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

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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.

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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.)

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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.