Sunday, December 31, 2006

First Foot

We are off in half an hour to a neighbour's house. They are another household with a small child, so plans are afoot to set the clocks ahead three hours so we can all get to bed at a decent hour.

(Thing I Miss About Not Having Children, #34 - New Year's Eve)

At the last minute I realized that, if I were going to a neighbour's house on New Year's, for "snacks and drinks", I'd better bring some snacks and drinks. So, I threw a Bean Dip on the stove, dug an unopened Boursin out of the deli drawer, fished around for some Carr's table crackers, and made room in the freezer for my (alas) single bottle of lime Perrier and six Pepsis. "I'll just grab something out of the liquor cabinet," I said to myself as I furrowed my brow trying to remember where the liquor cabinet is. At last it came back to me and I opened the cabinet, blew the cobwebs off the dusty bottles, and took stock... depressing.

I'll bring the half-bottle of Captain Morgan, but I'm damned if I'm going to present to my hostess the following as my contribution to the evening:

1) a quarter cup of cherry brandy left over from my Singapore Sling afternoon with Megan six years ago;

2) the sticky-lidded bottle of Kahlua we brought with us when we moved to the interior in 2001....then brought with us when we moved back two years later, with the same amount inside it;

3) a third of a bottle of bitter Cinzano; or

4) the two tablespoons that remain of my Napoleon St. Remy brandy (kept for medicinal purposes. Troubled with the Norwalk virus? Pesky lactose intolerance won't leave you alone? Partook a little too freely of the Bean Dip your neighbour brought to your house on New Year's Eve? An ounce of this, an ounce of hot water, and toss it back. You'll be, as Vera Drake said, right as rain).

And, let's hope there's not some sort of curse you can bring on yourself by starting the New Year with a house that looks like ten orphaned children have been living in it for a month, or like the mighty finger of God has just reached down from the sky and stirred everything in it. Because, if so, I'm doomed.

Happy Hogmanay everybody. Sigh.

Friday, December 29, 2006


I never did my Christmas Day post - too many things got in the way. But, I wanted to put up a few pictures of things that have made me awfully happy in the last few days. This is by no means a comprehensive list, for those of you who might wonder about things conspicuously absent.

My baby, for once visible rather than shrouded in a curtain of hair.

My other baby, unwrapping "Baby Grace" (thanks Mum!).

"Why I Was Up Til 1:30 AM Christmas Day"

"Why I Totally Don't Mind Being Up Til 1:30 AM Christmas Day"

Some of my favourite gifts received, clockwise from left.

- Two Starbucks Christmas teacups on a lacquer tray, from my Sister-in-Law. (LOVE these. When I was travelling in Eastern Europe as a young lass, carefree and slim, everyone there had everyday china that was similar in design to these - stylized flowers on a white background, slightly seventies-looking, awfully cool. "Recovering-Communist-Chic", I like to call it. It goes well with "kitsch", masterfully defined by Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I love that I now have something that reminds me of that terrible, but wonderful six-week trip - and imagine how chagrined Starbucks would be if they knew that their new, edgy, hip, urban Holiday 2006 designs are reminiscent of nothing so much as Soviet-era Czech dinnerware.)

- Blank Book, just visible as the gold and brown cover behind the cups on the left. Thanks Mum - I love this book more and more as I examine it. I have decided to use it to plan "Christmas Knit-Fest 2007" - it's got a great pocket at the back perfect for keeping yarn snips and swatches of current projects.

- E.T.A. Hoffman's "Nutcracker", illustrated by Maurice Sendak, purchased at Munro's. This was from me, to myself. How thoughtful.

- Magi tealight holders, made of enamelled tin, from my AWESOME SISTER. I do believe I smell the rustic aroma of ten thousand tiny little villages?

So, a good time was had by all. For once, I succeeded in keeping the gifts to a minimum - the above-pictured castle was the only thing the kids received from us. (Okay, the only TOY - they did get two books each, and a board game that we bought for them back in the summer.) It was perfect - enough to feel the bounty, but not enough to create the infamous Christmas Glut.

I'll get back to knitting in my next post. I have made progress on St Brigid (which I put down for ten days or so, to concentrate on Christmas) and am in the middle of blocking a sweater I knitted two or three months ago, for my cousin's daughter. I have also been compiling my list of upcoming projects, and there are several V E R Y exciting things on the horizon... I am holding back from casting on right-this-very-second!!! because I want to finish one or two WIPs before I throw myself at another challenge.

More soon!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

In Memoriam

I have a friend, Diane, who is an anniversary junkie. She remembers, and celebrates in however small a way, every milestone that recurs throughout the year. It used to amuse me a little when she would say to me "I have to get a card for my husband - today is the anniversary of the first time we made up after a fight." Or, "Ten years ago today I got my letter of acceptance from UVic." She even celebrated anniversaries from an old relationship with her previous boyfriend, though he was long gone and she was married to someone else. I thought she was being a bit oversentimental.

As the years of our friendship (now thirteen and a third of them) passed and she became more important to me, I understood her better. She began to give me cards, and little presents, to mark my life's milestones as well as hers. The first time this happened I was surprised, and pleased, and touched by her thoughtfulness. It gave me a new perspective on what I had previously thought a little silly - the fact that she remembered my important moments was proof of her love and friendship, and of the real interest she took in my life.

Last year she called me to say that she was celebrating again. I couldn't think what the date was - it was a new one for me. She didn't sound all that happy either, but I knew it wasn't the anniversary of her divorce, which was still months away. "I give up," I said, "what's the occasion?"
"It's the day I found out Mr. Me was cheating." She had come home from a four-day work trip to find that, in her absence, an office flirt of her husband's had come over "just to talk, but one thing sort of led to another..." and she was no longer loved, or wanted. Within a week the new woman had left her young children and their father, and was installed in Diane's house, while she was sleeping on her sister's couch, devastated.

This phone call from her brought up all of the anger I felt when it had first happened, although I had been relieved that the relationship was over and she could try to find someone who could keep his fists to himself. I stood there, trying to think what to say, when she went on. "So it's also the anniversary of the day I realized you were right all along, and I thought I should call you."

I confess I descended into some unladylike language, and some bitter remarks that, while they relieved my feelings, were hardly conducive to healing or forgiveness. She heard me out, and agreed with me in a mild way, but then said "You know, it was bad, but I'm not upset. At least he told me right away...and it gave me a chance to be alone, and sort of take my life in a different direction. I never would have gone back for my degree if this hadn't happened. So I'm glad, in a way, even though I still cry about it sometimes."

It struck me that her whole attitude towards life is as a series of learning experiences which, taken together, have made her who she is. It wouldn't be right to try to forget, or even to simply not acknowledge, the anniversary of a painful or sad event, just as it would be wrong to forget the day your child was born, or the time your boyfriend became your fiance, or the day you got the keys to your first house.

The truth is that celebrating these anniversaries is a way of looking back over one's life, surveying it as a landscape through which one has travelled. I can see the important dates as obstacles I have overcome, or high points that exhilarated me -- or pitfalls I did not, after all, manage to avoid. This map of memory stands as a commemoration of my past, a reminder of life's lessons learned, and a series of warnings or encouragements for the future. When I approach the end of life, or the end of a stage of life, I want to have what Diane has: a wealth of experience hard-won, to serve as my guide for whatever is to come.

Today it has been 16 years since my first kiss. I couldn't begin to count the ways in which I'm different now to what I was then - everything is more, and also less, than it used to be. That moment is such a small thing, now, that I find it funny how important it was at the time. I have to mourn the loss of the youthful thrill - I don't know that I feel anything quite as intensely as I used to - but I'm also terribly glad to be spared the heart throbs that came along with all that 17-year-old excitement.

"One remembers one's own first love, with a tiny pang -- and such infinite thankfulness."

- Georgette Heyer, A Civil Contract

I wish I could see you again, but I'm afraid I might...I miss you, and I'm so very, very glad you're gone.

Life's complicated.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I Heart This Pattern

I know, it's a cutesy title. But look at this sweet little thing:

This was a last minute cast-on, to do something fun before Christmas. I hadn't intended it for a gift at first, but now I think I should give it away because it's so cute. I fully intend to make many more of these.

Heart Sachet
Pattern: "Heart Sachet" from Interweave Knits Holiday Gift Issue
Yarn: Fleece Artist Basic Sock yarn, no colour number.
Needles: 2mm Aero DPN (only for convenience of size - this was knitted flat).
Tension: as usual on non-garment projects, I don't know. Probably about 9 sts per inch in stockinette - the finished piece is only 3 inches wide.
Modifications: I accidentally knitted the wrong chart twice, making two of those little mitered squares 2 rows too long. And, guess what? it totally doesn't matter. I LOVE non-garment knitting. Also, the book called for stuffing this with lavender flowers, but I dismissed that in favour of stuffing it with mulling spices. (Stroke of genius, by the way. It's perfect for the yarn colours and the holiday-ness of this item.) I also added some batting, so it would be nice and pillowy, and I wouldn't need to use so much cinnamon and clove. It worked well.

I will knit this again, and again, and again. It used a tiny amount of sock yarn, so I can easily whip off a few of these with scraps I'll have left over from every pair of socks I make. I am kind of dreaming about my next one - patchwork-style, I hope, maybe delft blue and white? I think it would look unbearably adorable.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. It's now 11:00 at night on the 23rd, so my little Christmas counter (on Eastern time, unfortunately) now says "Tonight is Christmas Eve". I got a little shiver of excitement when I saw it - I didn't know it would do that, and had expected to see "1 day til Christmas" instead. I like this better.

Thanks for all your nice comments on my gingerbread train. I hadn't intended to leave that post up so long, but it worked out nicely anyway, as a Christmassy theme for while I was away. We took the girls, on Monday, back to Victoria for a few days. We had a nice time, for the most part - went to the Empress Hotel's Festival of Trees, which is always cool. The kids liked it. We did a bit of shopping, but mostly hung around looking at shops without buying anything (except at Munro's, of course - I can't go in there without succumbing to the chamber music and the creaky floors, and shelling out for at least one book, and a few cards).

The hotel was quite excited about its "Free Wireless Internet for Guests!" but this turned out to be a complete bust.





as molasses. So I wasn't able to post or comment, or email, for the whole four days. What a complete drag - I hadn't realized how much I would miss blogging. It's good to be back.

Tomorrow morning, I plan to hurl myself into a frenzy of cooking and wrapping. I am trying to get as much of The Dinner done as possible on the Eve, then I can relax a bit on the Day, while the turkey roasts comfortably in his little toasty oven. There's a possibility I won't be back here at HSB until after Christmas, although I have a Christmas Day post in the works, so I'd better be on the safe side and wish you all a very Happy Christmas now.

So, Happy Christmas. May it be Joyful and Triumphant at 9:00 AM, then Silent and Holy by 9:00 PM.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

All Aboard?!

Every year I make a gingerbread structure for Christmas. The first year I did this, it was a simple house, with the inspiration taken from a lovely one I saw on (The recipe is here, although they don't have a picture anymore.) I liked the simplicity of the house - it has no candy stuck to it, merely pretty icing "gingerbread" piped along the roof, and windows and doors outlined in icing as well.

The next time I got a little more daring, and created a "Sweet Shop" - a cookie house with the windows stuffed with (again, piped royal icing) cakes, trays of cookies, and jars of candy. The back door had a sign reading "Tradesmen's entrance".

The following year was even better: "Drosselmeier's Toys". I really pulled out all the stops for this one. The windows displayed kites, tin soldiers, bicycles, model aeroplanes, marionettes, dolls, yo-yos, and more. I used my trusty number 2 tip to pipe a little dog's silhouette against the building, looking up at the windows. It was SO FUN to do this one, especially since I had learned from my last couple of attempts, and was turning out more delicately designed and better executed structures. I did take pictures of my houses, but they seem to all be lost - except one of the Sweet Shop, seen here:

I took a year or so off, when my daughters were too young to understand that they couldn't touch, eat, or, even more disastrously, help with the gingerbread house. The last structure I did, a year ago, was a U-Cut Christmas Tree Farm - more rustic, less pretty, but definitely faster and less work than the others. (Although, getting all those little gingerbread trees to stand up in little puddles of royal icing was fairly arduous - lots of propping and waiting involved.)

This year, I came up with a pretty good idea for my cookie art around the middle of October. I perused "Off the Beaten Path", at, and found the perfect set, which I ordered as soon as I saw it. It arrived in plenty of time, and last week I started mixing, chilling, rolling and baking. I didn't blog about the process, because I wanted to present it to you as a fait accompli, in all its cookie glory. So, forgive the multitude of pictures, but I hope you enjoy them anyhow.

Not much detail visible here, but you can see the scope of it better.

The caboose, with vintage Little People inside. See how happy they are?
Those little signals beside the tracks read "Caution" and "Falling Rock Candy".

The other sides of the cars have also been decorated. The caboose reads

North Pole Candyworks
St Petersburg
Lk Louise

A more-or-less front view of the train. I tried to find a Playmobil engineer but there was none to be had. I had to settle for Madeline, sans hat. Note that she is standing on a piece of Turkish Delight - cargo overflow from the freight car just forward of the caboose. You can also see that the rear of the engine is filled with Panda Licorice "coal".

Above, a view of the coal, and the first two freight cars. One is stuffed with almond bark and peanut brittle, and the sign reads "Watch for loose or falling bark". (You can tell I am from BC, where dodging loose and falling bark is practically part of the drivers' test. It's all the old-growth logs we keep selling to the East and the South, shedding as they are transported.) The other simply reads "North Pole Candy - 1 - NPR" and is full of foil-wrapped chocolate twonies and loonies.

A close-up of the engine car, and a better shot of the stand of trees at the edge of the board. The signs read "Caution" and "SLOW - Chocolate Slide Ahead". Note the eerily rock-looking rock candy.

Here you can see the third freight car, full of Turkish Delight, and chocolate-covered blueberries and cherries.

And, a last view of the caboose, having just passed a well-marked street crossing.

Now, all I have to do is come up with a better one for next year.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Catching Up

It has been an exhausting couple of days, between another snowstorm, the bringing home of the tree, and a flurry of baking for Sunday's cookie exchange. Last night, I went to Thrifty Foods and spent $140 on supplies, plus a few regular weekly items, and today I whipped together

1) Peanut Butter Marshmallow Krispee squares
2) Orange Almond Cranberry biscotti
3) Linzer cookies
4) Walnut Rugelach

Linzer cookies. Now these, these, are beautiful. Not only are they pretty, but a batch is supposed to make a dozen cookies... a DOZEN ... and there is an entire cup of unsalted butter in the dough. Then, once the cookies are baked singly, you dust the tops with icing sugar and sandwich them with raspberry jam. So, you get the doubtful felicity of feeling both your pancreas and your gallbladder cramp simultaneously. Good times.

I was supposed to do some other baking too, but I ended up spending too much time outside throwing snowballs at my foxy husband and fell behind schedule. (You'll be happy to hear I totally kicked his ass, by the way - I have quite an arm.)

On the crafting front, there has been some movement despite the Christmas preparations. I am over half finished the front (armholes to shoulders) of St Brigid. I should have the body done by Monday, and have started the sleeves. I needed a break from St B, so I started winding this:

Now, the story is as follows. After the Knitting Olympics, I was one of the lucky random winners of a knitterly prize for finishing my event. I was selected to receive 5 50g balls of hand-dyed laceweight mohair from fyberspates. However, there was a fair bit of confusion over addresses, shipping, et cetera; and between one thing and another I didn't receive my package of yarn until September (I had won it in February). The friendly girl behind fyberspates felt a bit bad about this and overcompensated madly by sending me a CRAPLOAD of yarn. Instead of the promised 5 balls of laceweight, I received 250 g of charcoal laceweight mohair, 50 g of beautiful ocean blue laceweight mohair, 3 50g skeins of handpainted silk boucle DK, a 50g skein of blue/chartreuse sock yarn, and a sockblocker keychain.


The problem is, the laceweight came like this:

Tears came to my eyes when I saw it: not because it was so beautiful (although, you know, it IS), but because I had a vision of myself at age 82, bent over the skein, hair white with age, skin wrinkled and dry, eyesight almost gone, STILL winding this freaking skein of yarn.

But, I wanted to use a smidgen of it for something I've been planning, so I decided to bite the bullet and wind a ball or two. It was surprisingly easy going, actually, although it did take me 40 minutes to find the yarn tail so I could start. Once I started, though, it took me about the same amount of time it takes to wind the same yardage of sock yarn. Reasonably, I should be able to wind the whole thing, by hand, in about 4 more hours.

I also have a sad piece of news. My Lacy Scallops socks, a recent FO, have a gigantic hole in the sole. It was the classic merino sock story - girl knits sock, girl loves sock with an illicit passion bordering on obsession, girl wears beloved sock constantly, sock is perfectly fine at 9:00 AM when she puts it on -- sock looks like swiss cheese at noon, for no apparent reason. So now I've got some darning to do, but I think I will do it in a wool/nylon blend for a bit more durability. I got some acidic remarks from Mr Halfsoled Boots when he saw that twonie-sized hole, along the lines of "Man, what a waste of the old hard-earned, $20 on sock yarn that lasts all of a few weeks." He's not wrong - I have been questioning my dedication to 100% merino sock yarn too. I think I might explore other pattern options, besides socks. You know - something for a less hard-worn part of the body.

I leave you today with a bit of eye candy, and a recipe for Walnut Rugelach. Quite a tasty cookie, unexpectedly addictive with tea or coffee. It's an unusual cookie - I tried it on impulse from an old-ish Christmas cookie magazine. You should try it too.

Walnut Rugelach

1 1/4 C flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 T unsalted butter
3 oz cream cheese
1/4 C white sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla

1 egg white
1 C ground walnuts
1/2 C white sugar
Beat egg white til frothy, stir in walnuts and sugar.

Icing sugar for dusting

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat butter, cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Stir all into flour mixture. Divide into thirds. Shape into disks. Wrap in plastic, chill thoroughly. Roll each disk into 6 1/2 - 7 inch circle. Spread 1/3 of filling on each, leaving 1/4" border at edge. Cut into 12 wedges, roll up from edge to point.

Bake at 350 on ungreased baking sheet (parchment recommended) 12-14 minutes. Cool on racks. Dust with icing sugar.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Well, it's fun, that's all.

Is it wrong that I'm becoming totally addicted to these nerd tests? I'm rather pleased with my score on this one.


Razors and Wrists

Okay, an FO. This one is a present for my belly dance instructor, who, as we saw last week, apparently wanted some badly.

Yes, I'm wearing them, even as I write this post. Shut up.

These were fun - a quick knit on size 3mm needles. I think they were only about 4 or 5 hours altogether. However, honesty compels me to admit that I knitted one and a half of these in the spring, put them in a drawer all summer, and only resurrected them on Monday. I don't know why I waited to long to finish them - it only took about an hour. (Which is good news since I will no doubt have to make another pair, because I am growing hourly more attached to them.)

The lace pattern isn't very visible in the picture, but I think it's just open enough to look lacy, and closed enough to be warm. The pattern is a standard lace pattern called "Razor Eyelet", this version taken from Knitting on the Edge, and is easily memorized. The repeat is only two rows, with even numbered rows in stockinette, so it's awfully fast.

Pattern: Razor eyelet, from Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge
Yarn: Garnstudio Drops 100% alpaca fingering weight
Needles: 3mm Clover Takumi Bamboo dpns
Tension: tension - what's tension? I can't ever measure it accurately over a lace pattern, so I'm not going to try. Probably about 6 sts/inch in stockinette.
Mods: none, except to knit it in the round instead of flat.
Cast on: April 2006.
Cast off: December 11, 2006

And, a note on St Brigid: I have cast off the back (Oh, Hooray For Me!!) and will soon start the front. I have a habit - whether good or bad I'm not sure - of trying on my knitting. A lot. I think this might slow me down in some respects (for example when I have to spend 15 minutes slipping half St Brigid onto another, smaller needle, then stepping gingerly into it and cautiously pulling it up into place, so I can turn and admire my half-sweatered body), but it also keeps me motivated. I've tried on St Brigid several times, and I am LOVING it so far. If I can avoid getting distracted, I think I will have the front done by this weekend, and then it's sleeveland for me.

But, Christmas approaches (see the counter? See it?) and I have other things to think about. Behold, my decked halls.

This garland was my Boxing Day purchase from Canadian Tire last year - 60% off. I got a couple of these - they have little mistletoe, apples, pinecones and assorted silver leaves, with some cedar twigs. All fake, but entirely charming. I like it as a wintry coronet on my dining room light.

And I'm well aware that two of those bulbs need replacing. But I feel it's a mistake to try to make your house clean and perfect before decorating. It'll never get done that way.

And, the fireplace wall. I did consider retaking this shot without the blurriness, but I thought it looked nice so I left it as is.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


I was in Thrifty Foods the other day, doing a spot of shopping. I'm there quite often, because I got a big "POOR" mark in organization from the School of Life, and I no sooner get home from Thrifty Foods - usually at 5:30 in the evening - than I realize I have forgotten half a dozen things that were on my list (which I left at home, if I made one, and which most likely only exists in my brain. My favourite phrase, muttered to myself absently as I wash the dishes, or fold laundry, or knit, is "Mental note: Molasses. Tin Foil. Tea.") and I STILL don't have anything for supper.

Yes, there's a point - keep reading.

As Christmas approaches I have noticed a huge upturn in the amount of Utter Crap people are buying. I have no problem leaning against the gum and magazine racks, casually surveying the belt contents of the shopper in front of me, so I can say with some authority that the average cart is probably 35 - 40% absolute rubbish, all of which will apparently be eaten in the next four or so weeks. I am not immune - I have found myself craving pop lately (the Americans will be saying "What the hell is pop?" so I should clarify - soda). I think I blacked out while in the "Candy - Salty Snacks - Pop" aisle because when I got home and opened the trunk to unload the groceries, there was a 24 pack of Pepsi in there. Now somebody has to drink it - I have had two and I am sick of them already.

Anyway, this all got me to thinking. Why is it that December signals a frantic mass consumption of sugar, salt, alcohol and starch? The celebratory spirit is a nice time to reward yourself with things you wouldn't ordinarily have - I get that. What puzzles me is why these rewards so often take the form of packaged plastic pseudo-food that is completely nutritionally bankrupt and will, if consumed, result in an overwhelming lack of the following:

- feelings of goodwill toward men
- feelings of inner peace (especially if you have overconsumed dairy)
- alertness
- good cheer
- good skin
- ability to sleep
- ability to look at yourself in the mirror without loathing.

That doesn't sound very festive. It doesn't look all that appealing to me. Suddenly that bag of Hawkins just looks like what confronts Chernobyl's janitor every time he looks into a plugged toilet.

But I digress.

The end of it all is, I have decided that I am going in a different direction this year. No chips, no dip, no Tray, no pop, no mounds of cookies, shortbread, Milk Tray, Pot of Gold, Terry's Chocolate Oranges. The insanity has to stop sometime, and that Sometime is now.

"But, Shan," I can hear you saying, "Christmas is a time for luxury, for treating yourself, for feasting!" You're not wrong there, mate. This is what I've got planned. I'm going to treat myself all right - instead of tens or hundreds of dollars of bad nutritional choices, I am going to treat myself and my family to All Organic, All Month Long. That means Christmas dinner, which will be our hour of feasting, is going to be organic: from the burnished bird on the platter to the butter in the stuffing, from the orange cranberry sauce to the ice cream on the free-range-pumpkin pie. Yes, it will cost me a mint - but think what I will save in the long run. If I skip all the usual Christmas-junk purchases, I will even be able to buy a few Cocoa Camino bars, usually prohibitively expensive, to have with coffee after dinner.

In conclusion, if you, too, are tired of the yearly excess, the bloat, the fuzzy teeth, the hyped-up children -- think about joining me. It couldn't hurt, right? And it might help. I always toast the New Year about 3-5 pounds heavier than I was on Advent Sunday...not this year. And I'm really looking forward to cheating Kraft, or Coca Cola, or Cadbury, out of my money, which they get in exchange for a few grams of sugar, salt and disodium phosphate, with a little tartrazine added before the whole brightly coloured mess is whipped into appealing shapes.

Who's with me?

And if this post doesn't incite my mother to comment, nothing will.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Thursday, December 07, 2006

She Wishes Me a Merry Christmas

I finished the yoga socks twenty five minutes before class the other night, just in time to snap two pictures, wrap the socks, and take them to give my instructor. She was so happy to get the present - she squished it in her hands, felt that it was knitting, and said excitedly "Oooh! you made me some of those wristwarmers you're always wearing! Oh thank you!"

Uh, you're welcome, but... you didn't get wristwarmers. You got strange looking but eminently practical semi-socks.

Looks like I'll be casting on another Christmas project. (Her face did actually fall a bit when she realized she was mistaken, but to her credit she tried to be enthusiastic about the yoga socks. Should have kept them for myself.)
Cast On: November 28, 2006
Cast Off: December 5, 2006
Yarn: Gedifra Sportivo in colour 5762
Needles: Two 2.25mm Susan Bates circulars
Tension: Dunno. Sorry.
And St Bleh-gid has become St BriGiddy! I have my joy back, you'll be glad to know - don't know where it came back from, but it's back and I'm happy. I have divided for the armholes which means I should be done this sucker for Christmas after all.
And I got a present today. Yay! First Gift of Christmas! My lovely friend Megan, who just makes me happy whenever I think of her, has sent me a beautiful book. Now, there's history here - Megoon (the Pickle) finds me, I think, a bit Christmas-crazy. We had a slight difference of opinion on the proper duration of Christmas observance early in our relationship, and we have had many interesting conversations about it since. I am nuts about Christmas, and start regularly playing the tunes pretty much as soon as it gets dark and rainy - around mid-November, to be totally honest (choral hymn-type music here, folks, not madly jingling, forced jollification Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree-style stuff). In contrast, Megan's Yule Rule states that Christmas music should be played, food eaten, halls decked, and merry made only between December 6 and January 6. I scoffed at first, but over time have come to realize the sense of it. After all, the given span of time is bracketed by the Feast of St Nicholas on the one side, and Epiphany on the other.
Anyway, to abbreviate this long story, my dear friend Megan has kindly given me a Christmas book every year FOR FOUR YEARS. Out of the blue, not an arrangement, or anything - just sometime in early December (and this year it was today) the postie shows up with a little brown-paper wrapped package from MKC. Here is the collection:
Clockwise from back left:
- The Christmas Cookie Book (this year's addition)
- The Penguin Book of Carols (my all-time favourite reference book - and I have a few)
I can't really describe how good I feel about this state of affairs. It is just so thrilling to get this little package every year, when I absolutely least expect it (if you can believe it, it takes me by surprise every time). The great thing about Megan is that she understands how much I love Christmas and how I think you can never have too many special Christmas things, like books, or music, or entire sets of china.
And the other great thing is that these brown-paper packages come with printed labels on them. I don't know why I like this so much. You could argue that it would warm the old cockles of my heart more if she hand-wrote the addresses, but nope. This year there was actually a little label stuck on the back of the package, which read "It's that time of year again. HO HO HO" It was like a secret admirer package!!! Or a real Santa package!! So mysterious - so Exciting!!!
Megan, if you have tuned in, thank you so much. I just love your thoughtful gifts - they are as perfect, well-considered, interesting and heartwarming as you are. Mwah! Mwah mwah!!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


After I got up this morning I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, and thought in surprise “Goodness, my stomach looks awfully flat when it’s COMPLETELY EMPTY. Shame I have to eat to live.” But the image of my flat stomach was compelling – I just couldn’t devour a bunch of filling carbs. I decided on one of my famous Feel-Your-Hair-Grow protein shakes.

- tofu
- plain yogurt
- banana
- orange (minus the peel)
- frozen berries

I have to admit it was a bit cold for 9:00 on a December morning, but at least my stomach has retained its concavity, however temporarily.

After I finished the dishes last night I tied on the old coin belt and spent a couple of hours dancing. I have been working on an original choreography; something I have never done before. I thought of myself as a free-form person, and thought that I would work from start to finish, inventing the moves organically as the music progressed. I soon realized that I’m much more organized than I had thought…I drew a complete blank and just stood there foolishly, becoming increasingly irritated with the music. It had previously seemed enchanting and hypnotic – it was becoming repetitive and grating. I had to sit down with Carnegie, paper and a pencil, and break down the song into sections, counts, rhythm changes, what have you.

It made so much more sense that way, and before long I was dancing. It felt great to do something so creative and new.

(You bet, the iPod is a traditional part of a Middle Eastern dancer's wardrobe.)

I snapped the following picture after realizing that the coffee table presented an interesting juxtaposition of, basically, everything in my life. All the major themes are here: the current choreograph, with Carnegie and a pair of zils; the yoga socks project; and all my homeschooling stuff. I forgot to put it away after our unit on charity, which we completed yesterday afternoon just before heading out to the Angel Tree to choose a few names to buy for.

That's my dance notebook, with bits of choreography scribbled on it. I have what I think is a clever system – those stickies each have sequences of moves on them - each between 8 and 16 counts, and I can rearrange them in different orders until I find one that works.

I have almost finished the yoga socks, and just in time too. Tonight is belly dance – I should get the ends woven in this afternoon while Charlotte is at her painting class at the art gallery, then I’ll have another FO to post tomorrow.

Monday, December 04, 2006

St Bleh-gid

St Brigid. I was charging along, flying through the rounds, loving the cabley goodness, with nothing to stop me, and then...something stopped me.

Here's the problem. We had planned to take a trip in mid-December to Terrace, to visit my sister and her family. We weren't going to be there for Christmas itself, but pretty close.

We started making travel plans, and began hitting obstacle after obstacle. The flights were full, or almost full; on the return leg we could get to Vancouver, but not all the way over to the island; the dates we wanted were unavailable and our trip would be six days instead of the planned ten. On top of everything, it was going to cost us a couple of hundred dollars more than we had planned, making it a 6 day trip for $1200, and not even for Christmas itself.

Long story short - we cancelled. Well, strictly speaking, we postponed the trip until spring or summer. Which is fine, and will be great, except that I want to see my sister. And I want to spend Christmas with my sister, not Easter (who cares about Easter?), or Canada Day. I am definitely in the doldrums, and the first casualty was St Brigid.

I wanted to wear Brigid, you see, to show my sister. It was going to be my Christmas sweater, my hanging-around-northern-BC-in-December sweater, my showing-off-to-all-Gwen's-friends sweater. Gwen doesn't actively knit (though she knows how), so I have made her the odd pair of socks or woolly jumper, and I have now a bit of a reputation as Gwen's Knitting Sister. See? I would have HAD to wear something impressive, and I think Brigid would have fit the bill.

But now I just don't see the point. All the fun has gone out of it. I don't want to knit - I would rather do dishes, even. So, I guess I won't be showing you any more progress shots for a while, until I get my joy back.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Just When I Thought Myself Impervious.

I just spent two hours watching "White Christmas". Now, this film is not normally on my must-see Christmas movie list, but I thought I'd give it a look since it has been years since I saw it. I spent the whole first 115 minutes smirking in a self-satisfied, modern way about the corny lines, the entirely lame dance numbers, and the poorly-painted background sets....

and then.

Then, General Waverley, dressed in his uniform, walks through the double doors into the Columbia Inn dining room and the 151st division is there, singing "We'll follow the old man wherever he wants to go", and before I know it, there are actual TEARS TRICKLING. I dashed them away furtively, relieved there was nobody to see me.

Yes, Irving Berlin managed to crack my hard candy shell and expose my soft, marshmallowy centre. How annoying.

One more thought about this film. Say what I like (and I do), there's no denying the power of Danny Kaye. If that man was a big name in movies just a couple of decades later, he would have qualified as seriously hot. It's a combination of tall, funny, nice face, and the ability to steal scenes even from Bing Crosby, who spends the movie looking up at Danny and bleating in a half-hearted way (except when he's singing solos, then he takes on a disturbing mélange of fatherliness and smooth, smoking-jacket-wearing crooner suavité, with piercing blue eyes and a sensual curve to his mouth, reminding me in an uneasy, Œdipal way of my since-childhood dentist; toward whom, it is becoming apparent to me as I write this, I have possibly cherished the occasional -- entirely subconscious -- impure thought). But my boy Danny manages to pull off a red shirt spangled all over with beaded poinsettia-snowflake things, shiny black boots, and white fluffy trim. That takes some serious manly mojo. I dig it.

Also, Vera-Ellen kicks ass. Take a look at her, cutting a rug in this movie. She's an athletic, graceful, tap-dancing, high-heel sporting, sassy short skirt-wearing, booty-baring amazon princess of style. (I do have concerns that she may have pioneered the eating disorder trend*, but it is just possible that she was naturally thin - maybe even balletic. At this distance of time, perhaps I can give her the benefit of the doubt, even if I do feel the urge to hand her a sandwich. Or a cheesecake.)

Anyway, suffice it to say I won't be watching this again. I just wouldn't be able to stand it. I much prefer the realistic, non-contrived, unemotional entertainment of It's a Wonderful Life.


* Ed Note: As it turns out, I am not wrong. To quote a bio of Vera-Ellen:

It was discovered that Vera-Ellen silently battled anorexia throughout much of the 50s before doctors had even coined the term or devised treatments.

That's just a damned shame. An reviewer also points out:

By the way, notice how Vera-Ellen always has a scarf or something around her neck - to cover up the ravages of her anorexia.