Monday, January 31, 2011

Bingeing and Purging II

Since my first post about trying to take control of our stuff and our house, Mat and I have managed to take seven large boxes of stuff to the local Value Village. We have also filled about the same number of large garbage bags. It's kind of awesome.1

I come from a long line of people who should probably be on Hoarders pack rats.2 Mat and I dated for several years before he was allowed into the basement of my parents' house, which is a repository for all manner of stuff (and possibly still contains some unpacked boxes from when we moved into that house 25 years ago). My mom has been making a concerted effort to clean up the basement3 over the last few years

Sentiment is my biggest problem--I am a nostalgia junkie. If you have sent me anything in the last ten years, I probably still have it, be it letters, cards, bookmarks, yarn, etc. No matter how much I don't like, need, or want something, if it was a gift from someone else, I will keep it. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing; I like to think that it demonstrates how grateful I am when people give me gifts. That said, there comes a point at which I simply don't need (or, sometimes, want) the things that I am given. For example, in the big purge, I gave away 3 different dip bowl with spreader sets; I kept one.

I have been reading a few different sites about managing space and clutter over the last few months, and I've come across a basic principle that has been enormously helpful to me in terms of making me feel okay about letting go of things that I've been given. It's called the Six Months Rule, and it essentially states that if you haven't used it in the last six months and aren't going to use it in the next six, gift it, donate it, or toss it. (There are some exceptions, obviously, for special items, like my collection of beaded evening bags, or Mat's collection of Scotch.) It's such a simple thing, but it's amazing to me how much of a difference it has made in relieving my guilty conscience about getting rid of gifts.

Now, if only someone could make come up with a rule that would make it okay for me to get rid of books, I'd be all set.

1 I mean awesome in the sense that we got it done, not awesome in the sense that we had that much crap to throw out.
2 On both sides, even.
3 I'm sure it helps enormously that most of my stuff came here when we bought the house, though I'm pretty sure there are still a few boxes of books at my parents'.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An exciting development

I had my eyes checked yesterday.

I am, gentle reader, blind as a bat. My glasses are coke bottle thick (or were, before the advent of featherweight lenses). When people ask me if I am near-sighted or far-sighted, I can't tell them, because I can't see anything beyond approximately 5 inches from my face.

I ran out of contact lenses about two months ago, and I've been waiting to order new ones until after getting my eyes checked, since I could tell from my glasses that my prescription wasn't right any more. Truth be told, I've never actually gone to the eye doctor and had the same prescription as the previous time. Bit depressing, really. (Actually, from the time I was about 9 until I was 14, I would go to the eye doctor every 6 months and get a new pair of glasses each time. Thank goodness my dad's health care benefits were pretty kick ass, as I have no idea how my parents would've afforded that.)

So, to come back to the point, I went to the eye doctor, and miracle of miracles, my eyes have actually gotten better since the last time they were checked. I've improved a full half-step. (Granted, this is a -8.25 instead of a -8.75, but I will take what I can get.)

Now all I need to do is get some new glasses.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Frakking cold

I would estimate that, in my lifetime, I have owned approximately 20 000 yarn needles. That's probably a conservative estimate, even, to say only 20 000. I own a lot of those things. Do you think I can find one right now? The answer to that question is obviously "no."

There are usually at least two or three floating around the computer desk, whether it's on the shelves or in the drawer, but I am currently coming up short. The drawer has an interesting assortment of other stuff (all of the American candy my parents gave us for Christmas, a small book of Oscar Wilde quotations, a diaper pin from when I was a child) but no yarn needles.

It is cold here, gentle reader. Yesterday it "warmed up" to -27 degrees Celsius; today things are currently sitting around the same temperature, although it should actually warm up this afternoon. The only good thing about the cold like that is that it doesn't snow here when it gets really cold because it is just too dry. We had a small incident in which the little cat decided to make a break for freedom and the great outdoors, only to come running right back in to the house before he made it off the front porch.

For the last few months, a few of my friends from the guild and I have been going out for "Fancy Ladies Night", which essentially means that we get dressed up and go out for dinner. One of the Asian fusion restaurants in town does a seasonal feast menu every few months where you are served a variety of dishes family-style, so we started there and are intending to make our way through the finer dining establishments of NBRC. This month, however, we decided to try "Fancy Ladies Stay In," where we stayed in and had fondue. It was a delectable feast.

We made pizza for dinner last night, which turned out really well. We used a dough recipe from one of the cookbooks I gave to Mat for Christmas, and it was pretty darn tasty.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Our house is a very very very fine house....

It has, as they say, been a hell of a week.

We have adopted a new cat. His shelter name was Jean-Luc, which I loved and Mat disdained (apparently only because it wasn't a name that we gave him). After spending a few days being referred to as "The Little Cat" (an apt moniker given that he is literally less than a third of Dorian's size), he is now Hob, after Hob Gadling from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman:


The adjustment has been interesting. It's gone better than I would have imagine in some respects, but Dorian is definitely a little sad about the whole thing. He has hardly snuggled and has not purred at all since Hob came. They have been wrestling each other and chasing each other around, but all of those moments are punctuated by moments like this:


The weekend was particularly stressful. The old roommates were in town to celebrate Ian's birthday. We wound up moving the festivities back here, and I was very excited to try out the ice cream maker attachment for my standmixer in making strawberry daiquiries (amazing, in case you were wondering). As we were standing around in the kitchen, I could hear something in the basement that sounded like a tap running. Assuming Mat had left the laundry room tap running for some reason, I went down to shut it off...only to discover that it was not the laundry room tap at all, but the bottom of our hot water heater, leaking water all over the basement.

This is not the sort of thing that's good to discover at 11:30 at night when you've been drinking socially with friends.

We couldn't get the intake valve on the tank to shut off, which meant that the tank kept trying to refill itself, and we wound up having to shut the water for the whole house off for the night to get it to stop. Thankfully, the tank was a rental, and the company came the next day and replaced it with a newer and more efficient model.

Then our washer broke on Monday. Like I said, a hell of a week.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Bingeing and Purging Part I

Over the last few weeks, Mat and I have undertaken a serious effort to re-organize our house. We've noticed, when we visit other people, that other people's houses are not cluttered like ours is: we simply have a lot of stuff. (I also think that the fact that we have wall-to-wall carpeting in our house contributes to this appearance, as does the total lack of storage space.) Thus, our co-resolution for the new year has been to try to make some sense out of our living space.

Mat will be the first to tell you that I am the problem here. He thinks (mostly correctly) that I am the source of all the clutter, what with my books and my knitting and my grading. While this is true, he's not totally blameless, since he does tend to leave Magic cards and video game paraphernalia lying around.


As a wedding present, we were given a dining room table, and we have just recently finally purchased the matching chairs. Yes, that's right: I am now sufficiently grown up and classy that I have a matching dining room table and chairs. Not a moment too soon, either, as two of our mismatched chairs had quite literally fallen to pieces the week before. Now that our living room looks classy, we're working on reorganizing the rest of the main floor. We've moved the computer upstairs into our spare bedroom, moving my computer desk out of the craft room to do so. The old computer desk is going to a second handstore, and we are going move the couches around and perhaps move the bookshelves into the living room, which will leave the dining room as open as it can possibly be.

I now have a 6' tall pantry cupboard in the craftroom to hold my crafting things, and I am in the process of sorting things out in there...very slowly. The thing that I need to deal with most is actually *not* my yarn stash; it's my fabric stash. I own an awful lot of fabric for someone who doesn't sew very much, and I think that now is the time to start looking for ways to weed out what I will use and what I won't use. I think that is an excellent job...for tomorrow.

I found four sweater quantities of yarn in a pale grey heather: a DK alpaca/merino/silk, an organic merino worsted weight wool, boring old Patons Classic Wool (also worsted) and an unknown fingering weight wool that my mom bought me in Scotland. Apparently I have a need for sedate, conservatively coloured garments?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Handmade Christmas

I love the idea of the Handmade Pledge: giving handmade gifts is such a noble (and cool!) idea. I don't follow the pledge to the letter, since there are some people who would rather not get something made by a person instead of a machine, and sometimes a non-handmade gift can be more practical. I've also amended the pledge to include books and tools as acceptable gifts; I figure that if it can help you make something on your own, then I can't really ask for anything else.

I also don't do the second half of the pledge. I don't ask people to give me handmade gifts because it's a request that would (mostly) fall on deaf ears, and I don't want to put people under that kind of pressure. (Plus, I also like non-handmade things sometimes, like my awesome Scrabble pyjamas that my mom got me this year.) Thus, it was a big surprise for me this year to receive several gifts that were made by the givers. I have some very talented friends and family.

My sister-in-law made a bench for our entryway for us. She made the bench and then worked a mosaic design on the top in glass:

Cat Bench

My friend Jamie made me a case for my interchangeable knitting needles:

Needle Case Needle Case

My friend Steph made me a scrapbook page in a shadowbox:
Scrapbook Shadowbox

And Youngest Sister made a bag. Actually, that's not true. She made me The Bag. The Bag To End All Bags. It's gorgeous:
Beatles Bag Beatles Bag

The cat loves it too:
Beatles Bag

I am very, very lucky to have people who care for me enough to make me a gift of their time like this.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Broadcasting live from the house of my parents

To be honest, I kind of hate New Year's Eve: to me, it is the prom night of holidays, with tonnes of build up and little-to-no pay off. I've had some pretty crummy New Year's Eves in my life, or least ones that didn't meet up with whatever expectations were put on them. Thankfully, last night was not one of these nights: it actually went quite well. We joined friends for dinner at the Explorer's Cafe, which had a prix fixé menu for the evening. I had tuna tartare as an appetizer, with a rib-eye steak with a blue cheese and green peppercorn cream sauce as the main. Dessert was tiny portions of peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake, dulce de leche cheesecake, and a raspberry tart with minted cream.

We rung in the New Year at the new home of friends of ours amidst much food, and music, and merriment. I really couldn't ask for anything more.

Even though I don't like New Year's Eve, I am actually a big fan of the idea of the New Year. Starting over/turning over a new leaf/wiping the slate clean/whatever you like to call it appeals to me in a big way: it invites list making (a personal favourite pastime) and goal setting. I don't usually put too much stock in New Year's resolutions, per se, but there are a lot of things that I want to figure out for this coming year.

  1. Be healthier - it's as simple as "eat less, do more," which is to say that it's not simple at all. That said, I've been far too sedentary lately, and I've eaten absolutely terribly at work this year, and that has to stop. With my new schedule this term, I have no excuse not to do more. I'm contemplating doing Weight Watchers again (because, two years later, I'm back to where I started).
  2. Knit more; buy less. I haven't yet committed myself to any "11 in 11" memes like the rest of the knitaverse, because I can't quite settle on which I'd like. 11 pairs of socks? 11 sweaters? 11 shawls? 11 hats? More socks this year for sure, but I'm going to think about using more sport weight yarns so that they knit up faster. Lots of stash busting this year for sure.
  3. Do more things around the house. Big renovation-prep type things, and smaller, let's-just-keep-this-place-cleaner things.
  4. Travel more. Honeymoon planning is in action, but I also want to do more travelling within Ontario, and maybe even actually go to Stratford.
  5. Spin more. I really like spinning yarn, and I'd like to actually be good at it.
  6. Become a better photographer. I have an amazing camera, and I need to learn to use it to its full potential.