Saturday, December 31, 2011

In Retrospect

EDIT: Dave reminded me that my post "Peace be With You" was nominated for Best Blog Post in the Canadian Blog Awards. I squeaked through into Round Two, so if you'd like to vote for me that would be great. (If, of course, you think the other four posts are not as good as mine. You must vote with your conscience, and you only get one shot at each poll.)

I have been sitting here for forty-five minutes halfheartedly clicking around the web, and I ended up on my own blog to answer the question (asked by myself - the only interested party) of how many New Year's Eve posts I have written.


I'm surprised: I thought it would be more.

I read the post (from 2006, amazingly), then scrolled down to see a photo of my children from Christmas Day five years ago. A five year old and a two year old - how shocking.

As far as recording history goes, this blog isn't much use, is it? I guess the fact that it's public keeps it from having any kind of archival accuracy - I keep my children off the blog, mostly.

But look at this. Christmas week, 2006:

And Christmas week, 2011:

Can we all just sit and marvel for a moment at the lightning-swift passage of time?

A moment is all we have time for, though.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

You're a Mean One.

We went to the city yesterday. We had some gift cards to spend, and since Chapters online can be hard to navigate, we took the kids to the brick and mortar store.

Woodgrove Center Mall a week ago was a happy and bustling place, filled with (mostly) pleasant, excited people who smiled at you when you made eye contact. "Merry Christmas!" was a euphonic chorus on my ears.

And now, Baby Jesus is looking around going "Hey! Where'd everybody go?" Fast forward a few days, to December 27.  ALMIGHTY. Those people are cranky!! I mean, they are MAD cranky! This one guy went past me in the food court (which was like the eighth circle of hell), and he practically flipped me the bird when I happened to glance at him, made eye contact, and gave a half-smile. He nearly snarled. His brow descended and I swear his lip curled. I looked away, kind of scared, and accidentally made eye contact with someone else. Oops! sorry. I'll keep my eyes on the floor from now on.

You should have seen the sad, pitiful tables at Winners, full of 50% off last-ticketed-price "Christmas Decor" items. Packs of six ornaments, one in smithereens, propping up listless, haphazardly-coiled wreaths of red-painted styrofoam balls, with their paint flaking. Every Santa's hat was crooked, every cheerful elf missing the toe of one resin shoe. Drifts of glitter sifted down to the peeling tile, to be kicked around by wet and muddy boots. The last week of December, they should change their name to "Losers".

By the time I got home, I just wanted to throw everything away. Like, everything I own. Take everything (except my new slippers), shove it into a bag, and bin it. Take that tree, ornaments and all, and throw it on the compost. Take all the tins of baking, full, and chuck them in a dumpster. I bought a "Boxing Day Door Crasher" $4.99 Blu Ray of "The English Patient" today -- screw it. Kick it to the curb.

And it's all because of that unholy mall. It's all because of those stupid people, pushing and shoving and frowning and glowering, because they didn't get the iPhone they were hoping for, or their kid threw up on them after too much eggnog or the turkey was dry or the turkey was raw or they forgot the potatoes. Or because they ate too much or drank too much, or because they didn't drink enough. Because three days ago they spent too much money panicking about little Johnny's stocking not being as full as little Janey's, and now they are out at the mall to find some 'deals' and throw good money after bad.

I solemnly swear, by all that is holy and by all that I hold dear...I raise my hand to the heavens, fall on my bended knees and pledge a vow here and now, that I will NOT LEAVE MY HOUSE next year from Boxing Day right through to New Year's Day.

I will keep my Christmas spirit to the last! Right, straight through to Epiphany.

I could still get it back, I think. If I medicate myself carefully with carols, coffee, and rum balls, I think I can recapture that elusive Spirit.

It can't be gone for good, right?

Time for King's College Cambridge, and Captain Morgan. Stat!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Theme: What I Knit for Christmas

On October 20, Gwen emailed everybody with her Christmas list. On it was "A great big sweater to swath myself in. Preferably in some shade of green."

I, in turn, emailed everybody (except Gwen) and said "I call the sweater."

The "green" thing didn't happen - Gwen likes cables so I decided on a gansey, which is traditionally blue. So, blue it was.

November was a little busy for me, but I did manage to win NaNoWriMo AND knit my sister's sweater within the month allotted. 

Sadly, I was so stinkin' sick in the first two weeks of December, I didn't manage to take any photos of Gwennie's Gansey before it had to be mailed.

So I had to ask Gwennie to snap some photos for me, which she did with alacrity.

My favourite one is this one below, showing the Gansey nestled among its fellows - garments I have knit for Gwen in the past. Isn't that something! That whole drawer - all handknits. And I don't mean to brag, or anything, but there are lots more that aren't showing.

There are layers in that drawer, baby!

Thanks, Gwen, for the photos. Love you!


Yarn: Harrisville New England Highland Aran 10-ply in Cobalt - #31.
Pattern: Based on the Robin's Hood Bay gansey from Gladys Thompson's Patterns for Guernseys Jerseys & Arans, with some modifications based on "Fylingdales" (Lisa Lloyd, A Fine Fleece). I increased the length of the stockinette portion at the bottom of Robin's Hood Bay, cut WAY back on the length of the cabled portion so it begins about 4 inches below the armhole (I think it's more flattering this length), took out the knitted initials, added Lisa Lloyd's welt and used her button band, used a plain 2X2 collar, and added a top-down, knitted-in saddle shoulder of the rope cable, flowing down the sleeve to the cuff. The cuff is about 4.5 inches long and knit quite tightly, to enable folding back of sleeves. (This is a house sweater and as such should be able to be shoved up to the elbows while using flour/water/detergent/towels/hair products.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice

Today's ornament, a ceramic angel with a concertina (lucky). I've always wanted one. (A concertina, that is.)

Victoria was interesting. The much-vaunted carol service was a slight disappointment...definitely the most watered-down Christmas service I've ever attended. The last time I was at this particular service was more than ten years ago: when it comes to Christchurch's theology, apparently the intervening decade has been one of dilution. In a church carol service on December 18th, don't you think "baby Jesus" should come up?

Neither have I ever been terribly fond of removing gendered language from carols: such as, in Joy to the World, "Let earth receive its king". Or, in Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, "Pleased as one of us to dwell" (rather than "Pleased as man with man to dwell"). I suppose in the scheme of things it's not going to kill me to sing that, but it does feel faddish.

Tony Parsons proved to be an excellent reader of Scripture, though, and the book of Isaiah was never so sonorous.

(In case you're curious - he seems shorter in real life. Also, he did not sing "Hark, the Herald" with the congregation. Instead, he was bantering amusingly with the woman sitting next to him. I suspect he might have been joshing about the robes and swinging censer of the clergy passing by him for the choir recessional.)

In any event, we are home. I came back with something quite beautiful...I have not impulse-bought such an extreme price tag in years. What do you think?

They were half price, though, so I feel entirely justified. I would normally not buy myself something right before Christmas, but I had saved my lovely mother-in-law's birthday cheque for just such an occasion, and am completely satisfied with these.

I think I'm retiring from the internet now, and will rejoin you around the New Year. My very best wishes to you all for a Merry Christmas. Enjoy the day and don't skimp on the rum balls!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

In one week

Thank you for your comments and good wishes on the last post. My friend's surgery went well - she was even able to keep part of her thyroid. Further treatment is still undecided.
* * *
This Sunday, the 18th of December, I am taking my daughters to the Festival of Lessons and Carols at Christchurch Cathedral in Victoria. I'm so looking forward to it. If you are at all interested in traditional carols, liturgical Christmas celebrations, or the ambiance of a church at Christmas, I do recommend checking Anglican or Catholic churches near you to see whether one is offered.*

The crazy Catherine-wheel of Christmas is in full-tilt here. The next week is going to be "hair-straight-back", as my mother amusingly says.

I have no knitting. My needles are all empty. For weeks I have been debating what to cast on, but I just never seem to do it. I have so much yarn, so that's not the problem. Must think about it.

But first I must bake some things. I've made gingerbread (a titanic batch, actually - compassing 3 cups of butter and 13 cups of flour) and we have iced them, and that took three days - but other than that, I have no baking done. Molasses Crackles, Scandinavian Almond Bars, and Ginger Spice Cookies are for tomorrow. I am saving making my sister's Rum Ball recipe for when we get back from Victoria, because if I make them too soon I will eat them all in a welter of stress-induced pre-Christmas gluttony, and will have nothing yummy left for the Day.

The featured ornament for today is this little Victorian girl, in her green coat and buttoned boots. I've only had her for about 8 years, but I like her. I have dozens of ornaments, but I only put a handful on the tree every year, as I like my tree to look unadorned and natural. There are a lot of berries and birds, and very few other decorations, but she always makes the cut.

* If you lived in downtown Toronto, for example, you'd have a few choices - one of them being 7 PM at St Thomas' Anglican Church, which is fairly close to where you'd live, hypothetically, if you lived in downtown Toronto. (Hi, Joe and Dave.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The long night of the soul.

Life is a strange thing, isn't it? You step onto the path and you can see it winding away among the trees, picturesque and inviting. Then at some point you round a corner and find a tree down over the trail, and it takes some scrambling to get over it. Later, the path takes you pretty close to a steep drop, and you sort of hug the wall on your way past. Later still, you come face to face with a stream, swollen by rain, that has crumbled away most of the path you're following. Getting past is going to take some ingenuity and some perseverance, and not a little courage.

After a while, you start to wonder nervously what else is in store for you. What else will you have overcome by the time you get to journey's end? It's not surprising that we feel a little fearful every time we can't see around the next corner.

My friend has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She is a little younger than me, with children around the same age. I have just spoken to her on the phone - I checked in because tomorrow is her surgery. She's going to have her thyroid removed, along with the tumour that has grown in her throat.

If this were happening to me, I think to myself, I wouldn't sleep all night. I would wander the house like a restless spirit. She says "I won't have trouble sleeping...I'm a good sleeper. I'm already tired."

I hope so.

I remember that Sandy emailed me the night before her surgery. She said
I tried to read. Can't. Tried to watch TV. Can't. Long hours of night stretch before me, and I don't know how I'll reach the end. I think I'll start that blog - how do I get going?  
It makes me think that we are so frail and lovely, we humans. So fragile and frightened. It's terrifying when things happen to our bodies. When we're facing it, our souls reach out. We start conversations. We start blogs. We write letters which we may never send. We crave communion.

C.S. Lewis famously said: You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body. 

It's true. And how does this change me? How does this change the way we live, and the way we face our fragility: our mortality?

* * *

Christmas is ten days away. I have gingerbread dough chilling in the fridge.

My tree is up.

I'm happy.

And I'm praying for my friend, whose Christmas has already gotten lost. Next Christmas, may she be up to her elbows in flour, hiding her children's presents, talking on the phone to her sister, and looking back on tonight, thinking 'How long ago it all seems!'

I hope.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Brain Clearly Still Not Working Properly.

Sitting on my lounge of lurgy this morning (thanks for that one, Ames), I was perusing some Facebook posts about the ethics of Islamic justice. Fell down the rabbit hole for about a half hour and then came upon this headline:

Saudi Arabia: Men ‘Behaving Like Women’ Face Flogging

upon which I flinched and said to myself, "Ouch! Imagine being flogged on your face! Oh......oh, wait......oh "face flogging", not face-flogging. Never mind."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


I write to you today from my couch of pain. I have been slain by a head cold. I have been prostrate for two days, propped up with cushions in a vain attempt to reduce the congestion.

I have that weird sensation of absolute clarity in my actual nose, but with sinuses so completely blocked, so completely pressurized, that my ears are aching and my forehead feels swollen. I feel like my head is gone and I am carrying an aquarium around on my neck. Heavy, sloshy, and slow to respond.

I have a feeling this might be just slightly related to NaNoWriMo -- I often find that, once a stressful deadline has passed, I succumb to whatever virus is currently stalking the town. In this case, it's this stupid cold.

NaNo went well, I think. The word count goal was met, but of course I haven't written "The End" yet...I am about two thirds of the way through. I have a bit of writing, and a lot of editing and reworking still to do. The book, like me, is resting for the remainder of 2011 and will be ready for another hard slog in the New Year.

I haven't started Christmas preparations feels too early. This is silly because it is only 18 days away. Most of my presents are bought, but I haven't done a scrap of cleaning and no decorating. The one exception is the Advent calendar, which of course has to be done on December 1st no matter HOW little one is in the spirit.

I was reminded of this series of posts by one of my favourite bloggers, and went to look it up for you. Lene posted several photos of her beautiful Advent calendar in December of 2007, and I think of this series every year. I was surprised to find, when I searched for it, that it was so long ago...between one thing and another, these past four years have flown by.

So enjoy Lene's lovely Advent calendar, and think of me with pity, here on my davenport of sofa of chesterfield of chesty coughs.