Thursday, May 29, 2008

Celebrate, Commemorate

Today is May 29, Ian and Gwen's two-year anniversary.

Thank you Gwen. Thanks for keeping our family alive.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Messy Tuesday

If you are visiting from Chewing the Fat and would like to read what Dave referenced, scroll down to yesterday's post.

Here's my Messy Tuesday offering.
Clothes waiting to be donated, the winter duvet bundled up on the cedar chest (right), and the same EXACT laundry basket I showed you weeks and weeks ago.
And Mum and I are sitting here knitting and having tea and scones. Lovely.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I've seen them around ever since I can remember. They're as much a part of this city as the parks and piers - hopping on and off buses, sitting on benches downtown, walking everywhere quickly, deep in conversation. I don't think I've ever, in over twenty years of memories, seen them apart. I was away for 13 years and when I returned, I caught a glimpse of them downtown not 36 hours after my return - I knew I was home, then.

I don't think life has always been easy for them. They have a lot of friends, and they are always happy, but I'm an accomplished people-watcher and I can see how some others react to them. I sit a few bus seats back from where they do, so I can hear and see things they can't. It's pretty subtle...mostly a matter of glances exchanged, maybe the occasional whispered comment. I think I remember that it used to be worse for them than it is now.

I'm not sure what their disability is, so I can't give them a label for you. Their thick glasses tell me they don't see well, but they seem to have no other physical inhibition, even though they must be in their mid-fifties by now.

We were in a hurry when we left the house and I called my kids from the backyard where they were 'farming'. I was searching frantically for change and keeping an eye on the clock as the kids got their shoes on. We made it in time, luckily.

It was the 2.43 bus today, so the back was full of high-school students. Unable to sit where we normally do, I guided the children towards the front seats. We sat behind and across from the driver, so we could watch him operate the bus.

A few stops before our destination, they got on. Backpacks and jackets matched: in fact they are identical down to the moustaches. They had a friend with them - as well as having an intellectual disability, his speech was impaired so I couldn't understand what their conversation was about, but it was earnest and seemed important. I happened to glance to the back and, amid the chaos of teenaged conversation, teasing, and flirting, saw one kid give a little smirk to his friend.

My daughter asked me if it was time for her to pull the stop cord, and I looked over at her to answer. Suddenly noting the state of the shirt she was wearing, I exclaimed "Good grief, Charlotte, look at your shirt! It's filthy!" She gave me a rueful smile as I reached over to brush in vain at her shirt. I heard a voice across the aisle say quietly "Throw it in the laundry," and another, almost identical voice say, serenely, "it'll come out." I wasn't sure if they had intended to be heard, but I looked across and smiled at them. "Yeah but you should have seen how nice and clean she was a half hour ago!"

They were pleased at my response, and leaned forward a bit. "It doesn't take long," said one, then "no it sure doesn't" said the other. I started to laugh, surprised for the first time by twins who actually DO finish each other's sentences. "Too bad I can't throw all of her in the wash," I remarked, to their great amusement. My daughter crowed with laughter, too.

"They get dirty,"
"it's okay."

I stood up to get off at the next stop. "Well, bye now," I said, "enjoy your afternoon."

"Bye!" said one, "and you have a good day too!" said the other.

On the sidewalk again, I stopped to take stock of jackets, wallets, keys, transfers. My daughter watched the bus pull away and said, still laughing, "Those guys are sure funny and nice."

Yes, they are.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A brief update

I had a busy week. I'll spare you most of the details - or write about them later.


All right, which one of you sent me this great postcard? I thought I could decipher the initial on the back, and thanked no fewer than three separate people, in turn, who all then denied having anything to do with it. So who do I thank? The back says "Make these for the family next time you want to avoid cleaning. We're here for you!" That means that A) the sender is a reader; and B) they are my kind of people.

I was puttering in the garden the other day, and ambled over to my iris patch to admire the emerging flowers. They are far from open, as yet.

But......what's that?


Wait a deer bite off the flowerheads and then drop them behind the plants?

No. They don't. You know what DO, as it turns out? FREAKING FOUR YEAR OLDS WITH SCISSORS. She must be stopped.

Miss me?

A Gulf of silence separates us from each other.
I stand at one side of the gulf, you at the other.

-Katherine Mansfield (excerpt)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reclamation is a beautiful thing.

I've been waiting to show you this FO for a while now, but the weather wasn't right for taking pictures, and I didn't have a photographer. This morning I decided, to heck with a photographer, I would ask my six-year-old daughter to take the photos.

Salvage Skirt

Pattern: None. Method suggested by Threads number 120, September 2005. Yoke adapted from Burda 8677.
Invisible zipper
Cotton flower trim
Fabric strips:
-silk charmeuse
-Josef Otten cotton lawn
-silk satin
-polyester satin
-polyester double georgette
-Josef Otten cotton

I read this article when the magazine first came out. I liked the idea and started planning the skirt right away. Instead of buying meters of new fabric for it, I decided to cut up some finished garments that didn't fit or didn't look as nice as I thought they would.

Reclaiming fabric is a nice idea, but it can be time consuming, depending on the garment you're recycling. If the piece has a lot of seams, you might have trouble finding a long enough portion to make a workable strip.

This, like most other sewing, is a slightly space-intensive undertaking. All together, when I had all the strips cut, laid out, and sewn together along their long edges, the total length was 167". All that length had to be pressed, serged, pressed again, hemmed, pleated, and sewn to the yoke.

The magazine does not call for a separate, fabric yoke. According to the directions, you make a yoke, shaped to your waist-to-hip, out of fusible interfacing. You then pleat the skirt directly onto that - using the iron to press the pleats in place as you fuse them to the skirt. Then you free-form quilt all along the interfaced yoke to secure the free edges of the pleats. Insert a zipper, and you're done.

I didn't like the finished look of the piece as given. The pleats look a little random and messy to me - and I thought it would likely be unflattering to have them extend right up to the waist. I have no hips to speak of as it is, and the vertical lines would have eliminated what shape I have.

In order to create the illusion of a difference between my waist and my hip, I made a standard, shaped yoke out of a fabric that matched part of the skirt. For this I used my favourite yoke - from Burda 8677. I adjusted the length so that the seamline between the yoke and the fall would be exactly on the fullest part of my hip. I also fitted the seamline so that it would be quite a bit bigger than my actual hip, counting on the fullness of the pleated strips to hold it away from my body. To emphasise the seamline and broaden the hip a bit more, I added the flower trim.

I like how this turned out. Those 167 inches of skirt, when pleated in, really add a lot of swing. The fabrics are all light and flowy, as well, which captures motion beautifully. I don't know if you can tell from the pictures, but this skirt is full of light and drape.

The fabrics have various degrees of opacity, with some of them being very sheer indeed - this allows for an interesting play of light and shadow in the finished piece, while the pleats at the top take away any revealing glimpses that might otherwise result.

I think my favourite part of this skirt is the fact that it's recycled. I reclaimed fabric from a long, waistless sundress I hardly ever wore, a silk slip I made before I was married, two skirts that no longer fit me, and the lining from a skirt whose outside was so full of pulls as to be unwearable. The rest of the necessary strips I made from stash fabric that no longer appealed to me as they once had.

I would make this again. Happily, having worked through the method once, it'll be a lot simpler next time. But for now I'm out of garments to cut up, so I'd have to buy fabric for the next one. You could really go as expensive or as cheap as you wanted - or a mixture of the two. You could use silks, if you like, or you could use poly. There are always some very pretty peau de soie fabrics out for summer, which would look lovely interspersed with gauze or voile.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Such a comfort - does this mean I'm materialistic?

After crossing my lawn this morning, the postie knocked on my door, instead of just slamming my mailbox shut and striding off. I answered and he, wordlessly, handed me this:

I was not expecting anything, but when I peered at the customs declaration and saw this

I ran for the scissors.
I opened the box and saw all this:

including this.

Lantern Moon needle case

I actually had to sit down - I was breathless and dizzy...I burst into hysterical laughter, clasping the lovely, beautiful purple yarn to my breast. My daughter thought I had gone off the deep end.

Natalie, this is the THIRD time you have surprised me with a lovely gift. And you have the most amazing timing, too - last year I was crushed with anxiety when your first package arrived, and gave me such a lift. You made my entire month. Then, I spent all of last night in tears over a personal situation that I can't seem to resolve. This morning, as I sat with a heavy heart and chilly hands wrapped around a cup of tea, the postie brought your present.

I can't thank you enough for your generosity. You are the salt of the earth. I would like to repay your kindness, but I must think of something that is worthy of you.

Thank you Natalie.

Why bother reinventing the wheel?

I was going to talk about the subject of biofuel, but instead of droning on in a boring and wordy fashion like I probably would, I will simply ask everybody to go read this, please.

I should clarify that I disagree with Grandad that Global Warming is a myth. However, I do applaud his observations on the growing of biofuel and the impact it will have on world hunger. My problem with biofuel is not that it is based on a 'half-baked' theory of Global Warming, but that it is a monumentally selfish reaction to the problem of dwindling oil reserves. It's a response intended to keep the western standard of living more or less status quo. "Instead of forcing people out of their cars, let's just burn up a DIFFERENT resource!"

See? Wordy and boring.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How many chew toys can you buy for $140?

I don't have a good feeling about this.

Have you spotted it?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Busy. Cold. Soaking wet. And messy.

Welcome to our home! This is the front closet.

Below is the ficus, which has become habitat for a little tiny spider. Tiny, but prolific. In four days the guy spun a mass of webbing from the ficus ONE METER up to a paper lampshade, then another ONE POINT TWO METERS over to the mantle. And this isn't just one web - it's a six-inch wide mass of strands. You can't see from this picture, but it's quite splendid. Mr HSBoots glanced up at it and said "When was the last time you dusted?"

I don't know, but I can tell you it was after the last time YOU dusted.

I haven't had much knitting time lately. Between the kids, the dog, the garden and the housework (ha ha!) the yarn has had to take a backseat. However, in my waiting-around time I've done one of two socks:

in Lion Brand Magic Stripes yarn. (Thanks for the yarn, Ames!)I'm knitting these at about 7 sts per inch on 2.5 mm Addi Turbos.

Can I just say that the best part of magic looping is the money you save on needles? I used to knit socks with two circulars, which is great except that you have to buy two of the same size needle. A 30 cm needle costs the same as a 100 cm needle...might as well buy just one.

Lastly, it is May the 13th. Please observe my thermostat:

I HAVE THE HEAT ON. It's 8 degrees and pouring outside. Not even the DOG wants to go out today. He went over to his potty corner when he first got up and, shivering, squatted down to answer the call of nature. He looked up at me with a resentful eye - which got a direct hit a second later by a huge, icy drop of rainwater from the pine tree.

It was hilarious, but he didn't much appreciate my laughter. Can't take a joke, I guess.

And last night I drove past the house of pain. Would-be Ike Turner's vehicle was sitting comfortably in the driveway. I guess this means they patched things up, after all.

Ain't love grand.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dyed in the Wool

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 3, Number 3

The Yarn Lover's Guide to Hand Dyeing
by Linda La Belle

Well, it's been a while since I reviewed a knitting book, hasn't it? I got lost in the heady world of fiction and forgot my other passion.

As an introduction to hand dyeing, this is a pretty good book. I picked it up in the hopes that it would tell me more about plant dyes, but natural colour is not the focus of this book. La Belle takes a wider approach to the craft in this volume, starting with the basics of colour theory, materials needed, and safety.

I was interested in the pages about materials, in particular the encouragement to seek out second-hand enamel pots...the author urges me to ensure there are no chips in the enamel, which could expose the cast iron beneath, affecting the finished colour. Unless, she muses, you LIKE the way the iron changes the colour. Then, you could just keep a chipped pot for that specific colour, like the one with a quarter-sized chip that she keeps to dye a certain green, "saddened" by the iron.

Through the eight chapters of the book, she discusses seven different types of dye, including Kool-Aid and food colouring, as well as commercial acid dyes. She does include instructions for dyeing one project with eucalyptus, available from florists. I was disappointed, though, that there wasn't more discussion of natural dyes - I would have loved to see such things as cochineal, madder, or woad introduced.

I particularly loved the interviews she conducts with seven hand-dyers, including Koigu's Maie Landra. The author has actually visited the studios of all seven dyers, taking beautiful photographs of their works in progress. She includes little details, which are so endearing, about the dyers, their products, and their process.

Also included are twenty patterns for using hand-dyed yarn. The patterns are all quite simple, and range from hats and scarves, to poncho and wrist warmers. There is a very cute pair of ruffle-topped baby socks, the project dyed with eucalyptus.

The photos in this book are really beautiful - they make me want to go to the dyers' studios - or at least buy some of the featured yarn. It's a lovely book for flipping through, looking at the colours.

I would like to give dyeing a try, though I think I would need more space than my current living situation allows. There is enough guidance given in this book to get me off to a good start. I will be seeking out other sources of information on plant dyes, though, which I'd like to try first.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers' Day

Women know
The way to rear up children (to be just)
They know a simple, merry, tender knack
Of tying sashes, fitting baby shoes,
And stringing pretty words that make no sense,
And kissing full sense into empty words.

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Saturday, May 10, 2008

And this concludes the Longest Meme Ever.

# 7

I am notorious for letting my library books become overdue. My largest fine ever was $57.

I am also notoriously good at writing resumes - you know, the spin doctor part. In the last year of university, when I was trying to get a job, I wrote on my CV "Contributing patron to the Greater Victoria Public Library."

Monday, May 05, 2008

Woman Against.


All's well that ends well

although he hasn't finished with the rocks yet...there are three still to be passed. I have to watch for them. Goodie.


Two things happened to me today.

I refused to turn a blind eye.
I realised I love my dog.

Poor little Piper started having some problems this afternoon. He was acting funny: weak-legged and faint, he staggered around the yard listlessly, drooling copiously and crying actual tears out of his eyes. He wouldn't eat and he kept retching up water. When he started having a bit of diarrhea I phoned the vet and took him down.

I was afraid it was Canine Distemper Virus. I looked at the symptom list online and saw that he had all but one - the fever. The timeline for CDV didn't really match up, but since the breeder had told us that he didn't have his full immunity until his second shots (which were scheduled for next week), I was paranoid.

First of all, I have obviously been spoiled by the beautiful and wondrous thing that is the Canadian Health Care System (although I did get a $57 ambulance bill once when my daughter and I were taken to hospital following a cataclysmic car wreck), because when the vet told me it was going to cost $300 just to DIAGNOSE the problem, I almost fell over sideways.

After some bloodwork (all perfectly normal) and some x-rays (perfectly NOT normal) they phoned to tell us that he had been eating something he shouldn't have.

Our puppy is basically a warm, furry bag full of rocks.

Thankfully, in the course of nature the rocks have already begun to return to the outside world. There is no blockage. HOWEVER, the poor little thing is dehydrated and has a very irritated and inflamed GI tract, so he has been HOSPITALISED FOR THE NIGHT to be administered IV FLUIDS AND ANTIBIOTICS.

So here we are at 10.00 PM, and the house is quiet. We had the sliding doors between the kitchen and the living room open tonight because there was no little furry, foxy muzzle poking around the corner looking for his chance to bolt out of his puppy-proof area. I left my shoes right inside the back door, with no fears that they will be reduced to a few fragments of damp, shredded canvas.

And you know what? I miss him. I miss him a lot. I am worrying about my poor little pupster, separated from his family and stuck in the animal hospital overnight, where he will probably be bullied into doing the bigger dogs' chores and have his, you know, kibble money taken or whatever. Alternatively, he'll cry through the night and be convinced, by tomorrow, that he'll never see his family again. In the morning he'll be practising his hitchhiking technique and tying his few meager possessions into a bandanna on the end of a stick.

Seriously, I'm so you think he'll be okay?

And when I go to pick him up tomorrow afternoon I'm going to let him lick my pewter inukshuk necklace as much as he wants to, and I'm going to let him have Lean Cuts for breakfast AND supper.


Okay, now the not-so-nice part.

I was sitting on a sunny bench outside a local elementary school today, reading "A Thread of Grace" and waiting for my daughter's Guide meeting to finish. Suddenly I heard banging and yelling coming from a house a few doors down the street, then a woman screaming. I looked up to see a man forcing his way into the house, shouting something I couldn't hear. Through the front window I could see a woman leaning against the door trying to keep him out. She was crying "No!! No, don't!! Get out!" He pushed her backwards into the house. I could still hear her screaming.

I immediately reached for my cellphone and called 911, just as I heard another male voice shout "Get your hands off her, @sshoIe!! Get your hands off her!!" The speaker was a neighbour, running over from across the street and following the first guy into the house. The dispatcher answered and I told him everything as it played out. He asked me to get the address...I had to walk down most of the length of the field to see the number. He asked whether there was a vehicle - I couldn't see past the hedge.

Just as he was finishing up my address and phone number, the first guy - the violent, abusive oppressor - came out of the house. I heard a truck start, then saw a beat up Range Rover pull out of the driveway and take off down the street. I told this to the 911 dispatcher who seemed, unlike me, completely NOT relieved by this latest development.

His voice became suddenly sharp. "Can you see the female?"
"Can you hear the female?"
"Can you see the other male who entered the house?"
"Can you hear anything at all?"
I can hear a baby screaming. Maybe a toddler. (And now I've just realised what he is thinking.) You should hurry.
"The boys are on their way, I promise you. Please tell me anything that happens."

It seemed like a really long time. I mean.....a really long time. But it was only a few minutes. Two cars came roaring up, with huge men in bulletproof vests who strode into that house like they owned it, to find who-knows-what. They were unafraid, but wary. I tell you this: in my entire life no man has ever laid an abusive hand on me, and even I was relieved and reassured to see them.

I don't know what happened, but judging from the lack of an ambulance, all was (physically) well with the woman. I hope all was well with the child, too.

I could write a lot here about what it must be like for all these people. The girl behind the door. The children in a house where such things happen. The dispatcher who gets calls like this every single shift. The "boys", heroes of our time, who jeopardise their marriages, their sanity, their health and their lives following up on every call. They go right up, knock on the doors, walk through the house room by room, check on everyone. They ask the woman if she's okay, if she knows her attacker, if this has happened before.

If she wants to press charges.

They look at the little tear-stained child keeping well back, or maybe sitting on the couch with a neighbour or a sister, and they ask if she is all right. They assess. They think about Victim Services, wonder if a call is appropriate. They ask about license plate numbers and places he might be found. They take names, and numbers, and talk about restraining orders and safe houses and shelters and do you have someone you can call?

And then the worst part - or what I imagine must be the worst part. They give one last piece of advice, take one last look around the place. They glance over at that little person who has seen what no person should have to see, and they walk back out the door. Drive away. Make their report. Finish their shift.

None of us can really do anything, can we? I mean, nothing changes. This probably won't be The Last Straw that causes a complete break between them. This probably won't be the thing that convinces her that he's a worthless sack of shit who should be kept away from her and her child. The best I can hope for is that they track that abusive bastard down, arrest him, and in the process intimidate the hell out of him. I can hope the coward realises that someone will hear, someone will see, and he will have to answer for it.

But, whether it changes anything or not, by God no man gets away with that kind of crap anywhere near me.

And Something from Ovid Here.

The weekend was packed with energy and action - lots of things happened. Some of them I'll get to another time, but can I draw your attention to my very impressive, brand-new, raised vegetable bed?

The reason it's impressive is, I made it yesterday with all recycled materials. I went into the gloom of the shed and dragged things around, unearthing clay pots and pressure-treated beams that have lain forgotten for years before we even moved in. They provided excellent habitat for enormous spiders and wintering bumblebees, but it was time they were used for a greater purpose.

It's a small beginning. When we moved in here a few years ago, I tried to grow vegetables. I failed spectacularly, harvesting a miserable, terrified collection of anemic spinach and pale, stunted carrots.

I think it was the soil.

So this year, I started from the very bottom. I cut down and removed three inches of sod, laid a black weed barrier, boarded off the (small) area, and am going to fill it with a mixture of compost, some of the soil from the original garden, and Sea Soil. I do have to buy the compost, but it won't take much to fill this 2 meter by 1 meter bed.

I am not much of a vegetable grower, being more interested in perennials and flowers of all description. But veg gardens are the way of the future as well as the past, because as gas prices go, so go food prices.

By the way, we are at $1.26 per liter now ($5.04/gallon). I admit I gloat a little bit, as smugly triumphant as only a busser and a walker and a rider can be, when I hear people grumbling about how much it costs to fill up their Escalade. I am quite keen to see what happens this summer when it reaches the predicted $1.50 per liter and hits these complacent consumers right in the wallet.

Look what else happened this weekend.



Some small person at the BC Children's Cancer Ward is in serious luck (for a change).

Friday, May 02, 2008


This week was Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I was briefly - and gently - explaining the Shoah (as far as such a thing is possible) to my six-year-old daughter. There was a pause and I could see she was trying to understand. After a moment she said in a sad voice, "I'm so sorry that happened."

And so am I.

Thank you Heatherly, for reminding me of the day.

The Long and Complicated Story of my Absence from the Blog