Saturday, December 29, 2007

Proud to be a Language Geek.

I have to put up something quick to deflect notice from the book review which garnered some mockery from my smart-ass sister and my erstwhile friend.

YEAH I SAID "ERSTWHILE" YOU COCKROACHES, IT'S CALLED BEING LITERATE: LOOK INTO IT. You should be happy there is still someone out here in the blogoverse who doesn't write crap like "this book is kinda cunfuzing but 2di4, ur gonna luv it lol".

After the intensive monogamous Christmas knitting, I find myself somewhat at loose ends. I have several things in my Ravelry queue (oh, by the way: I'm on Ravelry! Whoop-de-doo!) but none of them are really pulling on my skirt, you know? I see something I like, but when I open up the pattern and see the bit where it tells me how many stitches to cast on, I just can't dredge up the motivation. I heave a halfhearted sigh and click on.


I think it's okay to drift rudderless for a bit. I was talking to Karen-of-the-Comments about it, and she said I need a bit of time to come down off my Aran/Print o' the Wave high. I think she's right....and we agreed that, come January 1, I will probably be flooded with inspiration, innovation, anticipation, and determination.

Also, apparently I will be beginning my career as a motivational speaker sometime soon.


My Ravelry queue includes Saartje's Bootees (so cute!), Odessa (very needful in this weather), a Log Cabin blanket (because I just won a bunch of yarn that I think will be perfect for it), and Clapotis (one of these days). I have some WIPs I need to finish, as well - the Anemoi Mittens, a Sirdar cardy for my first-cousin-once-removed, and the second Geisha sock for my farm-girl friend. I should probably get at least one of those out of the way before I start something new...


I don't know. Maybe I'll let the knitting go for a couple of weeks (unthinkable!). Then I'll find my mojo again and the blog will be more interesting.

Well, less uninteresting.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Pardon the Sooty Fingerprints

Erudite Mondays (time has no meaning these days) at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 1, Number 2

On Christmas Eve, I received the books I won from McClelland & Stewart's Quest for the Ice Fox game. Everyone knows $100 doesn't get you very far in a bookstore, but I ended up with five titles:
  1. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson
  2. Search of the Moon King's Daughter by Linda Holeman
  3. The World Encyclopedia of Christmas by Gerry Bowler
  4. Full Moon Rising by Joanne Taylor
  5. The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart

There was also, of course, a copy of The Frozen Thames, the book which the Ice Fox game was intended to promote.

I just finished Search of the Moon King's Daughter. It's a novel for young teens: a story about a family in England during the Industrial Revolution.

I don't know about you, but whenever I hear the words "Industrial Revolution" my scalp prickles. I remember my Grade 9 Social Studies teacher introducing us to the concept of "exploitation" - a word which became a standing joke among the [first world, privileged, ignorant, selfish] kids in that class. You know the kind of thing: "Mr. Buhler, Megan is exploiting me" or "I think this amount of homework qualifies as exploitation" or "I'm just gonna exploit you for a minute if you don't mind." It was only several years later, in university, studying the history of Britain and reading North and South, that I began to grasp the horrors of that time.

When I was browsing McClelland's catalogue and came across this volume, I was cautiously interested. I read as many reviews as I could find, and when I saw the words "entirely satisfactory ending", I decided to order it.

The story is set in a small textile city near Manchester. The protagonist is a young girl, Emmaline, employed as a seamstress in her wealthy aunt's house. Emmaline's mill-drudge mother is terribly injured in a work accident, and her subsequent addiction to laudanum motivates her to sell her five-year-old son as a climbing boy for a London chimney sweep. When Emmaline discovers what her mother has done, she sets off to London, by herself, to buy her brother back from his master.

When I first opened it, I wasn't sure whether I'd like the book. There is an awkwardness about the first several chapters, which are not chronological. They are somewhat heavy-handed: it's very clear that the author wants the reader to feel the tension and drama right from the start, before we even really care about the characters.

After the stumbling start, though, the book settles in fairly well. Emmaline's adventures in London are innocent enough...more innocent, I feel, than realism would allow. It's suitable to its audience, though. Emmaline does encounter the nastier aspects of life as a member of London's lower classes: the pregnancy of a housemaid by the son of the house, the starvation and....."exploitation" (Mr D. would be so proud of me) of the poor climbing boys, and the glittering despair of the disease-ridden, hollow-eyed prostitutes in St Giles' district. These and other mature themes (for instance the unaccountable dissimilarity in appearance between Emmaline and her "brother" Tommy, whom the Moon King's relatives icily refuse to countenance) make the book unsuitable for children under a certain age, although they are presented nicely glossed over: dimly lit.

There is one thing about this novel to which I strenuously object. The girl Emmaline is a far stronger, more graceful, morally-developed character than her history would believably produce. Her mother is an addictive, sluttish, alcoholic whose foolish, weak-willed, cuckolded shopkeeper poet of a husband is the titular "Moon King" to his children. After his death his now-poverty-stricken family, including the ill-fated infant Tommy, are turned out into the streets to end up penniless, shivering, and starving in the grimy squalor of mill-workers' lodgings. They live five miserable years there before the loom accident cripples the mother, and yet out of all this Emmaline emerges soft-spoken, erudite, strong-willed, decisive, tasteful, and sweetly deferential to her elders. Without getting into a nature/nurture debate, the whole business requires the partial - if not entire - suspension of the reader's disbelief. Not that there isn't a precedent for this kind of idealization among similarly themed fiction: Oliver Twist, star of the eponymous novel, is another little guy famous for holding onto his sweet angelic innocence in the worst of circumstances.

Reminding myself that I am not writing a term paper, here.

Despite its occasional shortcomings and taken in the spirit in which it's offered, Search of the Moon King's Daughter is, in the end, a satisfactory read. It would be a useful part of a teen's introduction to the depressing - yet exhilirating - industrialised world of Charles Dickens, Henry Fielding, and Thomas "'done-because-we-are-too-menny'" Hardy.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Parting Gift

I have missed the last several days, wearing sackcloth and ashes for my dear, departed Dell, so I now find myself on December 23 not having posted much of what I had planned to write.

With Christmas beginning tomorrow (and with the conspicuous lack of time-sucking technology) I have been visited many times by the Ghost of Christmas Past. Fortunately for me, my sister's posts have said much of what was on my mind, so anything I put up might have been redundant.

I don't know where I first heard the......legend? superstition?..... of the animals in every stable bowing as the Eve turns to the Day. I must have been quite young - under ten - because I can remember lying in my attic bedroom in the dead of night, staring up at the sloping ceiling and trying to think if there were any neighbourhood livestock I could sneak up on, to see them kneel to Baby Jesus.

It doesn't seem to be a commonly-known story: I'm not sure I've ever met anyone else who had heard of it. Every Christmas Eve, though, I think of it without fail. It's a fond memory, for me, with the persistent magic of childish uncertainty.

Then, this past fall, I bought a book of Christmas poems for my daughter. It was an emotional read anyway, between the stocking-in-the-dark poem and the one with the line reading "and children pace the crumping snow, to taste their granny's cake again", and the e.e. cummings one that ends with
"and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
'Noel Noel'".

Then I idly turned a page, saw the next poem, and suddenly..... I was ten again, lying in the dark of a steadily falling night, wishing there was a barn handy so I could check and see. I couldn't stop the tears. I felt a rushing flood of wonder and longing just like the one I had felt as a child, and a faith restored, fiercely, in unseen power.

So I leave you with this poem, for me the most moving of all, written, amazingly, by my favourite author.

A Happy Christmas to you, my dear friends.

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

-Thomas Hardy

Thursday, December 20, 2007

An Absence, Hopefully Temporary.

So I recently resolved on frequent blog updates, regular book reviews, posts full of brilliant logic and stunning creativity, passionate oration, moving poetry, and artful photography. Instead, my laptop stuck its spoon in the wall, leaving me high and dry until the new hard drive arrives...oh, please, computer gods - let it be tomorrow.

Actually, this is probably more in the nature of divine intervention - forcefully stopping me from clicking my life away. I'm uncomfortably aware of how much "extra" time I've had in the last two or three days. It turns out it's quite possible to both wash the dishes AND clean the bathroom in one day...which leads me to suspect I might have a slight priority problem that needs addressing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why does this choke me up?

The Waiting Game
by John Mole

Nuts and marbles in the toe,
An orange in the heel,
A Christmas stocking in the dark
Is wonderful to feel.

Shadowy, bulging length of leg
That crackles when you clutch,
A Christmas stocking in the dark
Is marvellous to touch.

You lie back on your pillow
But that shape's still hanging there.
A Christmas stocking in the dark
Is very hard to bear.

So try to get to sleep again
And chase the hours away.
A Christmas stocking in the dark
Must wait for Christmas day.

From "The Usborne Book of Christmas Poems"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sense of Accomplishment, Part II

"I consider lace to be one of the prettiest imitations ever made of the fantasy of nature; lace always evokes for me those incomparable designs which the branches and leaves of trees embroider across the sky, and I do not think that any invention of the human spirit could have a more graceful or precise origin."
- Coco Chanel, April 29, 1939


A few months ago, I was talking to my sister on the phone. "I think I'll make this," I said to her, emailing her the link to Eunny's Print 'o the Wave pattern.

She opened the pattern. There was a surprised silence, then "Can you DO that?" she asked.

Yes, it turns out I can.

Print o' the Wave
Pattern: free download by Eunny Jang
Yarn: 1.5 skeins Island Hues (by Sweatermaker) 100% merino handpainted laceweight, 800 metres per 100 grams. Two different dyelots but they work together.
Yarn Source: Fun Knits, Quadra Island. Thanks again, Shelley.
Yarn Cost: $35 for both skeins, of which I used less than 1.5. So about $25.
Needle: 3.5mm Clover Takumi bamboo circular, and 3.5mm Addi Turbo Lace
Cast On: August 12, 2007
Bound off: December 14, 2007
Finished Dimensions: 97" long, 27" wide after an aggressive blocking.
  • The centre panel of this stole just FLEW BY. I think I got it done in just a couple of weeks. But the edging felt so very, very slow. I had trouble memorizing the edging pattern - my brain wanted the repeat to start and end on what was actually row 9, so I kept over-increasing and had to rip back a repeat about 10 times in total. However, I took a break from the shawl when I was waiting for more yarn, and when I came back to it I had no trouble with the edging. It was just a mental block.

  • The fact that I ran out of yarn was so frustrating. If you're thinking of knitting this stole, you should be aware that the pattern calls for 800 yards of laceweight yarn, and I ended up using about 1200 or 1300 - not sure yet exactly what the amount. I had bought the skein of Island Hues thinking it would work because it contained 880 yards. When I had to buy more yarn it was a serious problem - it was handpainted and couldn't be matched. I think the problem is that Eunny created her original version in cobweb weight, so the yardage she specifies for the laceweight was just an estimate on her part. Just keep it in mind if you're queueing this project.

  • I knit the centre panel differently than Eunny suggests in the pattern. She directs you to knit both sides from a provisional cast-on, then graft the ends (what would be the cast-off) together to form the centre back. Instead, I knit the first half from the provisional cast-on, then started from the same cast-on edge to knit the second half. The knitting flows in a different direction to Eunny's, therefore. She was trying to achieve the look of waves flowing down each waves run UP, unless your eye perceives the openwork as the waves, in which case they run down. It's all in how you look at it, and since this is my first lace project and I think it's pretty, I'm not going to torture myself about it.

  • I blocked this shawl very, very aggressively. I soaked it in wool wash for over 30 minutes, then pinned it out until it was so taut it was barely touching the towel underneath. I wasn't consciously trying to maximize the length, but the shawl seemed to want to go long, so I let it Go Long. I did have to re-wet it with a spray bottle numerous times during the blocking process as it had already dried.

  • The Island Hues yarn is beautiful. It's light, soft, and divinely coloured. I did have a few felting moments while knitting the edging on, when the stitches I was working toward got a bit fuzzy and tight. It wasn't a problem, though, and when looking at the finished piece you can't tell at all. The yarn, once blocked, developed a slight patina that I love...hard to see in the pictures but in the flashed shots you can catch a glimpse of it.

  • There are some errors in the edging chart - not a major problem since they are well-documented, but again, if you're planning to knit it, just check first.

I had no model, and had to make do with the timer on my camera, but at least you can see the width here. Shoulders to hips with ease.

There has not been an abundance of natural light here in mid-December in the temperate rainforest, but I don't like the flash: it makes everything appear so prosaic. So, as usual, I took some unflashed pictures: I much prefer them. They may not represent the colour as well, but they capture the lightness and drape, the tactile pleasure of the piece, so much better.

I loved doing this project. I'm so looking forward to doing another lace piece. The knitting is much easier than it appears - the satisfaction of building row after row of a chart, watching the space and direction emerge under your satisfying. And it looks all well and good, until you soak and block it - then it becomes breathtaking.


Thank you for your comments on my Dad's Aran, by the way - it was a pleasure to knit and I'm glad you all like it. I'm partial, myself. Just two days ago I was at my parents' house and he remarked that it was time he had another sweater.....hee hee!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Not Hating This - Not One Bit.

I must admit I'm proud of myself.

Men's Aran Pullover

Cast on: October 20, 2007
Bound off: December 7, 2007
Pattern: my own, using traditional cables
Tension: Variable depending on chart. Overall, about 22 stitches over 10 cm in pattern.
Yarn: 20 balls (2150 yards total) Elsebeth Lavold's Classic Al, 50% Baby Alpaca/50% Merino Wool. 109 yards per 50 g ball (I've got 30 m left over).
Yarn Source: Webs clearance
Yarn Cost: $69.80 USD, plus shipping
Finished Size: 50" chest, 28" long
Needle: 4mm and 4.5mm Clover Takumi bamboo circular
Techniques: Planning, charting, sketching the cables. Cabling without a cable needle.
  • Wow, this sucker grew. I swatched, reswatched, measured twice, washed, dressed, and did the math over and over - it still ended up a full 4 inches bigger than it was supposed to be. But that's okay.

  • It could be shorter. When my Dad gets it, I will offer to cut off the bottom, pick it up, and knit it down to shorten it. I think it's about 1-2 inches too long. Of course, he might like it as it is. We'll see.

  • This went way faster than St Brigid, despite the excessive cables. Probably because I didn't have to look at a chart EVER.

  • I think the yarn is my favourite of all time. Warm, soft, pretty colours, decent yardage, inexpensive (if you get it at Webs).

  • I knit a double-height collar, folded it to the inside, and sewed the live stitches to the base of the neck. It worked great - very flexible and stretchy because no cast-off edge.

  • The braided plaits eat yarn. But they are super stretchy and they look damn nice.
It turns out the work involved in doing a good job - planning obsessively, swatching extensively, blocking heavily, seaming carefully, foregoing other projects despite your suicidal boredom - is totally worth it.

By the way, this is Mr HalfSoledBoots, who asked that I preserve his anonymity. (Like we'd be looking at him anyway, right? Dude, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE KNITTING.)

Side front detail

This yarn really pops the texture, I must say. I can wholeheartedly recommend it for all your rib or cabling needs. It's smooshy until you block it, when it relaxes and develops a compelling, voluptuous drape. Very pettable.

Saddle shoulder

I like how the saddle shoulder turned out. The plait, with the purl valleys and the single knit stitch on either side, is striking.

I do love me some seaming.

I was a bit concerned how the sleeve seam would look, with vertical moss meeting horizontal moss, but I needn't have worried.

Side seam goodness.

Speaking of seaming moss, can I just draw your attention to the side seam? Because IT'S AWESOME.

Can't keep my lens off of you.

I made a little tag, with care instructions and a dark red wax seal, and pinned it to the back neck. One doesn't want to fall on the last fence - presentation is important.

Don't worry - Dad doesn't read the blog.

This has been fun. Next year, I think I'll make one for my mum.

I won't be at the computer til Monday, but leave me a comment, okay? I'm off to Victoria for a night with Mum. A bit of shopping, a bit of dining out - I'm definitely in the mood to celebrate. I'll be going about the city in a happy glow, thinking fondly of the finished sweater, and planning my next FO post.........

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Samhain Cap

Get a load of me, eh? Posting like a mad thing. (Maybe that has something to do with my losing eight bloglines subscribers yesterday . They are tired of listening to me. Either that or the egg-drink post finished them off.)

But, a finished object!

Samhain Cap
Yarn: Berroco Foliage 53% wool, 47% acrylic, in Cinnabar
Needle: 5mm bamboo circular, magic loop method
Tension: 4 sts/inch, give or take (it's a thick and thin yarn)
Cast On: December 3, 2007
Bound Off: December 4, 2007
Modifications: None.
Notes: The hat could be longer. It's a true beanie, sitting well back of the hairline (except on my six-year-old, which is why I used her as a model). The hat is very stretchy though, and I plan to thread a narrow elastic through the lower edge to help hold it on. I think that'll fix it right up.

Samhain, in the Celtic calendar, refers to the first few nights of November. There is a festival held on those days, to mark the beginning of winter: the "dark time". I thought it was an apt name for a warm, snuggly hat with a celtic cable, knit in a cinnabar-coloured yarn called "Foliage".

Thanks again to Jo of Wild Peculiar Joy, for the yarn giveaway. I still have one ball left and it will become wristers after Christmas.
PS: I do have one other FO.......but I need a model to do it justice. Here's a hint.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Ghost of Christmas Past Probably Died of Salmonella Poisoning.

I got an email request today for help with a Wassail recipe. I have quite a collection of these, and in perusing them for this friend-of-a-friend, I found some seriously strange and wonderful holiday libations. This one is from my 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, which vaunts itself on the flyleaf thusly:

The Savoy Cocktail Book
Being a
compendium of
Egg Noggs
Tom Collins
Juleps, Shrubs
Frappe, Fixes and Cups.

Now that....THAT sounds promising.

So, without further ado,

Tom and Jerry Punch
Thoroughly beat up yolks of 12 eggs.
Thoroughly beat up whites of 12 eggs.
Thoroughly mix the two together adding
1 tablespoonful of
powdered sugar to each egg.

Thoroughly mix the three ingredients together. Use large punch bowl. Keep stirring so that sugar will not settle on bottom of bowl. Use medium-size stem glass, china mug with handle or small tea-cup. Put a tablespoonsful [sic] of batter in each cup. Add 1/2 measure Brandy and 1/2 measure Rum. Fill with absolutely boiling water. Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Serve with spoon.

So, who's coming over?! Tom and Jerries, my place, Friday night. Complimentary trip to the ER early Saturday morning - we'll rent a van.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Breathe In The Knit

Erudite Mondays at Half Soled Boots
Volume 1, Number 1

Some time ago, I got Fiona Ellis' new book, "Inspired Fair Isle Knits". I've been perusing it on and off for a couple of months, trying to decide what I think about it. It's an admirably presented volume, with arresting photographs and an interesting premise. There has been a fair bit of buzz about it since its release this fall, so I won't drone on and on about her approach (this book, like others, is inspired by nature).

The designs are nice. REALLY nice. Flipping through, there are several that caught my eye and begged to be added to my mental queue. My favourite is probably "Glowing", which is in the "Fire" chapter, and is knitted from 7 different colours of Mission Falls 1824 wool. For my size (44") I'd need to buy 28 balls, and I don't have a spare $170, so I won't knit that soon. But if I had some 1824 stashed, I would definitely modify the pattern so I could use the colours I had. It's beautiful - a raglan hoodie in a rich raspberry colour with bands of colourwork in plum, orange, teal, cerise and pistachio. The bands are striking: designed to evoke flames, they succeed surprisingly well considering their simplicity.

Another one from the "Fire" chapter is "Sunkissed". This cotton halter is so pretty I almost considered dieting to look good in it. Actually what I'd need is more along the lines of reduction surgery, so as it is, I'd rather just knit it for someone else - someone whose bra straps can reasonably be expected to be less than 1" wide. The design is so rich - the lower edge is knit primarily in umber, with bits of red and orange here and there. As the top progresses up toward the straps, the colours lighten and brighten, with bands of orange, peach, amber and gold. The intro to this design says the colours are placed to mirror the beauty and glow of the setting sun. GORGEOUS. My only problem with this design is, it's knit in 100% mercerized cotton. I personally like to know I've got the blocking magic on my side, to relax and bloom the wool, and to even out any little tension issues. I'd knit this, but not as a first "Fair Isle" project. The frustration of stranded knitting with mercerized cotton would take away a lot of my enjoyment.

This brings me to the main issue I had with this book, on first glance. I am not convinced that the title is particularly apt - I feel that in order for something to be called "Fair Isle" knitting, it should involve animal fibre, a fairly fine gauge, and geometric, repeating patterns. The designs in this book are stranded, to be sure, but I am not sure they qualify as true "Fair Isle". There are a few designs, such as "Crystal", which is subtitled as "Classic Fair Isle Turtleneck", that conform to what I would list the rules to be. This design is in the "Water" chapter, and contains Nordic snowflakes with simplified peerie bands and seeding. However, even here Ellis has thrown a twist into the design by vertically offsetting the snowflake band partway across the sweater. It's not quite a half-drop - maybe a quarter-drop? Anyway, the overall effect is kind of..... well...... it's kind of scroogiewye*. Know what I mean? It sort of sproings my brain a bit. It assaults my optic nerve. I'll show you.

*"Scroogiewye" is a technical term. You might not be familiar with it.

Despite my reservations about the application of the word "Fair Isle" to these designs, I understand what she intends by it. This is the tried and true approach of "a twist on a classic" - modernizing tradition to hopefully introduce it to a new generation of knitters. These knitters might not ever consider undertaking a traditionally coloured, traditionally shaped, fine-gauge, scratchy woollen Fair Isle design, but they'll find themselves drawn to the vibrant, soft, heavier yarns featured in this volume, as well as the simpler, bolder, edgier colour patterns. For someone looking for a first colourwork project, there are lots of ideas and eyecatching designs here. Many garments have the stranded bits confined to bands and edgings, making it easy to impressively showcase a relatively small amount of work.

One really well-thought-out feature of this book is a little two-page spread at the back. These two pages are the book at a glance, with thumbnail pictures of each design, along with the design name and the yarn it calls for. It's a GREAT idea - makes yarn shopping and substitutions much easier, and it's a handy place to go when you can't recall where to find a garment you liked.

All in all, I'm happy to have this book. It's got some downright cool stuff in it. There's the Petroglyph pillow, knit in 50% hemp, 50% wool, with stone-coloured cave-art designs on each of the four quadrants. There's "Spindrift", a beautiful cotton/rayon tank with a lacy scalloped border and pretty, crocheted ties.

And I think I've decided which design I'd like to make first. In the "Air" chapter, there is "Drifting". It's the cutest toddler pullover in superwash merino - plum on the bottom, purple on top, with a charming, almost butterfly-shaped stranded band between. The model shown has the sweetest little butterfly buttons proceeding up both front raglan seams. This sweater would make a great baby gift, especially since much of it could probably be knit from ball ends. Sizes run from 12 months to 3 years, requiring 8-9 balls of DK wool. I've got a friend whose baby girl will be nine months old this winter - I think with a little judicious sleeve-rolling, the 18-month size will work from now til her second birthday. Just as soon as the Christmas knitting is finished, I'll pull this book out again and start the sweater...I think it'll be beautiful.

Inspired Fair Isle Knits
by Fiona Ellis
Design Breakdown:
Children's - 1 toddler pullover, 1 kids' zippered cardigan
Women's - 3 tops, 6 pullovers, 2 cardigans
Men's/Unisex - 3 pullovers
Accessories - 1 wrap, 1 scarf, 1 pillow, 1 felted bag

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ms. Potato Head

This "massive snowfall as November turns to December" is becoming quite a tradition.
But the bear tracks in the driveway were new.
The most convenient snack EVER.

Shame it's a dying art.

Christmas Thank Yous
by Mick Gowar

Dear Auntie
Oh, what a nice jumper
I've always adored powder blue
and fancy you thinking of
orange and pink
for the stripes
how clever of you!

Dear Uncle
The soap is terrific
so useful and such a kind thought
and how did you guess that
I'd just used the last of
the soap that last Christmas brought?

Dear Gran
Many thanks for the hankies
Now I really can't wait for the 'flu
and the daisies embroidered
in red round the "M"
for Michael
how thoughtful of you!

Dear Cousin
What socks!
and the same sort you wear
so you must be
the last word in style
and I'm certain you're right that the
luminous green
will make me stand out a mile.

Dear Sister
I quite understand your concern
it's a risk sending jam in the post
But I think I've pulled out
all the big bits of glass
so it won't taste too sharp
spread on toast

Dear Grandad
Don't fret
I'm delighted
So don't think your gift will offend
I'm not at all hurt
that you gave up this year
and just sent me a fiver to spend.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Eye of the Storm

This is the first week of Advent. It's my favourite season - contemplative, peaceful, warm, happy. There's a lot of hope about it, and an undercurrent of sadness...after all, Easter is only a few months away.

In the weeks leading up to the Nativity, I tend to fall into a rhythm of mental preparation. There's a certain schedule that needs to be kept in order to fit everything in. One doesn't want to get to December 23 and realize she hasn't made the cookies she's had every year since she was a toddler, or hasn't yet watched her roster of required holiday viewing.

Most important of all, one doesn't want to realize she hasn't given herself time. It can be hard to find at this time of year, with frantically excited children, long lists showing little progress, and "holy-crap-I-need-to-do-8-to-10-repeats-per-day". But I need time to be alone, to be at peace, to reflect on my history.

I'd like to take the blog along on my Advent journey. It won't be too involved - I haven't had a great deal of time lately to post, so I'll be putting up things like a cookie recipe every week, and maybe a poem or two. One thing I'd like to do in the next year is structure the blog a bit more, so that certain things will happen on certain days. I think this is a nice way to start.

By the way - notice it's St. Nicholas' Day? Megan, you must be so proud of me.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Might as Well Tell You What's Burning my Brain

Today the final clue in the Quest for the Ice Fox was released.

I haven't mentioned it again after the first time, but I have been following the game keenly, honing my skills and sharpening my instinct.....and now I am keen, honed and sharpened into a massive case of nerves. You should have seen me last night, sitting awake until 2:00 AM (when the clue was due to be released), nauseated and shaking, sweaty palms and all.

The clue was posted just a moment before 2:00 AM. I tell you, I have never been so tense as those few seconds, trying to steady my hand enough to type in the latitudes and longitudes. This was the clue as posted:

Clue Eight - Nuns and Habits

The Quest for the Ice Fox. Near Limehouse, upon The Frozen Thames.

51.507048 latitude

-0.032623 longitude

Latitude Clue

To move north along the latitude to the eighth sighting of the fox, add 5052 to the year The Pagoda in Kew Gardens was built. Then divide by a million and add the result to the source latitude.

Longitude Clue

To move west along the longitude to the eighth sighting of the fox, multiply 10167 by two times the number of Henry Moore’s standing figures in Battersea Park. Then divide by a million and add the result to the source longitude. The place upon which you land will help you solve this cryptic clue:

For whom the bell tolls, in a manner of speaking.

The one-word plural answer is your key to this cipher:


And that cipher reveals a two digit number you will need to solve the final puzzle of the Quest for the Ice Fox. Collect these numbers to determine the final destination of our wily, frigid friend.

=======The End Game, at Last!

Congratulations: if you’ve solved all the clues, you should now have a collection of eight two digit numbers, one for each clue solution. Those numbers, as promised, are your keys to finding the spot where the fox finally weighed anchor. Here’s how. Each two digit number is a part of either the latitude or longitude of the fox’s final destination. You put them together like this:

Latitude: C3.C6C5C1

Longitude: -C7.C2C8C4

Got the solution? Great!

Okay. First of all, it's not as bad as it looks. Break it down, it's just a matter of simple steps. The problem wasn't in the solving, it was in the racing - first person to email the correct answer to McClelland and Stewart wins round-trip airfare for two to London in the form of a AmEx travel voucher.

I really felt like I was on my mettle in this game. There was no list of who was playing, but I knew there were about 150 people in the Facebook group, which was the centre of the game. Of those, only a few of us were regularly posting on the discussion board, but that doesn't mean only a few of us were actually working the clues. And of those few of us, two that I knew of were professional geocachers. People who do this for a living.

Anyway, I know you're just dying to know how long it took me to do the was a little under ten minutes. Did I win? I don't know. Ten minutes sounds pretty good - and it felt great - but I did make a little mistake in my entry email. I still can't believe it but I was in such a hurry to send in my answer that I fired off the email before realizing it was supposed to include my snail mail address. When I DID realize it, I seriously felt like all the blood was draining from my body through my feet. Paper white, from the face down. See, you only get one entry, and if you enter more than once they disqualify you.

I did risk sending a second email right after the first, with my address and an apology for missing it, but without repeating the GPS coordinates lest they thought I was trying another entry.

There has been nothing but silence on the part of the contest coordinators today, so I have no clue where I stand. I'm thinking ten minutes would be pretty hard to beat, but I might have bollocksed it up with the non-regulation entry email.

The good news is, it's okay if I didn't win. I mean, I worked really hard for this game, sweating out eight clues over two months' time, but what I liked best about it was discovering that I could do it, you know? That what seemed, at first, to be a bafflingly complex game was in fact well within my capabilities. So the trip to London would be a nice bonus, but just taking part in the Quest for the Ice Fox was absolutely brilliant.

I'll let you know what happens.

Edit: Okay, I didn't win the trip. I DID get one of the runner-up prizes, but.....well, I admit I'm disappointed. On the other hand, if someone beat my time of 10 minutes? they totally deserve to go to London in my stead. Now I'm consoling myself by choosing from the McClelland Stewart catalogue.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Utilitarian Knitter

Wow. A whole week went by - how about that?

Look what I got today:

a lovely package from Jo, with the yarn I won on her birthday contest (thanks Jo!). This package was such a treat to receive - along with the yarn she included a pound of Dunkin' Donuts coffee (hilarious), a bag of quite intriguing veggie chips, a package of something called "TastyKakes", four ornament creme eggs (think Easter creme but slightly smaller, with a different wrapper), and several lovely post cards from the Eastern Seaboard. SO NICE. Note the hand stealing into the frame to investigate the ornament egg...Charlotte is monstrously addicted to chocolate and can smell it at fifty paces. I think the yarn will become a hat and wristers for me...I may even cast on tomorrow as this will go FAAAAST and will be a nice break from the Aran. (I'm in sleeveland, by the way.)

And, I received some more yarn for the Print o' the Wave stole, from my Fibre Sistah Shelley. (By the way Shelley I will TOTALLY phone you tomorrow with my Visa number...SO SORRY.) She came through in the crisis and got me a very very close match to the original. Sadly it's not close enough for me to continue knitting the edging from where I am - I had to rip the entire edge off. We're talking about forty repeats, people. Luckily I remembered in the very nick of time that I should take a picture for the blog, so I snapped a couple quick while I still had four inches left. Sometimes I'm not a very good blogger that way - I tend to forget there's an interest in my works in progress, and don't bother to document them.

Anyhow, I somehow didn't take a picture of the new yarn (see above re: not a very good blogger) but I did manage to wind the better part of it into a ball during knit night tonight, by hand. I'll show it to you next time, when I've finished the ball and started knitting the edging on. The new colour contains most of the old colours, plus a few dashes of quite a dark bronzey brown colour. It should be nice....although of course HAVING THE WHOLE STOLE KNIT IN THE SAME DYE LOT WOULD BE BETTER.

One good thing about this situation is that I will be able to weigh the skein before knitting the edging, then weigh it after knitting the edging, thereby deducing the exact amount needed for making this stupid pattern. My incredible bad luck will in the end be turned to the common good, rendering my frustration, annoyance, and expense totally worth it.


Friday, November 23, 2007

A Tragedy in 55 Words and 2 Pictures.

One day, two sisters were playing happily in the living room. The older one was singing to herself while colouring in her sketch book. The younger one was sitting on the couch, idly playing with a pair of kids' scissors and looking around for something to do.

She found something to keep herself busy.

The end.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Call to Stamps.

We Have A Guest Blogger Today

Hello everybody. My name is Charlotte and I am six years old. My sister Emily is 3. I was hoping that some of you or maybe your children would send us a Christmas card because I have never got one before. And if you would like to send me a card, I could send you one too. I would like to get cards from children all around the world.

If you would like to exchange Christmas cards with me, please email my mum. She can tell you my name and address.

Merry Christmas everyone.


- Charlotte
PS: this is us on my birthday.


I have a very sad little girl here who tells me tearfully that she has never received a Christmas card and thinks that if she can send some out, other people will respond. I suspect it's all a ploy to get my new Nutcracker Christmas cards for her very own, but sympathize with her plight. Personal mail is very fun indeed -- and very rare.

If you would like to exchange Christmas cards with us, please drop me a line at the address in the sidebar. You'll get a card from my children, with maybe a picture in it or something from our town. I did actually buy a packet of international stamps the other day, thinking vaguely of starting a bloggy card exchange, so I'm all set here.

Any takers?

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Want To Be A Clone.

My daughter was over at a friend's house today. Charlotte is six, and so is Rosie. When I came to pick her up, Charlotte excitedly showed me that Rosie had a new poster in her room - her dad had bought it for her. For his six year old girl.

So I get that there are probably some people out there who think there is nothing objectionable about this. I, myself, admire NF's sassiness. She's Canadian, too, from my own city (Go Nelly!). But for a six year old? Couldn't the assault on her innocence wait a while? Shouldn't she still be playing with dolls and watching Super Grover?

Images are powerful. And our society bombards us with images that whole corporations full of people have studied, researched, tested, and developed for one purpose: to COMPEL US TO BUY THINGS. Is it in the best interests of a multi-billion dollar industry to encourage women to be happy and content with themselves as they are? Do they want us to be the kind of women who say "No thanks, I walk a fair bit: I don't need to buy a membership to your gym"? Or, "My breasts are just fine as they are, thanks - they don't need to be lifted and tucked and tightened and fluffed up. Keep your scalpel/cruel underwires/expensive creams to yourself."

I'll admit something. When I look into my daughters' future, (and obviously that future is not as far away as I had hoped it would be) I feel fear. I don't know how much I can do to help them - I try, but in my heart I know they will hear and obey all those messages from the purveyors of the Beauty Myth. They will be like every other girl: with an inward hatred of their bodies, in part or in whole. They will agonize and struggle, feel inadequate - or overadequate - and cry bitter tears about their upper arms. They will make distasteful faces into the mirror. They will heave gigantic sighs and say to their girlfriends, "I wish I had your thighs."

Ask me how I know.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Progress for Its Own Sake

Sometimes I feel like I’m climbing a mountain.

The Aran is coming along slowly, since there has been a lot else going on to distract me.

Here in BC, the government is quite amenable to homeschoolers, even providing us with funding to teach our children at home. The hoop we have to jump for the funding is, we have to submit a portfolio full of samples of the child’s work three times yearly, to assure the Ministry that we are meeting the same education outcomes which they are (or rather CLAIM TO BE) teaching public school children. It’s portfolio time now, so I am madly scanning Provincial Learning Outcomes, throwing together worksheets for Charlotte to complete, and sorting all this information into a binder. It takes a lot of time, particularly for a free-form educator like me, who covers most of the material either by contextual reading, or verbally in discussion form, rather than by rote with worksheets for the child to fill out.

It’s not that my system is a bad one. Charlotte is obviously learning a lot, albeit above her grade level. (One of my concocted worksheets has the question “What is the term used to refer to animals who are most active during twilight (i.e., dusk and dawn)?” C. correctly answered “crepuscular”.) It’s just that it doesn’t result in stacks of completed papers with red check marks, and endless lists of addition and subtraction problems. This makes portfolios awfully time-consuming. But, hey: a thousand dollars per year per child is worth it.

And then there is the common cold, which is making my life a living hell for the second time in a month. Both the kids have it, so I’ve not had much sleep lately, getting up every few hours to blow noses, get drinks of water, doses of Dimetapp, more pillows. It all makes the knitting harder.

But, Mum and I went to Winners yesterday, and I came away with this:

I’ve been looking for YEARS for nice Christmas ornament storage, and was quite chuffed to see these beautiful boxes. There are two trays of compartments, each holding twenty ornaments (more, if they’re small). There is also extra room between the layers, and under the lid, for flat things such as tinsel garland. It was $20…I think I’ll be back for at least two more, for my children’s ornament collections.

Speaking of which, isn't it about time I put a countdown banner up?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

You surely didn't think.....did you?

There seems to be a misconception that when I said "I wouldn't want my stash to end up at the Thrift Store" I meant "I'm going to give you guys my yarn." In reality I meant "I need to get to the knitting and use up my yarn."

But of course now I feel bad and will probably have some kind of yarn giveaway to buy your affection again.

I have been working on something though, despite all appearances to the contrary. Remember when I said I was going to knock off Eunny's Macho Aran? Well, when I started examining the knit, I realized that there's no such thing as knocking off when it's a traditional Aran sweater. The ropes, cables, braids, what-have-you are all more or less in the public domain. It's just a matter of deciding which ones you want, swatching the panels, putting them together handsomely, and doing a bit of math.

So I just did that, instead.

I changed my mind on the needed size, after having knit 6 or 7 inches of sweater. I needed more width, so I ripped it back and added another rope cable to the outside of the 12 stitch plait. See? Old sweater (sorry about the crappy picture. Arrows indicate where I later added more ropes):

New sweater:

I like it better with the extra rope. Not only is it wider, it's more visually balanced.

For the actual cables, I consulted Cables Untangled. None of the charts are complicated, so I haven't had to photocopy or even write down a pattern, which makes this project just about as portable as a sock.

As the sweater started to take shape I noticed that all the motifs had fairly short repeats (the longest, honeycomb, is 8 rows) resulting in a dense fabric with a small-scale appearance. This wouldn't be my choice all the time, but for this particular sweater it's perfect. Because when complete, this sucker will be under the Christmas tree of a very, very cold person.

The yarn is Classic Al, by Elsebeth Lavold. It's a 50% merino, 50% alpaca worsted weight. This yarn is completely dreamy. I'm not a fan of Elsebeth Lavold's charts (or maybe, I'm not a fan of her pattern editor? test-knitter? someone.) but I have to admit she doesn't make mistakes when it comes to fibre choices and spinning. I've used her Silky Wool and her Silky Tweed, and now the Classic Al. All three are gorgeous, quality yarns.

(And hey - if you feel like trying it out, Webs has it on clearance for $3.49 a ball US!! That's, like, $3.30 a ball Canadian. Which means you can get an entire sweater for about $80, shipping to Canada included, with leftover yarn afterwards. Woot!)

And I realized I forgot to post a picture of Candy&Costume Day. For the first time I just went with the Princess thing. My daughter was shocked and pathetically grateful to be allowed to dress up as a Princess, complete with curling-iron ringlets and

"Oh, Mummy, I thought for sure you would say no!! Oh I love you, Mummy."

"I love you too sweetie. And remember: you are strong, you are beautiful with-or-without-a-dress, you are clever, and anything he can do, you can do better. Including saving yourself from towers, dragons, and evil queens. You don't need a man to complete you and you certainly won't be waiting around for some lame Prince to come schmaltzing up on his stupid pony, magnanimously agreeing to kiss you and somehow magically make your life complete just by condescending to "fall in love" with you."

"Yes Mummy." [Absently, while stroking her ringlets with glazed eyes.]

Friday, November 02, 2007


An interesting thing happened after I posted the R.I.P. Meme challenge. There was a short but eerie silence around the blog, then over the next two days I got three emails:

I was going to do your meme, but I tried and couldn't think of anything good to say.

I recently had a loss in my family so this is too close to home for me.

I took a stab at it but didn't like the process...I feel a little jinxed by the idea.

Then, yesterday, I received this:

Liked your idea immensely...thank you for being brave enough to put yourself out there and challenging us to do the same. I don't have anywhere to publish my attempt but I thought I would share.
Attached: "All Saints Day" eulogy.

It was such an honour to receive this piece, from someone who mostly lurks but has commented twice. I read it with so much interest and sympathy, and found myself exclaiming "Hey! Me too!" while reading it.

Olga put up her eulogy the other's a real roller-coaster of emotion: read with caution. The most enthusiastic participant, Jenny, (private blog) has yet to post hers. And I have a promise from Jared and a cautious commitment from Ames to do theirs, too. I'm curious to read them not only to get to know them better, but to see whether my theory will hold true: that, in the end, certain things are common to the heart of us all.


If you do end up posting a reflection of yourself, please leave a comment.

Tomorrow, we will put all this behind us and go back to the knitting. I've got some stash to deal with...I really wouldn't want it to end up at the Thrift Store.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

I Believe You'll Find it a Stimulating Exercise.

"And they have no purpose that unites them, so they just drift around blundering through life until they die… which they know is coming yet every single one of them is surprised when it happens to them."
Anya - Buffy the Vampire Slayer 7.21, "End of Days"

For some time I have had it in mind to write a eulogy for myself. It occurred to me one day that, as well as a good exercise in writing, it might be an interesting way to sort out my life goals...kind of like a to-do list in reverse. It is thought that mentally celebrating victories you have not yet experienced, is a good way to ensure that you DO experience them. This was the basis for my first idea - to write about myself as if my life was over, and to detail the accomplishments and failures of it as though they were finished. I thought this would help me to clarify the ambitions I have for the next 34 years.

As I wrote the piece, I found to my surprise it morphed into something quite different from my intention. It became an examination of my self, rather than my life...and a chronicle only up to the point I've actually lived - not a projection about my future. I was surprised, when I finished it, at what my subconscious had chosen to include - and to omit. And the words had taken on a mournful, regretful quality I hadn't expected.

I suspect this was a reflection of my true state of mind. Imagining one's future adventures requires an optimism I don't have. It requires a certain brightness I just can't see. You need a spark of hope and enthusiasm that, at this moment in my life, I lack. All I was capable of, when imagining The End, was a vision of my life as it is now, over.

I guess that's what actually happens, isn't it? Your life is never fully lived, or finished - your intentions remain just that: intentions. Your plans die with you. Somebody comes into your house, packs up your stash, and sends it to the thrift store while your spectre stands there aghast, fluttering its translucent hands anxiously and moaning, "But.....but.....that's first-cut baby alpaca! I got that at Rhinebeck!"*

* As an aside, distribution of my stash was the only personal bequest I added to my will. Because that would just be a crying shame.

I will tell you, I wasn't sure whether to post that piece, or not. I thought - and correctly - I would get some uneasy comments and emails about my exact motivation for writing it. And to be honest, it does require a certain melancholy even to conceive such a thing. But I'm glad I did post it, because the response was moving....and surprising.

The response was so moving, in fact, that I got an idea. A wonderful, awful idea.

I want to read yours. Your eulogy in honour of yourself; your obituary; your gravestone, whatever. Delve deep. Look within. Examine your heart, and dig it all up - the stuff of your life and the truth about yourself. I think this is a pretty cool - and damn original - meme and though I swore I would never do this part, I'm tagging You.

November 2 is the Day of the Dead. It's a holiday mostly celebrated in Latin America, to remember dead friends and relatives. (And there are sugar skulls involved.) Wiki says this:

Though the subject matter may be considered morbid from the perspective of some other cultures, celebrants typically approach the Day of the Dead joyfully, and though it occurs roughly at the same time as Hallowe'en, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, the traditional mood is much brighter with emphasis on celebrating and honoring the lives of the deceased, and celebrating the continuation of life; the belief is not that death is the end, but rather the beginning of a new stage in life.
So what do you think? Will you publish your own eulogy on the Day of the Dead?

I would love for you to leave a comment with a link to your Famous Last Words. And if you think it's a cool idea and an interesting challenge, by all means spread the word. It would be an amazing and emotional day spent reading post after post full of the Truth of the Heart.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

For Once In My Life I'm Early.

Shannon's Eulogy
By Shannon

We are gathered here today to remember Shannon, and to celebrate her life. Everyone here has a story of some kind to tell - everyone remembers something about her.

Some people in this room are remembering that she made them laugh. She was often funny. She could tell a joke well, when she remembered one, but she was at her best when she was in a group of people, and making the most of the interplay of words and ideas. She was a great one to have at a party.

She told me once that often people who met her thought she was proud, or annoying, or too loud. She said she had tried for a few years to quiet down, but just ended up bored and depressed. Her conclusion? "It's better to be disliked than to be insipid."

She was a great friend. She was the one you wanted to have with you when you went dancing with a bunch of girls, because if circumstances demanded it, she'd tell off - or, for that matter, sucker punch - any obnoxious men who threatened to encroach on any of her friends. She was bold enough to step in front of her friends and say "Get lost, jackass" if it needed to be said.

She was the first to volunteer to walk you home. "Boy, there's some crazy people out there, you can't be too careful," she'd say as she got her coat. "Luckily I can kick ass, if ass-kicking is in order - don't worry."

She had a cheeky grin.

She wasn't shy, and easily drew out those who were.

She refrained from judging others. She used to say, "Anybody is capable of anything, given the right circumstances."

She was a good cook. She hated it when people attached moral value to eating or not eating. She pitied people who said "I'm being bad" while reaching for a bite of cheesecake.

She loved to read.

She wasn't much for TV, but she passionately loved Buffy, and tried to get everyone she knew to watch it. "It's not what you'd think", she insisted to them as they laughed at her.

She didn't much care if people laughed at her.

She believed in the sisterhood of women. She defined herself in terms of these relationships. Scrawled on the flyleaf of a notebook from her knitting collection are the words: "This book belongs to Shannon - daughter, sister, mother, friend.....lover, fighter, scholar, writer, singer, nonconformist, libertarian." And then, after that: "Down with mass production".

She esteemed the uniqueness of each person's beauty.

Except her own.

She despised the society she lived in, for brainwashing its citizens into complacency, and suspected the school system was really a training ground for conformists. "They get 'em young," she would warn you, "and they never let them go - the poor kids are sunk. What choice do they have but to fit into their prescribed roles, if they are taught to revere the average?"

She tried to raise her kids to be free. She wanted them to know their own power, and to resist control by the mainstream.

She worried constantly that she was failing them.

She knew she could do anything, and was willing to try....Anything.

But she never truly believed her achievements, even in the midst of success.

She would be the first to say that she was a complicated person...then she would shrug and remark, "But then, who isn't?"

Sorting through the collected works of her life, a picture starts to form of the person she was. Creative. Impulsive. Thoughtful. Extravagant. Ambitious. Mercurial. Exuberant. Most of what she created is gone - given over the years to family members and friends with a laugh, and a rueful shake of the head: "I hope it fits," or "Give it back if you don't wear it, okay?" I think she knew that most of those things might never be worn and, despite her request, would never be given back, either, to be ripped out and made into something new. Most of those things are probably tucked away into drawers, or folded carefully on shelves, or maybe....well, maybe some of them are here today. Worn, for the first time, out of tribute to a woman who spent so many hours of her life creating small imperfect tokens for her loved ones.

But it's the other things that are most compelling - the things she never made, but planned to make. The bulbs she bought, but didn't plant. The things she never quite finished, but started. The fabric she couldn't bring herself to cut into: the yarn she never quite cast on. These are the things she pulled out over and over, looked at, examined closely, held up against herself, and then put carefully away again. I don't know why she never got started - I kind of wish I could talk to her about it. I'd like to ask her why that beautiful orchid wool was never knit up: why the soft hand-dyed merino sock yarn is still bundled into a skein. I'd like to ask her what she planned to do with the two meters of white Irish linen, and the muted grey worsted whose label proclaims, "Best English Woollens - One Skirt Length". It has been washed, dried, steamed, and is "needle-ready". I know in her mind's eye these garments were carefully crafted, and meticulously finished, and hung gracefully on her when she wore them. I know she hoped they'd be perfect, and was excited about making them. So I wonder whether maybe she never thought she was quite good enough...not a good enough knitter to experiment with that beautiful alpaca laceweight. Not a good enough seamstress to justify cutting the Italian silk. Not glamorous enough to waste expensive cashmere on.

I think if she could give you - her friends - a message, it would sound something like this.

Be bold.

Stand by your friends.

Know your own strength, and revel in it.

You're every bit as good as you think you fact, you're probably better.

Laugh as often as possible.

Live outside the mainstream.

Spend on yourself: money, energy, and time.

Give lavishly.

Accept graciously.

Agree enthusiastically.

Disagree strongly.

Create. Create whatever you can, out of everything you have. Create peace, and safety, and warmth. Create friendships. Create things: garments, or sculptures, or cakes or words or paintings or music or laughter, to serve as mementos of your hope and your love and your grief, for when the days of your life are spent - your years counted out.

Love fiercely.

And say your piece.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Random Fact Generator

  1. I have made two more heart purses. They come together fast once you've made one or two. These were to be Christmas presents though my daughters have already laid claim to I guess I'll be knitting a few more.

  2. Charlotte tried to look up the word maraud in her Webster's New World Children's "Dictionary" (those are sarcastic quote marks) and it wasn't there. I was disappointed and annoyed as I feel marauder is a perfectly reasonable word for children to know. It's not as if I was asking her to look up "pederasty".

  3. The key to the cipher was "exchequer". I am kind of downcast that nobody solved it in the comments, and enthusiastically volunteered to join my team (my team of one) on the Quest for the Ice Fox.

  4. Yesterday I made scones and tea for two entire meals. They were very nice both times: I had them with lemon curd.

  5. I ran out of yarn on my Print o' the Wave stole. The retailer is working on it but it looks like I'll have to rip the entire edging off and start it again with a slightly different colour.

  6. My youngest daughter has been calling "Stuart Little" "Robowt Noodles" for two days and it just never gets old.

  7. We are making a plaster-of-Paris volcano for school. We will make little PlayDoh houses and people, then erupt the volcano and watch what happens to the village and crops. (So I guess next week we'll be looking up "post-traumatic stress disorder".)

  8. It is only 60 days until Christmas.

  9. Tonight is knitting, and I can hardly wait.

  10. My cross-the-street neighbour has put up a Hallowe'en decoration on her door, and it is the subject of endless fascination on the part of my children.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Calling All Smart People.

I have joined a fairly cool virtual geocaching game called "Quest for the Ice Fox", a promotional campaign run by McClelland & Stewart Publishers through Facebook and Google Maps. The game promotes a new book called "The Frozen Thames", by Helen Humphreys.
The Frozen Thames is a series of stories about life in historical London and the river Thames that ebbs, flows, and freezes throughout its history. The Quest for the Ice Fox contest intends to pull readers virtually down to the river and into that tarnished, talented knot of humanity. The natural vehicle for that journey is Google MyMaps. This amazing tool allows you to not only explore streets, buildings and geographical features the world over, but also to annotate them. You will need access to Google MyMaps to make the journey and solve its riddles.

The River Thames has frozen over 40 times in recorded history. When it does, "frost fairs" often spring up on its unyielding surface, offering food, fortune telling, and all manner of diversion. In 1684, a fox was set loose on the frozen Thames during a frost fair. Confused, it found itself lost in time and space in a white and chilly London. It's been spotted in eight locations about the capital. Each location holds cryptic clues and ciphers which, when untangled, contains a piece of the final destination of the fox. Your task is to tackle each of the clues as they're revealed in a special Google Map, discover the final destination of the ice fox to keep it safe from its pursuers, and then enter our contest. You could win a grand prize including a $2000 travel voucher and a copy of The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys. Five runners-up will also win $100 worth of McClelland & Stewart books from and The Frozen Thames.

Okay. So I had no real intention of taking part in the game when I first heard about it, thinking I wouldn't have time. Problem is, I went and did the first clue just for kicks, and now I'm kind of......well, I'm addicted. BUT. The second clue was released today and I've been trying to solve it, and I'm STUCK. I need your help, O Most Brainy Reader.

Here's the clue.

"Home, James"
Near Waterloo Bridge, upon The Frozen Thames
51.507283 latitude-0.117158 longitude
Latitude Clue
To move south along the latitude to the second sighting of the fox, add 2205 to the year the Crystal Palace opened. Then divide by a million and subtract the result from the source latitude.
Longitude Clue
To move west along the longitude to the second sighting of the fox, add 8839 to the year the Spanish Armada was defeated. Then divide by a million and add the result to the source longitude. (Note: The minus sign in the longitude indicates direction only. You should ignore it when doing math.)
The place upon which you land will help you solve this cryptic clue:

We hear a former scrutineer lives nearby.

The word is your key to this cipher:


And that cipher reveals a two digit number you will need to solve the final puzzle of the Quest for the Ice Fox. Collect these numbers to determine the final destination of our wily, frigid friend.

So the latitude and longitude gets me to Downing Street. What's sticking me is the "former scrutineer" part. Any ideas? I have tried crunching the cipher with "London Eye" and "Big Ben" (because "we hear"), but no luck. I'm missing something...

And if you are interested in doing this game for yourself, check it out on Facebook. The Group is simply called "Quest for the Ice Fox".

Whew! I figured it out. Anybody else get it?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Now I Feel A Bit Sick

Birthday highlights! (Long, picture-heavy post.)

It began (very, very late due to all the lovely phone calls pouring in) with a friendly scrambled egg sandwich with bits of ham and cheese.

Then I made myself the "Butterscotch Layer Cake" I've been wanting to try for years, since I was first given Nigella's "How To Be A Domestic Goddess". The first step is making the caramel, which I have never done before. They mean it when they say you're going for is step 1.

And then here is step 2 - you wait til it's golden brown (it happens kind of suddenly, and there is SMOKE rising here, making your eyes water) then take off heat and beat in a cup of whipping cream.

Nothin' wrong with THAT.

Batter in tin (and this batter was so silky and gorgeous I'm surprised my kids, with their ardent beater-lickage, allowed me to cook any of it).

Pictures of the icing-in-progress didn't turn out, but let me tell you how it's made. You take 400g (!!!) of soft cream cheese, beat it to a voluptuous smoothness, then pour in 250 ml of the caramel, and beat it again: beat it but good. You're going for 1890's-English-headmistress here. Then you Jackson-Pollock the remaining caramel over top.

In this book Nigella uses the phrase "ramshackle" a fair bit to describe her style of presentation. It seems so much more honest than faffing around trying to neaten everything up. So I went with ramshackle for the finished product. Note the cake patch.

Among other small presents, my children performed a little ballet for me. "Show me how long your neck is!"

And you gotta love the Ed Grimley tights. I guess they're comfier that way...

Mid-afternoon, the phone rang (again) and it was the movie store up the street, telling me that I hadn't rented in a while, so they were offering me a free movie. I exclaimed happily "Hey, great! It's my birthday today!" and the girl said "Well in that case you can have TWO free movies!"

I had a momentary setback when the postie dropped off a lumpy, misshapen squashy packet in a plastic bag printed with this message:

Oh yes. It was the ill-fated Sockapalooza socks, and their accompanying goodwill offerings from me to my Danish pal. The goodwill offerings had been monumentally abused in shipping from here to Denmark and back again, and there was loose tea scattered everywhere, even coming out the corners of the bubble envelope I had used. I opened it gingerly to find this:

The tea was almost a write off, though I did funnel it into a tin with plans to (cautiously) drink it later. The chocolate was pulverized into a fine powder, and is almost irredeemable. The candles, besides being coated in a crusty layer of stuck-on tea leaves, were broken into several pieces. The maple-leaf cookie cutter looked more like the bat signal:

But I was able to bend it back into its intended shape.

The letter and postcard were dogeared and lightly perfumed with tea (quite pleasant). They are the only things that will travel back to Denmark with the apparently unharmed socks.

The last thing I did on my birthday was finish off this cute little purse, which I knitted the other day with my old swatch ball of Patons SWS in Natural Geranium. I tried i-cord for a strap, but found I loathe i-cord with every fibre of my being. I don't care what people say, it just doesn't turn out right. Loose in the back, tight in the front, time-consuming. Instead I crocheted about a 6 meter chain, then cut it in thirds and braided the chains together, knotting the ends. Voila, a cute (and quick) strap.

So, a day well spent. To crown the whole thing, I got to spend the last hour, after the kids were sleeping, exploring Virtual Yarns again. My so-generous mother-in-law sent me a card with a CHEQUE inside (oh, the thrill!) which may enable me to finally buy the Rheingold kit. I have to make a careful decision, though - I have a few other options which sorely tempt me. But now I know she reads the blog (Hi Mom!) so I might have to stop mentioning things like this and this.