Monday, June 30, 2008

Have You Seen...?

I saw an ad last night on TV that advocated wholesome old-fashioned values such as passing on your skills to younger generations. The long commercial was by an organization called the Foundation for A Better Life. This site, and its' sister site The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is really offering a message I can get behind, but I can't help being a little suspicious. I've been lulled into warm cozy feelings by other ad campaigns, only to realize it was some churchy thing in the end. However, this appears to be non-religious in nature. What do you think?

I have nothing against churches or religion. I just don't like deceptive, underhanded, sneaky proselytization. Or any proselytization, come to think of it. I respect utterly your right to practice your religion, whatever it is, as long as you don't harm others in its practice. But don't assume some moral superiority because you know that yours is The One True Religion and take it upon yourself to save us all. We're fine. God will take care of all His children, and I do mean all.

Sock Blanks

When I was on KnitPicks a couple of days ago, pricing out a new Harmony needle, I saw their sock blanks. What a super-cool idea. (Watch the video about half-way down the page if you can't wrap your head around the concept.)

I see a sock-dyeing party on the horizon... Kate? Whaddya say? Then you'd have no-one to blame for those weird stripes and pooling action but yourself... :)

This is also an excellent incentive to learn how to do two socks off the same needle at a time. (Yes, V, the temptation is strong just to do my own order and let a couple of goodies just fall into that basket... )

The War For Global Kitty Domination

DH and the girls are far, far away right now, kicking off their summer in a befitting manner. I opted to stay at home and enjoy the peace and tidiness of a house that was 100% under my control, and I took a couple of days of leave to stretch a weekend and a statutory holiday into five days off. I was looking forward to many glorious mornings of sleeping in without the inevitable sound of children squabbling or slamming their breakfast dishes down on the counter.

I didn't count on the kitties, though. The latest battleground in the War For Global Kitty Domination is the most crucial one: the privilege to Sleep With The Human. My peaceful bed, which should have been the site of much happy slumbering, is now home to sneak attacks at 0205, screaming and growling at 0316, a brief moment of happy purrs with the current victor at 0350, until they creep to the edge of the bed in paranoia at 0421 to ready themselves for the next sneak attack at 0550. I am getting crankier and crankier as the weekend progresses from lack of quality sleep.

I dare not interrupt the power struggles, though. They really need to get this sorted out in the same way they have decided other battles in the war. I suppose I'm lucky this is occurring on holidays, when I always have the option of a nice afternoon nap to console myself with.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Stress Test

I was at a girlfriend's tonight, curled up sideways in her overstuffed leather sofa. I was knitting (a sock... what else?) while we visited, carefully watching the pointy end of her cat as I worked... the cat had a bit of a reputation as a yarn eater, and she was curled up on my lap, just waiting for her chance. Consequently, when I needed to lay the knitting down to struggle upright on the sofa to reach my coffee, I was careful to place it on the sofa back, well out of reach of the playful kitty.

I was minding the wrong danger, though, for as I used my elbow to pry myself upright out of her sofa's deep embrace, I felt and heard a sound that made me a little sick.


Gingerly, I took my arm away from the cushions, but the damage was already done. (Look away now, if the sight of abused tools makes you cringe.)


Laminated birch may be plenty strong, but apparently the 90-odd pounds of pressure I placed on it as I ground it into the sofa was a little too much. (Luckily, my gf's leather sofa remained unpunctured.)

Unable to happily visit for hours with still hands, I begged some needles and yarn off her and made her cat a toy sock while I enjoyed the rest of my visit.

Is anyone I see on a half-regular basis doing a Knitpicks order in the future? Seems I've developed the need for a new Harmony interchangeable in 3.75mm/size 5. I dare not do an order by myself because then all sorts of yarn will "accidentally" fall in my basket in an attempt to make the shipping fees worthwhile...

Monday, June 23, 2008

On Embracing the Experience

The TV sets in our gym say it all.

There are maybe 10 or twelve of them, large LCD TV's mounted on the wall above the cardio machines. The sound is off, but you can jack in via a little box built in to the equipment. They are tuned to a variety of channels; this morning I looked up and saw MTV, some sports channel, and a news channel, among others. Invariably, Christine Cushing is cooking something up on the screen that's tuned into the Food Network.

I don't listen to the TVs, and I try not to watch. My best work-outs are maintained in a Zen-like state, fueled by the energy of my music and the exhilaration of feeling my body work and sweat. The TVs, when they catch my eye, take my mind off of working out, and I note my energy dropping to "just barely moving" when I am caught in the zombie ray.

I think a lot of people like that. I'm pretty sure that that's why the TVs are there in the first place... to lull the gym-goers into placidity. They can go to the gym, wiggle their arms and legs a little while watching TV, and then go home, content that they have "worked out", despite the fact that they barely broke a sweat and their heart rates rose only mildly.

Don't get me wrong, I think you still get some points for even just being in the gym. Even if you're hypnotized by the all-seeing eye, you are still getting more exercise than you would if you were on the couch, and that's always a good thing. But why not embrace the whole experience?

There is a glory found in the ability to move, a wonder in the unconscious grace your limbs possess, and a joy in the fierce act of work, exercise, effort and sweat that deserves to be felt and savoured. You won't be young and bendy and full of stamina forever, darlin'... enjoy it while you can.

It is my somewhat outspoken opinion that we have to live in our body (with all the respect, care and attention that that entails), not just use it to carry our eyes around from one helping of visual cotton candy to the next. How can we possibly revel in the wonders of life when we're so busy ignoring our bodies and sedating our minds?


Saturday will forever be known between my husband and I as "the little sangria incident". That's inaccurate, though... actually it was a string of incidents. We were looped before we turned the BBQ on. Hell, I was looped before he even got home. Quality assurance, you understand... it took a long time to get the ratio of orange juice to alcohol just right. And I am a perfectionist, what can I say?

The neighbors will be scarred for life, I'm sure. Between the topless sunbathing, the barefoot dancing on the grass, and assorted naughtiness after dark by the twinkly garden lights, it was perhaps the most perfect first day of summer ever. Ever.

Thanks, Domesticrafts, for the sangria recipe. I'll have to try the passion fruit recipe after my mild, persistent, and totally worth it headache goes away.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Definition of Relaxed



I'm off to make a pitcher of sangrias and to sit outside until the evening chill or the mosquitoes chase me in. Happy first day of summer, all.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dance Me to the End...

Last night we had a dance "test". Our instructor thought we were good enough to change from the Social Dance program to the "Bronze", or beginning competitive/ advanced social dance level. We had four steps from the new syllabus to perform for the studio manager, then she ran us through some impromptu steps to see how fast we grasped the material. It was slightly nerve-wracking, but it wasn't as if they'd kick us out if we flubbed the steps. (Which we mostly didn't.)

We went to the manager's office afterwards, to look at the proposed new program. In her office was a framed print that knocked me on my butt... it was all I could do not to start sobbing right then and there. It's a beautiful print by English artist Jack Vettriano, called "Dance Me To the End of Love" (yes, inspired by the Leonard Cohen song.)


It's not necessarily a sad print, in and of itself, but the first and last time I saw it was in the hospice where my Dad died this last fall. I spent many hours looking at this picture and pondering the love that my parents held for each other, and how that love would continue after Dad died... this beautiful picture now forever has such strong emotional content (she says with tears dripping off her nose.)

Somehow I held it together, until DH and I were at home. I told him what happened, and the sobs that threatened at the studio hit me like a summer thunderstorm... violent and heated, yet brief and cleansing. He said he saw my face turn white in the office, but thought it was the price of the package of lessons. (Any other day, and that price would have made me turn white, too, but last night I'm fairly sure it was the painting that sucker-punched me.)

I feel I've been living in a place where the fabric between life and death is particularly thin. I am full of hurt from all the losses, both mine and others, past and future. One of my grandmothers has today been diagnosed with kidney cancer that has moved to her lymph system and spine. It doesn't look good.

I leave you with the only song that sums me up right now. The Indigo Girls can always sum me up with a song, and have been my steady companions for 15 years now, no matter the circumstance. (From the album of the same name. I wish you could hear it in it's entirety, but can't find a link.)

"All That We Let In"

Dust in our eyes our own boots kicked up
Heartsick we nurse along the way we picked up
You may not see it when it's sticking to your skin
But we're better off for all that we let in

We've lost friends and loved ones much too young
With so much promises and work left undone
When all that guards us is a single centerline
And the brutal crossing over when it's time

(And I don't know where it all begins)
(And I don't know where it all will end)
(We're better off for all that we let in)

One day those toughies will be withered up and bent
The father, son, the holy warriors and the president
With glory days of put up dukes for all the world to see
Beaten into submission in the name of the free

But we're in a revolution, I have heard it said
And everyone's so busy now but do we move ahead
The planets hurling and atoms splitting
And a sweater for your love you sit there knitting

(Well, I don't know where it all begins)
(And I don't know where it all will end)
(We're better off for all that we let in)

See those crosses on the side of the road
Tied with ribbons in the median
They make me grateful I can go this mile
Lay me down and never wake me up again

Kat writes a poem and she sticks it on my truck
We don't believe in war and we don't believe in luck
The birds were calling to her, what were they saying
As the gate blew open the tops of the trees were swaying

I've passed the cemetery walk my dog down there
I read the names in stone and say a silent prayer
When I get home you're cooking supper on the stove
And the greatest gift of life is to know love.

Ginger Frappucino

Our new sweetie cat is a wonderful addition to the family. Purrs at the drop of a hat, curls up to any warm body... she's a wonderfully uncomplicated cat. Unlike Mina, who suffered trauma as a kitten and will always bear the scars emotionally, Ginger is warm and affectionate and unafraid. We loves her to death.

And look. She shares.


Game On.

I bought my little pick-up truck in 2002. I chose a pick-up for the flexibility of haulage, as I lived out of town at the time on an acreage, and I needed the payload space. However, I also chose a manual transmission and a 4-cylinder engine out of a desire for fuel economy. My little truck has been the best of both worlds... loads of flexibility and decent gas mileage.

However, after reading an article on hypermiling on Wired, I decided last week to see if I could improve my fuel efficiency by changing how I drive. I'm not an aggressive driver, and if I speed, I don't go over 15 kms over the posted limit (more as a nod to legality than efficiency) but there are areas where I could improve. I decided to trial some of the new driving techniques referred to in the article and associated references.

I dropped conscientiously down to the speed limit. I dropped into neutral and coasted down hills, I avoided sudden starts and accelerated slowly and smoothly. I turned my ignition off at intersections. I did this for one week.

I was able to get one extra commute to work and back out of the remaining half-tank of gas that I experimented with. Usually a tank of fuel lasts me two weeks; I will need to fuel up Monday on my way home from work rather then last Friday as usual. That's three less trips to the gas station over the next year, that's an extra $240 in my pocket. (Think of all the extra yarn that would buy!) And all that with only a one week trial.

Tonight I will fuel up again, and play the game for the whole tank of fuel; the results so far have me curious to see what the peak efficiency of my little truck is. Game on.

(My husband plays the same game with his car, often able to go over 1,000 kms on a single tank, but since he drives a hybrid, I can hardly compare our results.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Socks, Socks, Socks

I finished the socks for my mum a couple of days ago. Here you see them reposing in my garden on my new and oh-so-expensive sock blockers, formed by arguing with a wire hanger for a few minutes...

Wendy's Double Eyelet Rib (pdf file), in Fleece Artist Nova merino.

I think those sock blockers make my feet look fat... these socks actually do fit humans. No, really.

I attended a family function with my girlfriend last Friday, and we were both so stressed from the experience that we simply had to swing by Wool-Tyme on the way home. Yarn therapy... it's good for whatever ails you. I picked up a couple of balls from the bargain bin, and being thoroughly enchanted by their potential, cast on a sock on Saturday. They piqued my interest so much that I was done a sock in 5 hours... the fastest thing I've every churned off the needles. I love it and want to sleep with it. I can't wait to make its little buddy.



My only regret is that it's totally not wooly sock weather right now.

Lastly, I cast on some scrumptious Handmaiden yarn that I picked up at Janie H's last weekend. I thought it would be Double Eyelet Rib, as well, but it didn't play nicely with the yarn. I tried Jaywalker then, but that wasn't working out... so finally I went to an oldie but goodie, Fan and Feather. I think Grandma will love these. This yarn is incredibly soft, but I also found that it didn't care for the repeated frogging.


Monday, June 9, 2008

A Letter to the Bride

Your wedding was lovely. Your Big Day seemed to go off without a hitch, and was almost everything a wedding should be. The ceremony was funny and touching, you were beautiful, and even the weather cooperated. I was a little dismayed to be hit over the head with the Jesus stick so many times, wondering for a second if I hadn't wondered into an old-time tent revival, but then I saw you all in white and I was okay. Maybe it's sour grapes at my own lost opportunity - just think of how much Amway* product I could have sold at my own wedding had I only had your presence of mind and willingness to take advantage of a captive audience. I admire the courage of your convictions.

The only crumb in my butter was your free-wheeling interpretations of the Ten Commandments, specifically number five. "Honour thy father and mother" it says. Pretty clear, pretty open-ended. However, you chose a very specific interpretation of this verse. If I may paraphrase your interpretation, drawn from your actions over the last year or so, you understand this verse to mean "Honour the guy your mother is currently married to now, and honour your mother, but treat the guy who gave you life and who is your true father like gum you can't quite scrape off your shoe."

I know, dear, that you were carefully molded into this attitude by that paragon of Christianity herself, your mother. She's so obviously holier than us all... I know she is, because she told us so. Because, you know, spite and rancour are very Christian virtues. I especially like how she takes particular delight in savaging the vulnerable underbelly of her ex-husband, which is to say, deliberately impeding and damaging the relationship between him and his children. Jesus would surely approve, cause he's into that whole scene. And I loved how you took a stand and did the right thing at your wedding, which is to say, ignored your father completely. I think you should have had a single line in the program, just after the "parents of the bride" line, saying "sperm donor for the bride", to explain away his embarrassing presence. I think he may have made some of the other guests uncomfortable... "Why did he show up???!"

But that's neither here nor there.

Another thing I love about you, Julie dear, is the fact that you are just young enough to know it all and self-centered enough to think that your actions don't have any consequences. One day in the future something will happen, you'll take a long hard look at your past, and you will realize the pain you inflicted. You will wear the guilt for your actions like a hair shirt, and God help you if your daddy is dead** before you realize just how big you fucked up, because trying to beg forgiveness of a dead man is really tricky.

Your father, who your mother says is going to hell 'cause he doesn't meet her specs, the humble, gentle man whose heart you broke (or rather, break) repeatedly, is a better person than anyone else in your life because he has forgiven you already. Without you asking, without you even knowing what you've done, you have been completely absolved of wrongdoing in his eyes.

I, however, am not that charitable. Don't darken our doorstep until you have sought his forgiveness, because I carry all the anger and pain that he seems to have let go already, and I am mightily pissed off on his behalf.

*I don't sell Amway. I'm so not into pushing products, ideas, or religion onto my unsuspecting friends, neighbors and family.

** Your Daddy is currently in excellent health, but you never know how much time you have to make things right.

(She may never read this, but boy, does it make me feel better to air it out.)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Field Trip!

On Friday, my boss came by my office and was chatting with my subordinates and I. He asked what my plans were for the weekend, and I talked excitedly about the Ottawa Knitting Guild field trip coming up on Sunday. I told him how we'd travel to Perth to see a yarn store I hadn't seen before, how there would be reps there from two different yarn companies and a trunk shop of their latest wares, how there would be alpacas from Victory Alpaca to feed and adore, and how we'd cap the day off at a local organic bakery. I could see his face grow increasingly disbelieving as I talked, so I injected more and more detail about the fun we'd have and the fiber we'd find.

Strangely, the more animated I got in trying to get across to him that this was for me a really cool day and a big adventure, the more he got "that look" on his face. You know the look. The "holy crap, I didn't realize you utterly had no life" look. The "so that's how the other half lives" look. The "you're much stranger and less interesting than I thought" look.

Eventually, much later than I should have, I realized I simply wouldn't convince him, and just shut up and bore the mocking with a smile.

It was indeed as cool as I thought it would be. Kate and I showed up at the meeting place, a Tim Horton's in Stittsville, defiantly brandishing our Starbucks lattes. There were a good 20 women with their needles and elbows at the ready. We drove, more or less in convoy, to Perth and turned off onto Glen Tay road to visit Janie H Knits. More guildies were already at Janie's, presumably to buy the good stuff before the rest of us had a chance.

Her shop is simply amazing and absolutely worth the drive. She has friendly, helpful staff, boatloads of exciting fiber, all sorts of interesting tools and accessories, a sizable library of books, baskets of on-sale sock yarn, and a lovely serene swing, overlooking a river out back... perfect to curl up with a good book on. The baby alpacas and their endearing little hums charmed me utterly, and I bet I wasn't the only one.

It was acceptable in the 80's... these charming young lads do a mean Bowie impersonation.

Kate, looking very glam, blowing kisses to the curious lads.

I spent my "allowance" and more, having fallen hard for a pretty little vest knit of Freedom Spirit wool and somehow acquired the yarn and booklet with which to make it. Also falling into my basket was a skein of Prairie Fibre sock yarn (which I think is made in Saskatchewan), some Handmaiden Casbah wool/cashmere sock yarn (to be made into a pair of socks for my Grandma, whose feet won't know what hit them), and some bargain-bin yet lovely and soft wool/bamboo sock yarn.

Even though Janie gave us Guildies a nice discount on our loot, I'm pretty sure she made a killing on us. Some ladies filled bags with yarn, went outside, fed the alpacas, remembered "just one more thing" that they needed, and came out with another full bag and a dazed look on their faces. It was like a feeding frenzy.

Afterwards, we drove to Perth and had lunch at Fiddleheads, as the bakery was closed. Good yarn, good food and good company made the day an utter pleasure from beginning to end.

A hard day all round: Ginger crashed in my pile of handbags. She's still in quarantine until this weekend.