Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's Never That Easy.

Mom is coming out at Easter and staying for a week. (yay!!!) The cost of the flight for her this time was considerably mitigated by my use of accumulated Aeroplan miles... all I paid were taxes on her flight. I was feeling pretty good about this.

Then I got the email that dad had changed his mind and wanted to come, as well. No problem, says I, and logged on to the Aeroplan site to book another ticket.

No such beastie. Apparently the one I bought for mom was The Last Ticket Sold. Neither love nor money and certainly not reward miles are getting dad out here on that flight. I called the reward center and was told by a rather snotty agent that I was SOL as the last Aeroplan seat was sold.

(Brief aside here for all the people who are really puzzled 'cause they remember my Dad dying in October. This is my birth mother and her husband I am referring to here... her husband is not actually my biological father but he's my mother's husband... therefore dad. This is as opposed to my adoptive mum. I refer to both as mom/mum, get used to the confusion.)

It was such a major coup to have dad agree to come out, and the argument that decided it for him was the fact that I was laying out my reward points for him, as I had to use them else I'd lose them. (God bless Air Canada. Cheap bastards.)

Anyhow. What to do??! I could book an actual ticket for him, but at hideous expense and kind of taking the point right out of using reward miles. I was panicking hard at this point in time, not helped at all by the fact that DH, my stable rock in such (actually, all) situations, is out of town and out of touch. Damn bad timing.

A few more minutes of panic before something the agent said clicked. If the last Aeroplan seat was sold... what about other reward seats?

DH and I love to travel, as you may have guessed, and are in 3 different reward systems with ample points in each. It was the work of a moment to pull out another card, go to the website and find the same flights- ready and available and fully redeemable by reward points. Due to technical difficulties I can't book online, and can't call- the call center is closed- but if I call first thing in the morning, I should be okay. If these seats are reserved by reward programs, as the agent implied, there ought to be a seat for him left in the morning. Pleeeaaase!!! I hate to get everyone all excited and then call him to tell him it's not going to work out.

Gah!!! The frustration will gnaw at me all night and taint my dreams.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

For the Love of the Sport

So I was sitting at the hockey tourney on Saturday, knitting my heart out, enduring both looks of curiosity and looks of disdain from the other puck bunnies there. One lady across the table looked over several times, and I smiled to encourage her to talk to me. A knitter's missionary work is never done, you know. :)

She finally took the bait, admiring the work on the needles, then saw my completed pair on the table. I invited her to pick them up and try them on... that angora lining sends most people into a swoon. She ooh-ed and ahh-ed over them a while, then went back to chatting with her girlfriend, sneaking peeks at the mittens every once in a while.

After about an hour, she picked them up again, tried them on again, and then said those magic words... "How much would you charge to make me a pair of these??"

I have thought about this long before the words came out of her mouth, and I know that I am not a knitter that could work on commission for someone. I like calling the shots as to what projects I'll work on next, and I think the pressure to turn out perfect products might detract from the fun and creativity I enjoy when knitting. I also know that no-one would ever pay what I would have to charge for materials and time.

All that being said, I loved the fact that she asked, and that she loved my handiwork that much that she'd commission a pair. I thanked her, and gently explained that I knit only for the love of the sport. She totally understood.

Never mind the hockey game; score two points for me! One for getting an offer of a commissioned project, and another for tempting a muggle into picking up needles and trying it for herself. I could tell as she sat down but continued to surreptitiously watch my fingers dance that she was interested. That's half-way down the rabbit-hole, my friends.

(BTW. My husband's team lost miserably. Considering the team name was "The Doubtfuls", this didn't surprise anyone.)

For Better or Worse

I feel like I'm a negligent wife tonight...!

DH asked me to go to the movies with him tonight. We don't make a habit of this... we go maybe 4 times a year, waiting until a really special movie comes along.

This, IMHO, wasn't a special movie. Maybe for him, certainly not for me: the new Rambo. Can't think of too many movies I'd rather not see. Especially up-close and personal and in my face like it is on the big screen. Violence is not so much my thing.

On the other hand... if it was me wanting to go to a double-feature of Fried Green Tomatoes and Ghost, or some equally sentimental chick flicks, he'd give me a strange look (they're not my style, either) but he'd go with me if I asked. He'd do anything for me.

Me? I weighed the sick feeling I'd have after I just irredeemably wasted two hours of my life against the sick feeling I'd have from not being as good to him as he is to me. A lose-lose situation.

I'm here. He's there. The choice is made, for better or worse.

What would you have done???

Monday, January 28, 2008

Day 5: Edfu, Kom Ombo, Galabea Party

December 23. We docked last night at Edfu and toured the amazingly well-preserved temple there.

Egypt, Day 5, Edfu Temple

Egypt, Day 5, Edfu Temple (3)

Egypt, Day 5, Edfu Temple (6)
Amazingly, traces of paint still are visible by the solar disc on the lintel.

Egypt, Day 5, Edfu Temple (10)
The tops of each column were carved differently. Such craftsmanship.

Egypt, Day 5, Edfu Temple (21)
Can you spot the hieroglyphic symbol for fertility?

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Anubis, looking pretty svelte.

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Another excellent reason to look up... Click through to see the full picture; it's worth it.

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The relief on these carvings is amazing. Muscles are well defined, the curve of her belly looks so soft. These were made by master artisans.

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DH and I at Horus's feet.

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Scenery along the way south. We cruised south of Edfu to arrive at another temple site, Kom Ombo, near dusk.

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Egypt, Day 5, Kom Ombo (7)
There was a crocodile cult located at this temple; they raised, worshiped and eventually mummified them.

Egypt, Day 5, Party

DH and I at the Galabea Party. I thought he looked damned hot as an Egyptian sheik, and I know I wasn't the only one who thought so... some dear old soul leaned over and told him that he was the best Lawrence of Arabia she'd ever seen.

The word "Party" was a bit of a misnomer... we dressed up for dinner, and then retired to the lounge afterwards, expecting games and such, but after one crazy round of conga-line style dancing, the fun appeared to be over.

The ship we were on was lovely, though dated... the music in the lounge was proof enough of that. They played terrible music that drove people away in droves. Tonight was no exception; though many gaily-dressed cruisers were still enjoying conversation in the lounge, they turned off the lights and cranked the horrible music. We all filtered out for the night.

Representational Art

I indulged in a little abstract art this weekend. It's kinda weird, kinda wild, but I'm feeling brave and I'd like to share it with you.

I call it "Beaver Pond Hockey Tournament 2008."

Like any good art, it has more than one aspect, thus more than one name. Here's another aspect for you to ponder.


"Thank God I Had This Yarn 'Cause Otherwise I'd Have Had To Poke My Eyes Out With These Needles"

I think if you squint a bit and maybe sit outside on a cold board for 10 hours that you can really feel the angst in this piece.


"This Is How Much I Love My Husband, That I'd Sit Here For A Whole Day To Watch Him Play".

I love this piece. There's love, drama, patience all within its amorphous form.

That being said, I don't think I would like to sit through another hockey tournament just to make its little buddy.

And I'd just like to add, now that I have this posted, I can see an error I made in the pattern. It's way too late to rip back, so it will just have to do. How sharp are your eyes?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Day 4: Valley of the Kings

December 22. Another freaking early morning. We're still in Luxor, the city that once was Thebes. We toured the East bank yesterday (some toured it more than others!). It's considered the Heliopolis- the city for the living. The West Bank holds the Necropolis, city of the dead.

Specifically, the Valley of the Kings. Our Egyptologist guide prissily informs us that the name is a misnomer- there are unknown persons and nobles buried there as well, and the name was a marketing ploy. Does it matter? Not to us, but it was of grave concern to this native Egyptian.

We were the first bus to the Valley of the Kings, but it filled up quickly. I can understand why they thought it might be a good place to hide the tombs- the area is arid and mountainous and utterly unwelcoming.

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The thing you probably don't grasp is exactly how much is going on in this valley. Tombs are still being discovered, excavations still ongoing. Some 3000 years later, the work continues, and will continue for generations to come. Go see the brief Wikipedia article that has a handy map, or to lose yourself for hours in the wonder of this site, check out the Theban Mapping Project.

Unfortunately, photography was forbidden in the tombs. There was concern that repeated exposure to flashes would fade the vivid colours of the painted motifs inside the tombs.

Our ticket included entrance into three tombs of our choosing, and our guide recommended purchasing the ticket to tour KV9, which had unique texts and religious paintings.

After crawling through and admiring our 4 chosen tombs, we bailed back into the bus and drove a short distance to the impressive mortuary temple of Hatshepsut. Breathtaking when first seen, this temple seems to be more Greek or Roman in design than the other monuments we have toured.

Egypt, Day 4, Hatshepsut's Funeral Temple

Egypt, Day 4, Hatshepsut's Funeral Temple (3)

Egypt, Day 4, Hatshepsut's Funeral Temple (5)

Egypt, Day 4, Hatshepsut's Funeral Temple (9)
It was a cool morning, and windy as heck here. Picture the area behind us lush with gardens and trees... Hatshepsut had the courtyard of this temple, miles away from the Nile, irrigated and grew an orchard here. Ancient roots of trees still poke from the sand.

She was an amazing woman by all accounts, and was considered one of the most successful Pharaohs.

The monument, while spectacular on the outside, wasn't much to see on the inside. I think the circuitry in our brains that dealt with wonder and beauty had been short-circuited after seeing everything we had... it sounds ridiculous now to say that this fabulous temple "wasn't much."

Next stop- an alabaster factory. These men used ancient tools to carve the soft alabaster into vases and statues. I hate to think of what their lungs looked like from inhaling years of rock dust...

Egypt, Day 4, Alabaster Factory

On our way back to the boat, we stop at some random statuary just hanging around the countryside. This area is sometimes called the world's largest outside museum, and it's easy to see why.

Egypt, Day 4, Ramses 2 Monuments (1)

This afternoon, the cruising begins. We finally leave Luxor, winding our way south to the lock at Esna, where we are queued to pass through the lock.

There are 280 cruise ships on the Nile, most of them roughly the size of ours. Each has a schedule pretty much the same. One of the events that almost all the ships holds is a Galabea night. (Galabeas are the traditional long dresses worn by both men and women here. At least, that's what they said- I never actually saw a woman wearing one. However, it's pretty hard to tell what they're wearing under their gorgeous abayas. I suspect more Western clothes predominate.)

Anyhow. Galabea night is coming up. Never one to miss a chance to make a buck, every merchant up and down the Nile knows that every tourist is going to want to buy a galabea for the party. And some merchants are more... opportunistic... than others.

We're stopped at Esna lock, waiting behind other ships to pass through. It's dark yet warm, and we're enjoying a drink before dinner on the sun deck. All the sudden, shouts from the water draw our attention... it sounds as if a bar fight broke out on the water. We lean over the side of the sun deck, four stories up from the water, to see what the commotion is about. A dangerous move; we immediately get pelted with dresses.

Six or seven rowboats are jockeying for position on the water far below. They know we need a dress and have had no good opportunity to shop for one, so they're doing us the favour of bringing the shopping to us. They see a head over the rails, they choose a dress and whip it up to us. The target... er, recipient, takes the item out of the plastic and has a look... if they like it, they proceed down to the water level to begin negotiations for the item. If they don't want the item, they lob if over the deck back to the waiting merchants, who had great success snagging the items before they had a bath in the Nile.
Completely random. Completely Egyptian.

My SIL bought a dress that way... the gaudiest, most overblown piece of tourist crap I have ever seen. (I've walked through the world, looking at the crap that people try to sell to tourists, wondering who actually buys that stuff. Now I know. DH's big sister keeps them all in business.)

Galabea close-up

DH and I took a couple of minutes at the vendors in front of Hatshepsut's temple to buy our galabeas, so we didn't participate in this wild game. Sure was fun to watch, though.

After we cleared the locks, we sailed through the night to dock at Edfu, ready for the next day's adventures.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Interesting Times Ahead

I took a long hard look at the calendar recently, and realized that I was coming to a major turning point in my career.

Seven years back, I was injured on the job. It was a knee injury (completely torn ACL), and not diagnosed properly for years... by the time they realized what the problem was and I had surgery to fix it all up as best they could, my knee was permanently damaged from the years of internal instability. They thought at the time I should heal properly and be back to full duties in a year.

It's now been almost three years since the surgery, and I have still not recovered full function. I have come to the conclusion that I am as good as I'm going to get, and I had better adjust accordingly. I cannot meet the physical requirements of my job any longer.

They are deciding whether to release me as a result of my decreased abilities. However, even if they decide to keep me around, I know what my limits are and I know that this career and I are so over. I've been making plans to fulfill a life-long dream of obtaining a university degree.

If they don't release me and I have to quit, I need to give six month's notice. Six months to September is (holy crap!) March.

The deadline began breathing down my neck in a huge fashion once I realized how close it really was. Last night, I did a hugely exciting thing: began my application to university. As much as I've talked and planned, actually filling in the application online suddenly made it up-close and personal. I am very excited and of course nervous... what a huge thing to go to university 20 years after high school! Not to mention the the massive change in my annual income. Interesting times ahead.

I am willing to quit in order to get to where I need to go, but there's huge advantages to being released medically, not the least of which are educational benefits. I will know within the next month what that decision is... keep yer fingers crossed for me that I am released.

Fuzzy Bunnies, Socks, and Sheep

Sure, I've been quiet... but that doesn't mean I've been idle. Far from it. I've been knitting up a storm! I've even been quilting and stitching, too... it's been a productive time.

First off... admire these for a second.


Are they not divine? Are they not the best pair of mittens I've ever knit? (Disregard the fact that they're the only pair. Move along.)

They have a secret, too. Here's a taste.


Do you see that? Do you know just what that means?
Here. Let me spell it out.


Each adorable, yummy mitten has an even more adorable
100% angora liner knit into it. It's like having your hands snuggled by baby rabbits. (And since they're mittens, the impaired dexterity is equivalent to wearing rabbits on your hands, as well, but this was about form, not function.)

ohmygod I love these mittens. Even better? You see that mulberry-coloured goodness that they are reposing on? Yeah. That's my new parka. It's almost as if I bought the parka to match, but I swear it isn't so.

My mom has requested a pair of these, so I get to make another pair for her, in a slightly different size and colour. I can't wait! I loved knitting these.

Other knitting goodness? Okay. Two pairs of socks in the making.

Lang Yarns Super Soxx, the Harlot's Basic Sock recipe

The first, and possibly last, socks I have knit for my husband. GODDAMN he has large feet. never realized exactly how large until the kazzilionth row came and went. The gentle variegations of the yarn is perhaps the only reason I can bear to go on.

OnLine SuperSocke 100 Cotton, Blueberry Waffle pattern

Organic crunchy happy sunny waffle-y goodness. As you may have guessed by the colour, these ones are for me. Another half a sock to go on these.

Kate and I took a "Socks from the Toes Up" class last weekend at Wool-Tyme. It was a little confusing, and our sample socks looked like ass... well, at least mine did. However, when we met for our min-S&B on Tuesday, we figured it all out together. I've cast on for another pair of socks using the new techniques...

KnitPicks Memories (discontinued), Rocky Mountain Dusk. Toes up, Mock-Smock stitch.

All that knitting! I have also put in a few hours on my wolf cross-stitch, which is a gift for DH whenever it actually gets done. I have also nearly completed another panel of the StoryBook Farm quilt... the Wooly Good Friends. Those sheep are adorable.

So now you know I haven't been lazy! (Craft-wise. Blog-wise... another story!)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 3: Luxor Temple

It was a bad, mostly sleepless night, and when the morning came, although I was feeling a little better, I was pretty tired and wrung-out from the night. I told DH to go ahead and tour the next temple without me, and I'd see how I felt later that day for the next site.

So off he went to visit Dendera Temple. I stayed behind and slept, and by the time the group had arrived back, eaten lunch and were ready for the next site at 1630, I was more or less on my feet and had even choked down some dry toast. Damned if I was going to miss any more of Egypt's treasures. (It was bad enough that the group came back raving of Dendera. Many said, upon completion of the tour, that it was their favourite site. All the more reason to go back again.)

We visited Luxor Temple next. Dusk was falling, and although the temple was beautiful during the day, the columns and statuary lit from behind was a little other-worldly.

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Egypt, Day 3, Luxor Temple (2)

Egypt, Day 3, Luxor Temple (4)

Egypt, Day 3, Luxor Temple (6)

After we had a good crawl around the temple, we next visited a perfume shop. They made exquisite mouth-blown glass perfume vials on-site, and treated us to a showy demonstration before we got to sniff the many perfume oils. DH and I treated ourselves to some perfumes, and his sister treated us to one of the pretty vials.

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Egypt, Day 3, Perfume Palace

Even the shop was exquisite. In the family for generations, every surface was intricately carved and inlaid with mother-of-pearl. It was a little overwhelming, actually... thousands of glass perfume bottles, each different, hand-painted and lovely; mirrors everywhere, and of course the thick scent of the perfume oils pervading one's nose. One of those "this could only happen in an Arab country" moments.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Heart Jim Cuddy

I am such a Canadian girl, with Canadian crushes.

I dare you to listen to this song. Be warned, you'll be humming it for half the day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Day 2: Luxor, Karnak

There's nothing pretty about having to get up at 0430 in the morning, and when you're on holidays, it seems especially harsh. However, we had a flight to catch from Cairo to Luxor and temples to see. No time to waste!

One thing we learned rather quickly in Egypt was that the rules, whatever they were, weren't applicable to everyone equally. The security guards at the airport carefully selected about half of the bottles of water that our tour was given that morning for disposal; the other half were allowed on the plane. Boarding passes were passed out as if they were party favours... if you happened to be given your own, then good for you, but it was pretty unlikely. And they didn't really care. Except for the one geeky little professor who went around to all 103 of the other people, looking for his own name, so that he could claim the Air Miles. (Dude. It's a half-hour flight.)

So, after enduring haphazard security and timings, we land in Luxor. Now, we are on a "first class" tour, which means we don't have to handle our own luggage. So we board the bus and wait. And wait. Finally, after 20 minutes or so, the skinniest guy that works in the entire city appears on the horizon, painfully and slowly pulling a mountain of luggage in the general direction of the buses. A few minutes later, and under the uncaring eyes of several other, more muscular airport workers, he unloads the luggage and goes back for two more laborious trips. My friends, we have just waited 45 minutes for this one scrawny Egyptian dude to haul 6 tons of luggage 30 meters. I was almost in tears by this point in time from the sheer freakin' INEFFICIENCY of the whole show. I personally could have hand-carried all the luggage in half that time.

DH and I think that perhaps Skinny Guy was being hazed. Or punished, somehow. Or maybe all the Big Muscular Men that Just Watched were once Skinny Guys, too. Who knows? Anyhow. Enough about the luggage.

We get to the ship, check in, get our room (for which DH's sister has slipped the front desk something extra to get a really nice room for us), eat lunch, and then bail back off the ship to go visit Karnak Temple.

Today I decided to wear hijab. There are few whites in Egypt, and as a white woman with an uncovered head, I really stood out. Yesterday I felt a bit squicked how the men looked at me as if I was dinner... I reasoned that if I observed modest dress (which I usually do anyhow, don't mistake me) and hijab, I would not stand out.

False reasoning, as experience taught. Once at the magnificence of Karnak (64 acres of temple, my friends. It is freaking HUGE.) I stood out worse than ever as a white hijabi. Conversations amongst both men and women would literally stop as I walked by, then continue, somewhat excitedly, after I passed. Very uncomfortable. This was the last day I veiled, except on the day we toured the mosques.

Karnak (Thebes) blew our minds. The row of sphinxes,

Egypt, Day 2, Karnak

Egypt, Day 2, Karnak (3)

the hall of pillars,

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Egypt, Day 2, Karnak (14)

the vast size... it would take a week to see it all properly. All we had was a couple of hours, so I don't feel like I did it justice. However, it was wonderful to see in any duration.

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After the temple, we boarded the boat again for dinner and then sailed north on the Nile overnight. Whether it was the jet-lag or the guava I ate in its' entirety at the airport I'll never know. (I picked the guava up from the buffet because I thought it was a pear. Boy, was I surprised.) All I knew was that I didn't feel right at dinner, and by midnight, I was done. A high fever and vomiting kept me out of the game for much of Day 3. But that's a story for another time. (Not the illness. No-one needs more details of that.)

FO Report!

Maybe you just want me to get the heck on with the trip report, and I will, in good time... but for now, you get to share another joy with me.

"Oh Tannenbaum" has been one of those quilts that I love to hate. This project took me about a year and a half of steady working. It was the most picky, fiddly, detail-oriented quilt I have ever attempted, and I don't think I'll ever do one quite like this again. That being said, it's up, and it's lovely.


Close-up of one of the intricate, paper-pieced German-style houses.

The tree, decorated as much as I could bear. The details were killing me in their profusion.

Cute gingerbread man button, just happy to be ornamental

The quilt didn't feel truly finished until it was hung in the place it was always intended for. Now it's home.