Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
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
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.
Stand by your friends.
Know your own strength, and revel in it.
You're every bit as good as you think you are....in fact, you're probably better.
Laugh as often as possible.
Live outside the mainstream.
Spend on yourself: money, energy, and time.
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.
And say your piece.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
- 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 them...so I guess I'll be knitting a few more.
- 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".
- 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.
- Yesterday I made scones and tea for two entire meals. They were very nice both times: I had them with lemon curd.
- 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.
- My youngest daughter has been calling "Stuart Little" "Robowt Noodles" for two days and it just never gets old.
- 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".)
- It is only 60 days until Christmas.
- Tonight is knitting, and I can hardly wait.
- 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
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 McClelland.com 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.
Near Waterloo Bridge, upon The Frozen Thames
51.507283 latitude-0.117158 longitude
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.
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:
VAQNQ PAQ LI OLQJHO ABO LIO
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
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 burnt...here 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.
Monday, October 15, 2007
- If you live on Vancouver Island and it looks like it's going to rain, It Is.
- When your instinct tells you to bring two pairs of mitts, don't settle for one just because the other pair isn't right on top of the drawer. Likewise, no matter how much your daughter is convinced that all she will need is her black sweatshirt, bring the coat. BRING THE COAT.
- Two little children trudging through the mud in the pouring rain, with their scarves over their heads as makeshift hats and sharing one pair of mitts, can only be held off for a certain amount of time by the promise of hot chocolate. Once that time is up, you'd better be ready to do some piggybacking.
- It is possible though inconveniently pinchy to piggyback one 65 pound 6 year old while carrying one 28 pound 3 year old in your arms.
- It is wise to check the opening hours of a store you need to visit before dragging two children onto first a bus, then a ferry, then on foot up the purgatorially long hill to the closed and locked door of the shop. In the pouring rain.
- Cappuccino huts at ferry terminals on small islands don't take Interac.
- If you accidentally use all your bus change buying hot chocolate at the cappuccino hut at the ferry terminal, you will have quite a walk ahead of you. The children will be exhausted. Be prepared to do some piggybacking. See item #4, above.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Final Cut Farms' Chai Spiced Pumpkin Bisque with crispy yam chips.
Oh my freaking frackness this was possibly the best soup I have ever had. It was served (pardon me, "finished") with drizzled cracked pepper cream. DIVINE.
Curried Chicken Stir Fry (from the regular menu, not the Festival menu)
Lots of delicious crisp vegetables perfectly cooked. There was broccoli, julienned carrots, onion....let's see....Oh, and bell pepper, and mango and...maybe cauliflower? Nary a trace of the oiliness or mushiness so common with stirfry.
Poached Anjou Pears and Plum Cobbler with Housemade Pumpkin Ice Cream.
I'm wiping away tears of joy as I type this. They said "vanilla ice cream" but I noticed another dessert on the menu had the "housemade pumpkin" so I subbed it in. And oh, was I glad I did. There was also brandy and cabernet sauce. I THANK YOU FATHER FOR FERMENTATION WHICH DOTH MAKE OF HUMBLE GRAPES SUCH TRANSCENDENTAL GLORY.
My visiting sister had the Tia Maria Creme Brulee but I venture it was not as good as it should have been - I suspect the top was not so much crackly as chewy. They gave it away by serving it with whipped cream on top, of all things. But, as we know, creme brulee is hard to get right, so we will forgive and forget.
My birthday is on Tuesday, and everyone knows I love my birthday, so....
Hey, wait. WAIT A SECOND. I had my first blogiversary on September 21 and never even noticed! Wow!
All right, whatever. What I was saying was I think I'll wrassle Mr HSBoots into taking me back to that restaurant this week, for my birthday. Because I need some more pumpkin soup. And I wouldn't say no to Pear and Plum Cobbler, either.
I just love food. Don't you just love food?
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
First, do no harm. Second, hire a knitter for every bedside.
- Hippocrates (The Lost Writings)
Act I, Scene I.
ICU, two hours after surgery to remove a colorectal tumour. I am with my friend, holding her chilly hand and watching, with her husband, as the surgeon approaches.
SURGEON: So was everybody praying up at the school? Was there an assembly?
PATIENT: [smiling weakly] Yes.
SURGEON: Well, things went beautifully. There was no bleeding at all - it was remarkable. We reconnected it no problem. And we got everything out - it hadn't spread, and your liver was completely clear. You don't even have to have an abdominal drain, or a tube in your throat...I must say, Somebody up there is looking out for you. [Clears throat] We were done early - do you have any pain?
PATIENT: No, none. I think the epidural is working perfectly.
SURGEON: You know...I think you can have some clear fluids. Would you like a cup of tea?
Act I, Scene II. ICU, 1800 hrs. Husband has left, other friend is gone, the green cabled blanket is doing its job, folded over my friend's body and arms. I am sitting by the bed knitting quietly.
PATIENT: Is that your lace?
KNITTER: Yes, this is it.
PATIENT: Are you almost finished?
KNITTER: No, and I'm going to run out of yarn.
PATIENT: [distressed] Oh, no, not again! Did you not buy enough?
KNITTER: The pattern called for 800 yards, I bought 900 meters. I think running out of yarn is just my curse. It's just What Happens To Me...it's okay.
PATIENT: And is that your new sock?
KNITTER: Yes - I started it for Hospital Knitting but I think I should have chosen something simpler.
PATIENT: [closing eyes] No. I like it.
Act I, Scene III. 1845 hrs. I've done half a repeat on the sock, and several repeats on the lace edging. The ICU is quieting down for the night.
PATIENT: [rousing] You should go home to your family.
KNITTER: I will soon...at seven, I think.
PATIENT: I love having you here knitting. I don't feel like I have to entertain you or anything.
KNITTER: Just as long as you don't think you need to be awake for me.
PATIENT: No, actually you're the only person I don't feel I need to stay awake for.
Several drowsy minutes pass.
PATIENT: [fighting back tears] I can't begin to tell you what a comfort you've been to me today. Thank you so much for coming to sit with me and knit...it makes me feel safe.
KNITTER: [trying not to cry, saying nothing]
Monday, October 08, 2007
Things didn't really work out, between one thing and another.
WHAT IS UP WITH TURKEYS THESE DAYS ANYWAY? The turkey was done two hours before it should have been done (and I did the math, like, THREE times to make sure I was right about how long) and I had to scramble to do all the potatoes, vegetables, whatnot while the poor dessicated turkey got progressively done-er and dry-er. The only good parts were the thighs, and even those were slightly on the "more-cranberry-ginger-ale-please" side.
And the Thanksgiving dinner isn't the only thing going down the toilet. Remember the Sockapalooza fiasco? Well, I was right: the universe is not done with those socks. Apparently they (or, I suppose, I) have more spankin' coming at the hands of the Powers That Be. A few weeks ago, I got an email notification from the Sockapalooza database saying that my Sockpal, who had not yet received the package, had changed some of her information. My heart sank as I scrolled down to read that her entire address had changed - she had moved. I immediately thought "the package will go to her old address and it'll sit there until they send it back."
Guess what? Once again I was right. She discovered that a package from Canada had arrived and was sitting at her old apartment. By the time she got there, it had been sent back to me. When it arrives here, I get to turn it around and sent it BACK to Denmark, for an additional $15 shipping charge.
Just for fun, I added up what Sockapalooza cost me:
- Gothic Spire sock pattern $7
- Gothic Spire sock yarn $16
- Gothic Spire sock needle $7
- Marina Piccola sock pattern $6
- Marina Piccola sock yarn $24
- gifty items for the package $20
- shipping to Denmark $15
- shipping back to Denmark $15
For a lovely total of $110. (I'm hoping Mr. HalfSoledBoots doesn't read this post, but somehow I think he will. Because that's just my luck, you know?)
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Thank you very much but I do not wish to grow my penis, nor do I care what other people think of its size. Or in fact of its nonexistence.
I don't want to join you in your casino paradise, either, notwithstanding your promise to deposit $2500 in an account of my choice just for joining.
And no, your incredibly low (but sure to grow) stock offers do not entice me.
If I needed prescription drugs I would see my doctor, who would no doubt even prescribe me Viagra if I wanted one badly enough. I don't need to Respond Now and guarantee my low rate (shipping included).
Now please leave me alone.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Pattern: none. Closed-loop cables from Viking Patterns for Knitting (Lavold) and Aran Knitting (Starmore). Traditional Aran rope cables from Cables Untangled.
Yarn: 14.5, 50g balls Mission Falls 1824 wool 100% superwash merino
Yarn Cost: $97
Yarn Source: Village Yarns, Cumberland, BC
Needles: 5mm bamboo circular
Finished dimensions: 70" long, 27" wide
Cast on: September 1, 2007
Bound off: September 27, 2007
Notes: Someday I may knit another Lavold chart again, but only if I have in the interim sustained a debilitating head injury which has rendered me incapable of either accessing my own memories or of understanding advice given to me by others, namely my mother or the other members of Riverstitch. In this teeny tiny little chart (the "three-bight happiness" sign shown alternating on the edge) there were two big mistakes and several things-which-could-have-been-done-better, necessitating extensive tinkering. And recall I knitted Gyrid to perfect gauge, in a size which should have had two inches of negative ease, to end up with something that would comfortably fit 1.5 of me. My mother is, at this moment, knitting Liv, a design from Volume 1, which is riddled with errata.
The Starmore chart, however, was perfect. No flaws. Flaw-free since 1999.
I took 8 days off knitting this blanket, due to the sore wrist, so altogether it only took about 18 days. The Mission Falls wool knits up fast and smooth and I LIKES it.
I didn't block the blanket because I think it'll take a good while to dry, and my friend goes in for surgery in 8 days. It'll probably need washing when she gets out of the hospital anyway, so I'll block it for her then. I'm sure it will grow in the process.
I didn't enjoy knitting this blanket, for the first couple of weeks. After I took the week off, I felt better about it - I had gained a bit of emotional distance and restocked some of my optimism reserves. I think it was important to feel as good about it as possible, and I suspect my mental state was what actually caused the sore wrist (which, strangely, didn't hurt while I was swatching for another project during the 8-day hiatus - only while knitting this blanket).
And fall has arrived here on Vancouver Island:
This is a cart return in the parking lot of my favourite grocery store. Nobody seemed to want to return their carts there, though. There must have been a dearth of hip waders worn that day.