C is Debbie Stoller of Stitch'n'Bitch fame, and Stitch'n'Bitch happened nearly ten years ago, but apparently putting some effort into researching her topic wasn't something Aloi wanted to do.

Aloi's central point seems to be that being interested in anything feminine or girly makes one unable to be a "badass, strong, tough woman." Cupcakes are out, as are heirloom tomatoes and Hello Kitty; these are seen as signs of complacency. Being interested in these things apparently means that we have given up the fight, and that when the revolution comes, we'll be lolling around eating bonbons in our high heeled shoes. Our time would be better spent "learning how to shoot a gun, hot-wire a car, and manipulate our way into a bomb shelter." My first question there is why those particular skills would be useful (in fact, I'm pretty sure basic survival skills, like gathering, shelter building, and fire starting would probably be more useful, come the apocalypse), but I'm also not sure how knowing how to knit impedes my ability to do *any* of those things.

Aloi's arguments bother me in general because they're built on lazy generalizations and pat explanations, and they also bother me in particular because my idea of myself as a feminist (and, accordingly, the way that I negotiate the world as a white, middle class feminist) is so central to my identity. (In fact, one of my student evals from last year took issue with my "feminist viewpoint".) Despite the fact that I have completed16 different knitting projects this year, I am not complacent about the obstacles that women face in society. I'm a young woman with a sizable chest who teaches at a university; I've had men say to me, "Oh, if my college professors had looked like you, I'd have paid more attention." I have to work hard to be taken seriously. Being a feminist is important to me; I believe that I have an obligation to interrogate the world as I find it and to work towards a society that is both more equal and more just. And I'm one of the lucky ones--I come from a position of privilege, and I know it.

Where does knitting fit into this? A better question to ask might be, Why is knitting an UNfeminist thing to do? Because it's "old"? Because it's domestic? Because it privileges the home? For my part, I've actually learned more about women's bodies from being a knitter. I've also learned a lot about discourses of power through the various groups that I'm involved in on Ravelry. Knitting isn't an inherently feminist act by any means, but I choose it as one. A big part of feminism for me is defying people's expectations of who and what I should be: a knitter who is a gamer who is a writer who likes to cook who used to blacksmith who would like to take up get the picture.

If it's not her kind of feminism, that's fine. What's not fine is this reductive feminism (descended, perhaps, from the second wavers?) that wants to limit the value of women to certain occupations and hobbies that are deemed "worthy" of our time and attention purely because they are masculine and therefore "bad ass".

Here are 5 knitting projects that I think are quite bad ass (some NSFW):

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I feel physically and psychically ill from the last two weeks.

I'm probably going to lay low for a while until I can figure out where I'm going.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Well, my grandfather died within a half hour of my last post.

I am mostly relieved that his suffering is ended.

I won't be around online for a few days while we travel to the funeral and spend time with family.

Monday, August 08, 2011

As I approach my 30th birthday in the next few months, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what it means to get older. I never felt my age until a few years ago: in adolescence, I always felt older than (read: superior to) everyone else; in my twenties, I often felt very young (I'm the youngest person in my department by a good 15 years). Now I feel 29, whatever that means.

My grandfather is dying.

He has been really sick for about 18 months now. Things took a sharp turn for the worse about two weeks ago. Grandpa had been falling a lot, and one morning he was found on the floor of his bathroom in his nursing home. At the hospital, they determined that he'd been having a series of strokes, and that he'd sustained a number of lumbar compression fractures. After about a week or so, it became apparent that the waiting game had begun. We are now at the point of days, maybe hours.

My mother, grandmother, and the sister-aunts met yesterday to start to put together plans for how we could proceed when he finally passes. My mom has asked me to do a reading at the not-funeral (my grandparents had a very bad falling out with their church in the late 70s, so there won't be a formal church funeral service), and to think of stories to tell afterwards, when we go to my grandparents' farm for drinks.

Nothing has ever made me feel as old as this.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Trip to Stratford

I had high hopes for August. The rest of the summer has had some pretty memorable lows for me, and I'd hoped that this month would turn things around as I head back to work into a new academic year. Unfortunately, four days in, August is mostly like a kick in the teeth.

Rather than focus on the various pieces of friends and family drama that are going on around me, though, I wanted to share a much more cheerful story.

First, I must confess to a small shame: I had never been to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, ON. It probably sounds like it isn't really a big deal to you, but when you are a bibliophile like me and you teach university English courses, this is tantamount to being a Beatles fan who has never listened to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It's just silly.

(In case you don't know, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is kind of a big deal: Tyrone Guthrie was the first Artistic Director and Sir Alec Guinness starred in Richard III that first season; more recent actors include Christopher Plummer, Colm Feore, William Shatner, and Brian Dennehy. In addition to being the premiere locale for classical theatre in Canada, Stratford is also the hometown of Justin Bieber.)

When I had the opportunity to snap up some tickets to this year's production of Titus Andronicus for a paltry $10 apiece, I jumped on it, and Youngest Sister, our friend Ryan, and myself headed down to Stratford. We had a delightful picnic on the banks of the river Avon, which afforded me the opportunity to take approximately one hundred pictures of various swans, ducks, and geese, and then headed up to the theatre.


The production was excellent. I've only seen one other Shakespearean play performed (a version of Much Ado that had it transplanted to Mussolini's Italy) and I'd never imagined that Titus was one of the plays that I would get to see. The theatre uses a thrust stage, and the production did not shy away from the violence of the play. Watching the actress who played Lavinia was heart wrenching. Aaron the Moor stole the show, though: he was very athletic and evil in his movements around the stage.

On the way into Stratford, we'd passed a pub called The Boar's Head, which seemed like an optimal place to go for dinner after the show. As we were walking up towards the restaurant, I noticed a head that looked vaguely familiar...and then realized that the head was not just familiar, it actually belonged to my friend Greg. Greg, whom I'd actually seen in Ottawa just a few short weeks ago, was down in London visiting his parents with his wife, and had come up to see a high school friend of his perform the role of Chiron (one of Tamora's sons) in Titus. They had come up to The Boar's Head for dinner as well, and they invited us to join them. It was a lovely serendipitous moment, and it was unbelievably cool to have dinner with one of the actors from our play.

This might be the only good thing for a while, so I'm going to hold on to it with all I've got.

Monday, August 01, 2011


It's been just over ten years since I moved out of my parents' house to attend school, and just over four years since I stopped coming back over the summer breaks to work at the historic site.

Every time I come home, it seems like something changes a little bit more, and it becomes less and less home and more and more my parents' house.

Over the last two years, my parents have replaced all of the windows and doors. The new door in the front hall has a much bigger pane of glass in it; it lets in so much more light now that, for the first few times I was home, I kept going into the hallway to close the door because I thought it was open. We also used to have an old church pew as a bench in the hallway, but it's gone now.

The living room has had its carpet torn out and replaced by a beautiful auburn hardwood floor. Less than a year ago, my parents finally threw out the camel brown velour couch they bought shortly after they were married (in 1977) and replaced it as well. Now there's a new couch and a fancy La-Z-Boy that's more comfortable than most beds I've slept in; there's a vintage crystal chandelier and beautifully framed art prints.

The biggest change is the kitchen, which my dad gutted completely. Gone are the cheap cupboards and drawers of my childhood. Now I have no idea where anything is (to be fair, the redesigned kitchen is sufficiently awesome that the increase in storage space means that no one knows where anything is anymore). The appliances are fancy (the convection oven in particular) and the granite countertop is a thing of dreams. Our big kitchen table (scarred by years of less than careful activity) is long gone; there is a tiny table with two chairs just for my parents.

One of the hardest things about growing old for me is not that I don't need my parents, but that they don't need me.

Don't get me wrong: I don't begrudge them this beautiful space that they're building together. My parents have been together for 40 years this year (married for 34 of them) and I'm old enough now to see that their life together hasn't always been easy or simple. It's more just that every change makes this place more unheimliche (unhomely), familiar but also strange. And eventually it isn't going to be my home any more, for real.

Though I have to admit that on these 30+ degree days, I am grateful that they broke down and put in central air conditioning when they replaced the furnace.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


June and July have not been kind months around these parts, and I've been struggling to find things to write about.

Things have been much better in the last week, though: we took a trip to Ottawa for an early anniversary celebration. I think of myself as a small town girl most of the time (Guelph, with its scant 114 000 people, is the largest place I'd ever lived) but there's something about Ottawa that makes me so happy whenever I go there.

This time, I got to realize a dream that I've had for nearly ten years: I got to visit the Diefenbunker. The Diefenbunker is the Canadian Cold War Museum, housed in a nuclear fallout shelter spanning 100 000 sq. ft. over four underground stories. It was built by the Canadian military during the reign of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker so that the government had a place to retreat to in the event of a nuclear attack. It was awesome. (There's a set of photos here if you're interested--lots of early 60s technology.)

The main purpose of the trip was to see The Lion King in its musical form at the National Arts Centre. (The background to this is that everyone else in my family got to see it when it first passed in Toronto except me, owing to work and school.) Now, The Lion King has been my favourite Disney movie since the first time I saw it in theatres when I was 12, so I might be a bit biased, but the theatre production was truly stunning. Julie Taymor has such a bizarre, over-the-top style to her productions (see also: Across the Universe) and it works surprisingly well for The Lion King, which winds up being rather Dali-esque.

I also snuck in a quick trip to Knit Knackers, which is a pretty fab yarn store--it has its own angora rabbits. I didn't buy much (a skein of laceweight and a needle gauge) but I did eye up some very pretty spinning wheels.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A pictoral explanation of the cats' relationship

yarn 195

Why bother?

As always, Karie over at Fourth Edition shares some interesting thoughts about why she blogs, which naturally makes me think about why I blog.

When I started blogging, I was in my final year of high school. I wrote a lot in high school. There were literal boxes full of things I'd written in my parents' basement until recently, notebooks upon notebooks of poetry, short stories, screenplays, etc. I wrote letters to friends. I wrote mini-essays when I was bored in class. I had a direction and a discipline at that time that seems breathtaking in retrospect.

I wrote a lot in university as well: essays, mostly, although I still made an effort to write creatively when I could. In the summertime, when I would work at THSWSNBN, I would carry a notebook and pen in my costume's pouch so that I could write in idle moments, or at least jot down any interesting ideas I had. Working there was very good for me in so many ways, not least of which was the sheer number of creative people that I worked with: there was always something to inspire me.

Now that I'm a grown up, though, I don't have the same drive to write that I did when I was younger. Writing takes both time and discipline, neither of which are abundant in my life. It also takes drive, and I think that is the bigger issue here. I actually blame my job for this: I spend so much time reading bad writing that it has affected my ability to be objective about my own writing, and it has lead to a terrifying fear that my writing might actually be terrible and no one has ever told me. Everything that I write sounds hackneyed and cliched at worst; at best, it sounds profoundly uninteresting.

So I write here because it keeps me writing--no matter how bad I am afraid that I am, I still can't quite bring myself to give it up. I've made a concerted effort to refocus my energy into this blog in the last year and a half, and I think it's been (mostly) working. One of the things that I preach at my students is that practice makes perfect (or at least better) for writing, so I'd best follow my own advice.

I'm unlikely to be a blogger who acquires Fame and Fortune through what I write here. (Heck, I'm unlikely to be a blogger who amasses more than thirty regular followers.) But I am a blogger who has found a voice that allows her to write as often as she chooses, about the things that she chooses, and who is able to use that to push her writing forward. I don't post everything I write, and I don't write in as much details as I sometimes think I might. So why bother? I bother because it keeps me writing. As long as I'm writing, I haven't given up hope.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Silverskin Adventures

I spent a goodly portion of the weekend doing Fancy Lady-type things. The most significant of these things was the time spent creating a dress form to use for sewing.

yarn 193

Essentially, you get duct taped over a spare shirt, which is then cut up the back, reassembled, and stuffed. (I used a whole pillow, a bag of fibrefill, and the filling from another pillow.)

yarn 189

The advantage of this is that you now have a double of your body to work with for pinning/adjusting patterns. I'm pretty happy with how mine came out, except for the bust, which isn't quite as prominent as it ought to be. I'm brainstorming ways to fix this...

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Yes Virginia, There Are Things More Boring Than My Posts About Knitting

I love having cats for pets. I've had cats all of my life--my mother has stories about how Spike and Muffet would "babysit" me very carefully when I was a newborn--they always wanted to be where I was, watching what I was doing. We owned several cats over the years, usually choosing to have them in pairs (and on one particularly ill-advised occasion, in quads). Leaving the cats behind when I went away to university was very difficult for me; the world always seemed like a much lonelier place without a cat to come home to.

Dorian Kitten
(an early shot of Dorian being worn as a hat)

So I was pretty excited when Mat agreed that we could get a cat when we bought the house three years ago. Mat was raised as a dog person (owing largely to his mother's allergies) and he had always maintained that he was totally uninterested in having a cat. We went to the Humane Society here in town, and the cat chose us, as is the tradition in my family.

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Bad Cat participates in tabletop role playing.

Dorian, so named because he was somewhat grey at the time we adopted him, grew into an enormous cat: nearly 17 lbs. at his peak. It seems quite obvious now that he would do so; just take a look at the size of those paws in his kitten pictures. Much to Mat's surprise, he found that Dorian had a lot of personality, and he found himself quite enamoured of our Bad Cat, as we'd taken to calling him. The cat, it turned out, was not at all like he'd imagined: the cat was affectionate, playful, and frequently a bit silly. He also has a fiendish craving for vegetables that makes it nearly impossible to do much food prep without a massive paw reaching up to beg for bits of pepper or lettuce or cucumber or...

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Enormo-tron with Youngest Sister.

Over time, Dorian grew into himself, and then overgrew himself, tipping the scales at 16 lbs. 8 oz. Our attempts to feed him less food were initially successful, but when the hot days of summer hit, his activity level dropped so low that he re-gained most of the weight we thought he'd lost. He also grew lonely during the days when we would both be at work for several hours. We eventually realized that it was time to add another cat to the mix: my parents' reasons for always having pairs of cats were actually pretty solid. Dorian needed a friend.

Enter Hob.

Hob (named after Hob Gadling, a minor character from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series) came home to us in January. In an unintentionally hilarious contrast to Bad Cat, Hob is what we call "little". We had a hard time picking out a name for him (his shelter name was Jean-Luc, which I thought was awesome and Mat hated purely on the grounds that it wasn't a name that we picked for him) so he actually spent the better part of about ten days being called "the Little Cat". Hob was a stray for a while, which has resulted in a couple of fairly curious behaviours: he eats everything he can find, and he is a wool sucker (likely caused by not being nursed for long enough). It has also given him an overbite--his incisors hang out of his mouth like little fangs.

Tiny vampire cat being groomed by Middle Sister's cat, Jerkwin.

Dorian and Hob get along pretty well, although I'm not sure Dorian has quite forgiven me for bringing the tiny interloper home. They chase each other and play fight (16 lbs cat vs 7 lbs cat is hilarious, in case you were wondering--sometimes Dorian literally holds Hob off with a single paw). Dorian has lost enough wait that he's now appropriate for his frame. There's no sleepy snuggling together just yet, but I imagine it will happen in time.

It's good to know that there are always two things that are going to be happy to see you when you come home--even if it's only because they think you're going to feed them.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Long Weekend

July 1st is Dominion Day up here in Canada; our annual celebration of that time when some old white guys got together and decided that it was high time we separated ourselves from Mother Britain. This year, we got to take an extended trip to visit our parents. My parents and I spent Canada Day wandering around downtown Barrie. My mother went for a 5K run while my father and I took in the sights at a street fair. One of the things we found was the former Robert Simpson brewery, now branded the Flying Monkeys Brewery, which was selling beer samplers for $4. After we collected Mum from her run (complete with patriotic running gear, from that time she went and ran the 5K at the Loch Ness marathon), we made our way back to the brewery. The Confederation Amber Ale was my favourite, although they had an orange/wheat beer that was also quite good. About halfway through our beer sampling, we collectively realized that none of us had eaten very much that morning, and that the alcohol had gone straight to our heads. There's nothing quite like the realization that both of your parents (and yourself) are a bit drunk at 11:45 in the morning...

So we found pulled pork sandwiches and a most delicious lunch was had.

I also found a cheese shop called Gouda For You, at which I purchased a ginger-mango Stilton, a Mont St. Benoit, and a caramelized onion cheddar. Lovely all around.

The best news of the week/end for me, though, was that I finished my lovely cardigan:

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This pattern (Cirilia Rose's Ephemera Cardigan) went into my Ravelry queue the moment I saw it as part of Berroco's newsletter. It reminded me of my favourite cardigan, a hand-me-down from my friend Jess, which was from the Gap and black. The cardigan, having since gone to the great thrift store in the sky, had hook and eye fastenings up the front instead of buttons, a look I find quite figure flattering.

The cardigan is knit from Knit Picks Gloss in the fingering weight, which is a 50/50 wool-silk blend. I had the yarn dyed by Sharon at Three Irish Girls in Eavan. Eavan is pretty much the perfect colour for me: a deep, inky blue (one of the colours of the sky at twilight that I can never quite capture with my camera). Eavan is also one of my favourite names, and it is one that I will be lobbying for if ever I have a girl child. This blue is a great colour for me, if I do say so myself.

I made some mods to the pattern, mostly with the hems and the button bands (is it still a button band if there are no buttons?), and I'm really pleased with the way that it looks. I can hardly believe that I made it.

ETA - The tape on my arm in the second picture is covering a henna design on my arm.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunshine on my shoulders

After about four days of near-constant rain, the sun has finally come out again here. Not a moment too soon, really, as I've been feeling cooped up. It's been good for the garden, of course, but some sunshine will also go a long way there.

In good knitting news, I finally finished the bulk of the work on my Ephemera cardigan last night. It's all pinned out and blocking currently; if all goes well I should be able to start on the finishing tomorrow.


I don't know that I'll be in a hurry to make a cardigan in fingering weight again for a while (though I do have my eye on a Tempest done in two shades of blue) but I think that I will really like the finished product. I need a good worsted weight project to work on, but I can't find the yarn that I want in the craft room right now. So obviously the logical thing to do was to cast on another pair of socks. I'm using a yarn that has mohair in it, which should be awesome for my perpetually cold feet come winter. I really wish I liked knitting socks more, since I love wearing handknitted socks so much.

Pride is coming up in Toronto next weekend; I finally made a point of telling my sisters that it disappoints me that they have never invited me to go with them. (Their response was, "We didn't think you'd want to come--there's so many people there." While I take their point, I can handle people for a day or so, particularly if there's no expectation that I have to interact with all of them.) Part of the sisters' annual Pride tradition is that they decorate their own t-shirts to wear to the parades. Even though I'm not going this year, I am going to help Middle make shirts for her friends.

If I were going, my shirt would say, "Straight but not narrow."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Something New

I am undertaking something new here at Casa Skylark--something almost unheard of.

I am purging books.

So far I've got about twenty in a box. There are more I want put in the box, but they belong to Mat so I suppose the polite thing to do is to wait.

The other thing that I should do is start returning books to people who have lent them to me. I have some that I've had for several years now (and yes, that's years plural).

What brave new world, gentle reader. What brave new world.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I wasn't looking forward to this weekend. Mat's childhood best friend and former roommate, James, is getting married this fall, and his bachelor party was held over the weekend in Killbear Provincial Park. Then Mat's dad organized a big Father's Day fishing thing for all of their extended family. Four days alone with no car and two bad cats? I wasn't thrilled about it.

And then I got sick. I looked after a friend's little girl for a few hours on Thursday, and by the time I got home, I could feel the tickle in my throat and the pressure building in my sinuses. I spent most of my time alone moping on the couch, watching re-runs of Criminal Minds and feeling sorry for myself. The recovery efforts were somewhat hampered by the bad cats, who persisted in waking me up to be fed breakfast at absurd hours of the morning. I was able to drag my sad sack self to World Wide Knit In Public Day at the mall, which went well enough. (Though it did result in the purchase of more tea, much to my beloved's chagrin. Who am I to resist a first flush Darjeeling?) I was pretty much wrecked by the time I got home (owing to a lack of sleep the night before), and my intended nap was sidetracked by a phone call from the bank to tell me that my credit card had been compromised. And I still had a baby shower to go to.

I was in bed by 11 and slept until about 7:30, excepting a brief detour to toss the bad cat ringleader into the bathroom around 5. It was glorious and I feel much, much better today, aside from occasional sneezing.

I really hope this week is a better week.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sweet Charity

If you're a frequent reader around here, or someone who is (un)fortunate enough to experience my company in real life, you'll know that I'm often ambivalent about the role religion plays in my life. I don't want to sidetrack this entry by pontificating on what I believe or how I practice, but a small reference to religion is sort of necessary for a thorough consideration of today's topic, charity.

Religious ambivalence aside, I do believe very strongly in the concept of charity and good works, which is something that (however loosely) has trickled down from the long line of Scottish Presbyterians from whom I am descended. I do some volunteer work (though not as much as I ought to) in the community, and I donate money to charity when I can. Most of my money goes to scholarship funds at the university, but I also donate to the AIDS Committee of North Bay and Area, the OSPCA, the MS Society of Canada, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Terry Fox Foundation. I try to keep my support to secular charities where possible, because I've yet to find a religious charity with a mandate to which I can reconcile my belief structure. I also try to support charities that are Canadian when I can, because I believe that we often forget that there are a lot of people in our own country that need help. That said, however, I will donate to international aid organizations when I can.

Which is how, in January of 2010 (some full 18 months ago, for those of you keeping track at home), I came to donate some money to Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders after the earthquake in Haiti. It wasn't even a lot of money--maybe $25? However, since then, I have been bombarded with emails and paper newsletters from the organization. (In fact, according to my gMail account, I've received 30 emails since that donation; I would guess that I receive at least one paper mailing from them per month as well.) I would be willing to bet that by now, they have spent at least the cost of my donation on trying to convince me to donate more.

I might well have donated more at some point in the future, I think, were it not for the telephone call I received from them last night. I should've just ignored the phone, but I didn't. When I picked up, I got a five minute spiel from the caller, who outlined all of the "like, amazing" work MSF has been doing with my donation.1 She then asked me to consider a monthly gift of $25.2 When I told the caller that I had just been laid off from my job, and thus could not afford to lay out a monthly sum, she didn't even pause before saying, "Well, look around your house and see if you can round up some loose change to donate."

At that point, I did hang up.

Part of me wishes that I'd given her a piece of my mind--as much as I try not to be rude to people who are just doing their jobs, I think that courtesy should end when those people stop being polite to me. I find it completely galling that after I've just told someone that I no longer had gainful employment, that person would turn around and ask me for money. Yup, stuff is bad in other countries, and MSF largely does work that I support, but if I can't pay my own bills, if I can't feed my husband or my cats, then things are pretty bad in this country for me, and going into debt to make charitable donations is just plain stupid. In soliciting from me this aggressively, MSF has ruined any chance that they have of receiving money from me in the future.

Any tips on charities who treat their donors like people, rather than endless money bags?

1 I have a personal policy of not hanging up on telemarketers; I listen, I refuse politely, and then I ask to be taken off the calling list.
2 Given that I gave them $25 18 months ago, this seems unlikely.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Graduation Day


Yesterday, I attended my first convocation ceremony at the university. Just as I had completed my fourth year at my "new" job, the students I taught in my first year had just completed the fourth year of their degrees.

They came to me as teenagers, some as young as seventeen. I was their teacher, but they were my school: I had just come out of one of the worst years of my life to date, and I didn't know my ass from my elbow. I wasn't convinced that I should be teaching, or even if I could teach any more. You'll notice that 2007 was this blog's worst year in terms of posts, as well, which I think speaks to my frame of mind--I just don't write when I don't feel well.

As usual, though, time and experience are the best teachers. I learned so much in that first year, far more than I think the students got out of it. I learned the pleasure of teaching people who actually want to learn, and I learned the aggravation of teaching those who are only there because someone else has paid for them to be. I learned how to grade, how to explain grades in a way that seems clear and fair. I learned how to find plagiarists, which instincts to trust. I learned how to break out of my shell, how to see myself as an authority in the classroom, and how to get others to see me as an authority as well.

It is so much easier to see your own mortality through the aging and experiences of others. When I look at my students four years later, I can hardly believe the changes that some of them have gone through. Their faces are so much more mature; they are so much more confident than the little kids who came through my classroom, who were nervous about speaking in front of others and so eager to make friends. I couldn't be prouder of them, but the pleasure in their success is tinged with some sadness on my part. And so it goes...

Monday, June 06, 2011

Sock Woes


I knit differently than most people do--I wrap my yarn around the needles the "wrong" way. I'm a firm believer that there's no really wrong way to knit as long as you get the results that you want, so I've never felt the need to correct this little problem.1 One of the results of this particular quirk is that my gauge (the number of stitches per inch) is looser than most, which can affect the fit of anything I'm trying to make. The easiest way to fix this is by using a smaller needle: smaller needle=tighter stitches.

Unfortunately, this makes sock knitting a chore: socks need to be knit at a tight gauge because they need to take a licking and keep on ticking, and feet are kind of a high traffic area. To get a tight enough gauge with many commercial yarns, I would need to knit with needles smaller than 2mm wide.2 The smarter decision for me, in terms of avoiding general craziness and future repetitive stress injuries in my hands, is to use a heavier yarn. Handmaiden Casbah has been a good yarn for me for this reason. It also machine washes and dries, as well as surviving being pounded by my feet when I stomp/walk around.

I've been working on a pair of Nutkin socks for the last few weeks in the Hemlock colourway of Casbah. I decided to mod the pattern to be toe-up and to get rid of the purl ridge on the toe, which I don't like. Since I've only made a handful of toe-up socks, I decided to try a new heel construction, from Wendy Johnson's Toe-Up Socks With A Difference. Despite following the instructions, I wound up with a sock that was drastically too long for my foot:


As I also didn't care for the way the heel fit my foot, I decided to knit the second one with the gusset heel that I have usually used for this style of sock. It fits me much better. I finished the second sock last night, and once I could try on both of them, I realized that I was going to have to re-knit the heel on the first sock.

Not a huge deal, really, but I was so excited to be done my second pair of socks for the year, and now it turns out that I'm not really done. Boo-urns.
1 Plus, I've been knitting for so long at this point that I have a pretty good sense of how my knitting works, so I can usually compensate for this pretty easily. Learning to wrap the "right" way would throw all of that off.
2 Yes, they exist, and yes, they do usually bear a remarkable resemblance to toothpicks.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Mooning and June-ing

Today is the first day of my unemployment. It was a surprisingly busy day--I finally talked Mat into helping put a garden in our backyard, which meant that he spent a good portion of the day ripping out the raspberry bushes that have been threatening to take over the back.

We're lucky to have a fairly large plot of land (the lot is 33'x125'), but unfortunately we've managed to do next to nothing with it in the three summers since we bought the house. I am not a gardener by nature (the green thumb in my family managed to pass me by all together) but I'm determined to make a go of it this summer. We've put in a 5x10 raised bed which is about half full sun and half partially shaded, and I'm hoping to plan a variety of veggies back there. I currently have a red pepper plant, two tomato plants, and a zucchini plant. I have plans to add a Thai chile plant, some cucumbers, some beans and peas, and some lettuces. I've planted some herbs out front: lots of basil (I have high hopes for basil and tomato salads this summer), cilantro, mint, rosemary...I'd like to get a cherry tomato, maybe as a hanging basket...

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I'm excited for this little beauty, purchased at the local farmer's market last week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Writers' Craft

So I wrote a story.

It's pretty short, as stories go, clocking in at about 900 words. It's for an anthology of "short, weird fiction" that a friend is editing. He's been very encouraging in getting me to write more over the last year or so, so I figured that I owed it to him to actually write something to justify his kindness.

While I'm mostly quite pleased by what I've written, I did feel like there was something there that wasn't quite right. I couldn't put my finger on it, so I got Mat to edit it for me. He thought there was something else wrong with it other than what I didn't like. So I took to the internet--specifically Twitter--and found a cadre of people to read the story and give me feedback.

The group was varied: a Raveler, a couple of guild friends, an old co-worker from THSWSBN, a NBRC twitterer, and Youngest Sister. The feedback was equally varied: Some liked it; others didn't care for it. Some of the feedback was contradictory. Some of it was hard to read. I've written approximately four short stories in the last seven years; this is the first one I've written with a specific purpose, and the first one I've shown to other people. Taking criticism--however well-intentioned--is a difficult thing to do. It gives me a new appreciation for what my students go through with their essay writing, and I will have to remember this lesson the next time that I have a set of papers to grade.

Trying to synthesize that much feedback was really challenging. One of my respondents began his critique by telling me that he hated the type of story that I wrote, which made it really hard for me to situate his feedback in with the others: If it's not the kind of fiction you like, is there anything I can do to redeem it for you? If the genre grates, isn't it likely that my tone and narrative voice will as well? It turns out that a big part of editing is allowing yourself to say, "No, I think her eyes are green," even when your readers keep telling you that her eyes are obviously blue. It's also about admitting to yourself that you have a problem with adverbs and also one with semi-colons. (Frequent readers of this blog are shocked by that information, no doubt.)

After much gnashing of the teeth and rending of the hair, I finally managed to fix it into a shape that I'm not disappointed with, and I've sent it off to the review board. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

We'll be dead before our time is due

It's the Victoria Day weekend here in Canada, where we all get an extra day off to celebrate the birth of our deceased monarch. Her birthday is actually the 24th of May, but we celebrate it on the last Monday on or before that day. I usually try to avoid travelling this weekend, since it marks the beginning of summer for Canadians, which in Ontario means the beginning of cottage season. Unfortunately, I didn't think the dates through when my dad asked me if I'd like to go see The Cars with him in Toronto on the 20th. I wound up coming down on Thursday to avoid the truly awesome traffic that long weekends inspire around here, and I'm hanging around until Monday to head back up to the Bay with Youngest, who got hired to work as a massage therapist by Middle's workplace for the week.

The concert was pretty good--it's been a long, long time since I've been the youngest person at a concert, but I had to have been pretty close to that last night. It was at the Sound Academy, formerly known as the Docks, which is a venue that's right on the docks in downtown Toronto. The sound was excellent, which was nice, particularly since I was expecting something closer to the godforsaken Koolhaus (formerly known as The Warehouse, since that's quite literally what it was). In some ways, it was strange to be at the Sound Academy--in its previous life, it was one of the premier venues for techno music and rave culture, and Mat spent a fair amount of time there in his younger and more foolish days.1 Having been to a lot of concerts with me, he always talks about taking me to a rave, but luckily I've never had to actually go through with that.

I have started a new pair of socks with Handmaiden's Casbah (80% merino, 10& cashmere, 10% nylon) which I think is probably my all time favourite sock yarn. My previous pair, now about two years old, are in great shape despite being washed and dried in machines on a regular basis; one may have an issue soon, but that's because of the lace pattern on the front--the soles are in great shape, even the heels. I'm really excited for the new pair and how quickly they're working up.
1 He'd actually never been to a music concert before we started dating, just lots of raves and DJ shows. He also had pink hair for a long time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Because I'm a POTATO

I've been staring at this blank post for the last thirty minutes, trying to piece something together to write about, and failing admirably. My life is full of things that are not interesting. I've spent most of the last week in what feels like an increasingly futile quest to clean the house. Why can't stuff just ever stay clean???

My knitting has felt very uninspired lately, likely because I'm knitting a cardigan right now. It's a free Berroco pattern--the Ephemera cardigan--and it's knit flat in fingering weight yarn and then seamed. In short, a total snoozefest.1 I mixed things up today by using the Exfoliate! pattern to make a blanket square for my guild.2 I haven't knit with cotton in ages, and my left hand is all tense from working bobbles in a non-elastic yarn. I've picked out (I think) my next pair of socks, so I'm going to get those started tomorrow. Dad got tickets to see the Cars in Toronto on Friday, so I am headed south for the long weekend, and these will make some good companion knitting on the bus ride down.

1Which is not to say that it won't be fabulous when it's done. It's just that it's pretty much the least interesting knit ever. It's one of the tragedies of my knitting life that the things that I want to wear are often the things that I don't want to actually knit.
2 Because what charity knitting project can't be enriched by the inclusion of Daleks?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

In a corner of the world on election day...

Well, the election happened, and I was wrong on pretty much all of my predictions: Harper got a majority; the NDP took the Opposition; the Bloc Quebecois went down in flames; the Conservative candidate here won by a scant fifteen votes. The only things that I got right were 1) that Helena Guergis would be drummed out of office1 and 2) that the voter turnout would be higher.

Watching my social network respond to the election was fascinating. Because Canada encompasses six different time zones, there is supposed to be a media blackout on reporting results from the eastern half of the country until all of the polls close. Violation of this blackout can earn you a $25000 fine or 5 years in jail. The ban is, in theory, a logical thing: news of an NDP landslide in Quebec could well affect how things fall out in British Columbia. Unfortunately, in the day of the internet, this isn't really feasible. #tweettheresults became the most popular hash tag on Twitter during the election, and people from other countries started to gather and retweet the early polling information. It was very neat to watch it happen.

On the not-so-neat side of social media, my Facebook page was a total clusterf-ck. I should have anticipated this, having just discovered how many 9/11 truthers I am apparently friends with, but I didn't. Seeing people's reactions to the election was really eye-opening for me: on one hand, a good majority of the people on my friends' list voted (including some for the first time), but on the other hand, some people became very belligerent and pouty when the results didn't work out to their satisfaction. A few people actually asked that their friends who had voted Conservative to identified themselves so that they could delete anyone who voted for Harper from their friends list. A few others have changed their profile pictures to upside down Canadian flags, and pledged to leave them there as long as the Conservatives are in power.2

I just don't understand this. I mean, I understand the emotion, I guess3; I just don't have the energy to sustain that anger for the next 4 years, nor to perform that anger publicly. My friends (and family) who voted for Steven Harper are still just that--my friends and family. As much as I wouldn't vote for Harper, I recognize and accept that some people would.

1 and she was, coming in third after the NDP candidate (my elementary school French teacher), a loss that I find enormously personally satisfying in a way that says bad things about my character.
2 Little Hob, who has been nothing short of a holy terror all day, having knocked over the spinning wheel, the humidifier, and a glass of water all over a stack of books, has now decided to be extra cute by sitting on the back of the couch with his front paws on my shoulder, as though he's reading what I'm typing here.
3 And then he jumped off my shoulder and managed to hit the "Off" button on the remote control on his way down.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Grown Up Belugas

The election is less than a week away, and in the spirit of such, here is an important message from children's singer and passionate Canadian Raffi:

Monday, April 25, 2011



We adopted Jasper in the summer of 1999. He wasn't supposed to come home with us; we were actually getting a kitten for Youngest Sister following the death of our latest cat. Every time we went to the SPCA, though, there was this one adult cat who kept sticking in our minds. When Youngest finally picked out a kitten, a little calico baby, my mom said, spontaneously, "Let's get the tabby, too; your dad really likes him."

He had been at the shelter so long (over a year)1 that we didn't have to pay any adoption fees for him; they were just happy that he was going to a home. Later, we would remark that we couldn't understand how he'd gone unnoticed for so long: while he wasn't the most beautiful cat, his personality more than made up for it. He loved all of us (excepting, perhaps, Youngest) devotedly. Even though he and Padme2 were not litter-mates or even related, they were best friends3, often snuggling up together:

Padme and Jasper

Of all of us, though, Jazz was most devoted to my mother. He would stay up at night when she was working nights at the hospital, and he would wait for her to come home in the morning. If she didn't arrive home at 7:30, he would start to prowl around the house to look for her. He would then sleep on the bed with her for the day. He would sit on the computer desk when she was using the computer, and he would come up behind her and poke her in the back if he thought she wasn't paying enough attention to him.

He was an exceptionally friendly cat. My dad nicknamed him, "The WalMart Greeter" because he would forget about everything as soon as he heard someone on the doorstep, and run to the front door to say hello.

Unlike most cats, Jasper loved having his tail pulled. If you put your hand on his tail, he'd lean away from you so that you were pulling on it. We always had a hard time explaining this to people, who thought that we were making it up--until they saw him in action, and how loudly it would make him purr.

You may have noticed that this post is mostly written in the past tense. Jasper got sick about two weeks ago. Youngest took him to the vet's after he failed to get up for breakfast one morning. His bladder was enlarged, and he was unable to pee. After a few days of being catheterized, he peed on his own and came home, only to wind up back at the vet's for the same reason the next day. He spent a few more days with a catheter in, peed successfully, and came home again...and went back to the vet again two days later. My parents made the decision to euthanize him, and they buried him in our backyard on Thursday evening.

It was very strange to be home for Easter. Between missing him and wondering if she'd made the right decision, my poor mum was so sad. For me, the hard parts weren't the big things--I knew he wouldn't be there to greet us, and I knew that he wouldn't be begging for food around dinnertime. It was the small things: coming around a corner and expecting to see him on a chair; finding his fur on the bedspread in my bedroom; listening for him in the morning.

I'll miss him for a long, long time.
1 Thank heaven we lived in an area that could afford to have a no-kill shelter.
2 Yes, 1999 was the year that The Phantom Menace came out. Why do you ask?
3 Except when he would forget about the time he had the Big Operation and force himself upon her.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


In the two weeks since I last posted, I have read twelve books, written one short story, drunk a copious amount of beer, and visited our nation's capital.

I have not made much progress on any knitting projects, but I have talked my mum into going to the Knitters' Frolic in a few weeks.

The books have been, mostly, the first eight Sookie Stackhouse books. They're not terrible, exactly, and they read like candy, but I think I prefer True Blood on the whole. I've also read Trainspotting for the first time.

Ottawa was a blast. I haven't been in several years, despite the fact that it's one of my favourite cities in the world. The friend that I stayed with lives right downtown, so we walked all over the place: down Bank St into the Glebe; across Rideau St to the markets. I got to eat Thai, Vietnamese, and Lebanese foods. We went to see the Pixies on Saturday and to a "Mod Night" at a club. (It featured a lot of Motown music, strangely enough.) I got to see the University of Ottawa's campus, and oh my stars, do I ever wish I'd gone to a real university.

I also got to have coffee with a Ravelry friend, which was pretty awesome. Too bad I'm back to work tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


Now that my knitting related blogging obligations have been discharged, I can return to you to our regularly scheduled programming. Which might actually be less interesting, come to think of it, because I am in a slump. Or maybe a funk. Hard to say. I think it's because all of the fun things are over--no more wedding, no more honeymoon, just a lifetime of scrimping and saving to try to buy a new furnace, a new bathroom, and a million other small repairs that our house requires. Sure, we're talking about planning a trip to Europe, but it will be at least a couple of years before that comes through. It's also because the school year is winding down, and this wasn't a good year in a lot of ways. It wasn't a bad year, exactly--not like that year I spent teaching high school--but neither was it a good year. I struggled with the material and some of my colleagues; I struggled with my personal life; there was that whole thing with negotiating a new collective agreement for my union during a time of wage restraint. I'm not sure how I feel about this year yet, either, and it's strange to be thinking about closing something off that feels unresolved to me. It's also the time of year. Spring always makes me feel like getting the hell out of North Bay Rock City, which is never at its ugliest more so than in those weeks when winter is dying and spring hasn't quite decided that it wants to be reborn. The detritus of winter is all over this city, and it's not even warm enough to be optimistic. There's very much a piece of me that wants to be heading "home" like I did when I was a student, back to my parents' house. All that's left here right now is being a grown up with grown up problems, and I am so effing tired of that. Surely the sun has to come out some time.

Day Seven - Time Is On My Side

Write about your typical crafting time. When it is that you are likely to craft – alone or in more social environments, when watching TV or whilst taking bus journeys. What items do you like to surround yourself with whilst you twirl your hook like a majorette’s baton or work those needles like a skilled set of samurai swords. Do you always have snacks to hand, or are you a strictly ‘no crumbs near my yarn!’ kind of knitter.

I sneak crafting time whenever I can. I'll knit in the car when Mat is driving and in my office when I'm at work. I knit while my students are writing tests or exams--our exams are three hours long, so having something to do is a tremendous help. I almost always knit while watching tv. I love to knit when I go out for coffee with friends. I cannot, unlike some of my friends, read and knit at the same time. I can listen to audiobooks, but only if I've read them before--I can't focus well enough on the story unless I see it.

I've also recently taken up knitting during RPGs. My nerdy nerd of a husband loves to role play, and when he takes part in a campaign (or, more frequently, DMs one) I usually get invited along for the ride. I am not always a good role player. I get bored and fidgetty when the action moves slowly, or if the subject matter doesn't interest me. Working on knitting projects is excellent for this: I can focus all of my energy on the project, which means that I can focus on the game even more. Having two or three hours of uninterrupted knitting time like that is amazing--I get a lot done this way.

Monday, April 04, 2011


Day six: 2nd April. Something to aspire to.Is there a pattern or skill that you don’t yet feel ready to tackle but which you hope to (or think you can only dream of) tackling in the future, near or distant? Is there a skill or project that makes your mind boggle at the sheer time, dedication and mastery of the craft? Maybe the skill or pattern is one that you don’t even personally want to make but can stand back and admire those that do. Maybe it is something you think you will never be bothered to actually make bu can admire the result of those that have.

Having seen how my mom's sweater has turned out, there is a piece of me that would very much like to make one for myself, but I think it will take a year or two before I'd be ready to knit that sweater again.

I aspire to be a faster knitter, I think. I have lots of projects and lots of ideas, and I wish that I could find the time to get them all done. My guild has begun posting a monthly goals thread on Ravelry, and I have found that to be enormously helpful in figuring out what I want to make each month. Having a list gives me something to check in on, which is nice.

I also aspire to be a better designer. I'm learning a lot about pattern design, but I would like to get better at translating my ideas to paper and to yarn.

Finally, I would really like to learn how to embroider properly, so that I can embellish my knits that way.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum

It is, as of a few weeks ago, election season here in Canada once again. People are upset about this, for a variety of reasons. Some people are upset because they see the election as unnecessary and, if you're Stephen Harper, apparently dangerous. Some people are upset because the Conservative government was found to be in contempt of Parliament. Some people are upset because Canada has three parties that suffer from a lack of leadership. 1

And I get that. I hate the attack ads that the Conservative Party of Canada runs about Michael Ignatieff--I hate that they are personal attacks, rather than attacks on policy. That said, they do resonate--it's not difficult to portray Ignatieff as an elitist blowhard who is out of touch with "the average Canadian" because, well, he comes off as an elitist blowhard who is out of touch with the average Canadian. If he was elected, he certainly wouldn't be the first elitist blowhard to lead our country, and I don't know that those qualities would necessarily make him a bad PM.

This will be an interesting election for a lot of reasons. We have three leaders who are likely fighting the last election battles of their careers: Layton, in addition to his health issues, has yet to lead his party to even Official Opposition Status. If Ignatieff fails to win even a minority government this time, it will be a death knell for him as Liberal leader. Anything less than a majority government means the same for Harper; after two minority wins, he needs to show that he is actually engaging Canadians.2 Then there's the ubiquitous Green Party question: will Elizabeth May ever get to participate in a debate?

We are less than four weeks away from the election. I do not know what will happen in the next few weeks. I do not know what kind of dirt will be slung around, what kind of promises will be made, nor what crazy back room allegiances will be struck. I do know that our system is not perfect and that sometimes it feels very broken.

The other thing that I do know is that I, as a Canadian, am choosing to view this election as a positive thing. I believe in our system of government very strongly. I also believe in democracy and the right of suffrage. I am hopeful that everything that has happened in the world since our last election will serve as a call to arms to Canadians: Vote. Vote because we can, because our constitution enshrines it as a right and a freedom. Vote because others worked very hard to get us these rights. Vote because our country is worth investing ourselves in.

Above all else, I will not let the bastards grind me down. No matter how ugly this campaign gets (and given that the attack ads started before the writ was dropped, I think it's safe to say that it will), I will speak loudly in defense of our system and speak loudly in defense of ourselves. I will not let the bastards grind me down into apathy or subservience. I will stand up and be counted.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

1 I know I'm pressing at least a few of your buttons by saying that, readers, but I'm calling it as I see it. Your mileage may vary.
2Speaking of Harper, he looks uncannily like my father in this pre-election ad for Conservative jingoism. His hair, glasses, mannerisms, and Beatles mug are all the same. I have no choice but to see this as further evidence of the Masonic-Reptilian conspiracy.

Whatever happened to...?

Whatever happened to your __________?

I couldn't think of one specific item that I wanted to focus on for this, so here are some photos of things I've made that have gone on to other lives:

(Youngest Sister in her Christmas cowl)

Replacement Hat for Mat
(Husband in his Christmas hat - if you click on the picture to see the larger version, you can see that his eyes are actually different colours)

(Mum in the Haruni shawl)

Gramma in Swallowtail
(Grandma in her Swallowtail shawl)

Abigail Autumn
(Little Abigail in a baby sweater)

(Baby Will in his baby sweater)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day Threeeee

How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry.

Like everything else in my life, my yarn is subject to what appears to be an organizational system founded on total chaos. It totally works for me, though, and I very seldom have difficulty finding what I want. I am lucky enough to have a whole room to myself for crafting. It was billed as a third bedroom when we bought the house, but I have strong doubts about that since a) it has no door, and b) it has no heat supply. It is upstairs between our two actual bedrooms, and it is currently in desperate need of reorganization. I have one plastic bin (won at an OPSEU Christmas party a few years back) which holds acrylics, cottons, cheap wool, and other things that you can buy at big box retailers. I have a three drawer plastic unit that holds my lace weights and my fingering weights. (I have two others that have recently been repurposed for sewing and fabric.) I have a wooden shelving unit that holds a lot of assorted crafting supplies. On it, I have several plastic shoe/sweater boxes that have my Three Irish Girls collection, sorted by weight. I also have--and this might be my one moment of true organizational genius-- three of the zippered plastic bags that comforters and duvets come in. I like these because they are strong, they have a convenient rectangular shape that makes them easy to stack, and they zip closed, which keeps everything inside the bags. I have one for workhorse yarn, one for fancy yarn, and one for odds and ends.

I will occasionally bag my yarn in freezer bags before putting them into other containers, if it helps to keep a sweater set together or something like that. I also have a large, fabric covered box that one of my wedding presents came in, which I use to hold yarn downstairs in the living room, in case I suddenly decide to cast on something else.

This was not the most interesting of posts; I think today might have been a good day to rock the wildcard topic. I apologize.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skill Roundup

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

swatch 026

I actually don't have a lot to report in this category; perhaps my skill level has reached a plateau? My biggest skill this past year has been patience: between my mom's sweater (9 months in the making), my husband's kilt hose (which apparently took six weeks?), and all of the Giftmas knitting that I did, there wasn't much opportunity to try new skills or techniques. I suppose you could say that I've learned a lot about being a designer this past year. I had my first patterns professionally published (and my first patterns professionally rejected, for that matter) and it has been an interesting ride. I have some repair work to do on my patterns (charting problems mostly) that I need to fix tomorrow, and some language to revise. I don't think that I'll ever get rich doing it (nor, indeed, ever consider it a "career") but I do like designing in terms of thinking of "new" ways to use yarns, stitches, pattern, techniques.