Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Over yonder and away.

I'm off to beautiful Vancouver for a few about that! It's an amazing thing, and even I can't believe it's true, but in 11 years of parenthood we have never been away from the kids overnight, together. He has been to conferences, and I have been to Victoria once, and to Toronto once, and that is it.

It, people.

So now we are going to spend two TWO nights in Vancouver. What's the occasion? Birthday? Anniversary?


The Davis Cup. Pro tennis in all its romantic glory.

Don't be putting any eyebrow-waggling in the comments, either. If you're a parent you'd know that the true beauty of "getaway without kids" is "watch what you want on TV" and then "sleep through the night".

Woo hoo!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Second week begins

No, this is not turning into a running blog. It's a funny scroll-down pic day.

Run one of week two today. Girlie opted out - preferred to stay home baking cookies. I said "You go, sugar. Or, I guess, stay."

Lots of exercisey-type people do things like post a picture of the sky during their run. I thought about doing that, but decided it would be more meaningful and a lot funnier if I posted pics of my hair after my run. That way, you can tell a lot of things about the run, such as what the weather was like, how sweaty I might have ended up, and even what kind of a mood I'm in.

Hair today ('scuse the blurry):
(Hat for warmth. Misshapen head? No, just my hair. What hair? THIS HAIR.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

2 and 3

So, we completed Week One. Both day 2 and day 3 were, in their own way, 2 was a raging, freezing wind- and rain-storm. I thought my daughter might decide to sit it out, but apparently all those hours on horseback in the freezing cold or pouring rain have inured her to climatic inconvenience...she was stoic. I don't like wet feet too much, but within seconds of stepping outside we were both soaked to the skin, all over.

We persevered, and triumphed. It took me 24 hours just to get warmed up after that, though.

And I was so busy cooking dinner immediately afterwards that I didn't have time to shower or even blowdry my hair. So, wringing wet with rainwater, it dried on its own. It's growing out, at an awkward length, and it's naturally curly. This is what I looked like.

But with an oversized NaNoWriMo sweatshirt, damp yoga capris and misty glasses. And alone. So, not as attractive.

Day 3 was yesterday. The challenges for that run were: not enough sleep (for me), not enough water (for both of us) and not enough food (for my daughter). Luckily it was only week 1, so we still only ran a total of 8 minutes. If it had been one of the later weeks, we'd have been exhausted.

She said to me, cautiously, as we rounded the corner of the field about midway through, "I don't feel like I can run 10K."
"Oh, I couldn't run 10K either," I said. "Not right now. Give me two months and we'll see."

So we had a little talk about the whole idea of training - you can't do X at the beginning, but you will be able to by the end - and I assured her again that she is in complete control of whether or not she participates in the race, and whether or not she continues the training schedule with me. She was so relieved - it tells me she has felt considerable anxiety about it. Not about the race, but about how excited I am about training with her. She worries that she can't drop out or she'll hurt my feelings. She is such a nice kid. "Heck," I told her, "on the day of the race you can decide you don't want to run it, and you'd rather go get an ice cream with Dad and cheer for us as we stagger over the finish line."

But, so far, all is in train and chugging along. Next time, we'll pay more attention to food and water in the preceding 24 hours, and it'll be better.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

That...that's, that sucks.

**caution - disgusting photo in this post**

***second caution - my language is about to get very Saxon***

I'm making turkey vegetable soup for dinner tonight. It's a proper January day: miserable, with a chilly relentless rain, a dark and leaden sky. It has been 2 degrees above zero all day.

January it may be, but in this coastal climate my garden herbs are still flourishing. I put on my wellies and headed out into the wet, a pair of scissors in hand, to snip a few stalks of dark green, rich-smelling thyme, and some spiky, rain-beaded rosemary.

Pretty, isn't it? Still alive, just sleeping.

Then I saw this.

I'm sorry my friends, but I have to use this word. I know it's a rude one, but this is a rude situation.

It's dog shit.

Dog shit right on my beautiful, majestic, English thyme.

To get this in perspective for you, this dog (not my dog, by the way) has shat, somehow, ten inches off the ground. This dog -- this accursed, ill-bred, malicious, and apparently acrobatic dog -- has managed to cover 30% of a large thyme plant with a squashy, soft, smelly, slippery, creamy grey mound of shit.

This is not a low-lying ground cover, my friends. This is a large, potted, three-year-old English thyme.

Moreover, this is a food plant. I cannot simply scrape it off, give it a good hosing, and let it carry on.

I have taken pruners and excised the thyme that Cerberus befouled, and of course prudence demanded that I take every last little bit of plant which may have been actually shat on, which may have bent to graze the enormous grey slippery shit in the wind storms which have ravaged for the past month, or which the winter rains may have dripped onto, having first been puddled on top of the shit. There was a lot, my people...enough to completely fill a large plastic grocery bag. To fill it with shit and thyme.

There's a poem in there somewhere.

To the person whose dog jumped my fence, wandered my backyard and shat on my English thyme, shame on you. Shame on you and your whelp of Satan.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Week 1, Day 1

Just came in from my first training "run"...I'm using the quotations because it was really more of a walk with teeny bits of acceleration.

I have an interesting (well, I say "interesting") thought process going on, consisting of being embarrassed that I can't just RUN 10 KILOMETERS. The embarrassment only applies to YOU people - the blog readers.

I find myself not wanting to tell you that I am starting the Couch to 10K - I'd rather wait until May, and tell you that I HAVE DONE the 10K.

Very strange.

Must be that fear of failing I mentioned the other day.

Overall, it felt good. Here are my impressions.

- I felt like I could have run a lot more, which is a good sign that the program may not be as entirely too much for me as I had feared. I need all 13 weeks, though, just to make sure I don't get shin splints.

- The running segments felt better in the last half than in the first half.

- It was so great to be in the outdoors again...I hadn't realized how house-bound I have been feeling.

- My daughter did well: did I tell you that Charlotte is doing the 10K with me? She is 11 - the one who recently broke her collarbone.

Thanks for all your comments on the "Should I or shouldn't I?" post. I really appreciate your cheering me on!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fear itself?

My friend asked me if I wanted to sign up for the Times Colonist 10K with her, in preparation for another event I'm planning for next year.

Thing is, the other event is a walk - I'm not insane enough to try running 64K. BUT, my friend wants to RUN this 10K, not walk it.

I don't know whether I can do it. And by that I mean, I don't know whether I have the grit and bloodymindedness that it will take to get out there three times a week for the next 13 weeks, to teach myself to run 10K. I'm afraid to try.


I wish I had a partner...a nice, sedentary partner who is starting from nil, just like me, and who will encourage me to get out and move my lazy arse despite the miserable winter weather. (The friend I'm doing the 10K with doesn't live in my town, so she's out.)

Should I try it? Or, should I lie down on the couch with another cinnamon bun until the urge passes?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Twang. Ow.

Guess what I got for Christmas?

That's right - I got a guitar!

It pretty much looks exactly like this one.

I do have a busy life, believe it or not, but I am managing to spend at least an hour a day, most days, noodling around on this thing. I break it up into 20 minute sessions, though, because of the intense pain. I find that the sound lets me know when to stop playing...when the bass strings start to twang and sound messy, it means my fingers are hurting too much to depress the string completely down onto the fret, and that means "Go do something else for a few hours."

When I was in Grade 9 we took guitar as part of Music class. It was a small school, so we all borrowed guitars, and Mr. Falk spent a couple of months teaching us C-A-G-E-D. I'm glad I'm not starting out from scratch. I've never had a guitar of my own, though, so it was a pretty exciting Christmas morning. I immediately downloaded Chord Free! for my phone, so no matter where I am, I can look up any chord  I don't know. Yay!

And, at about 11 AM on the 25th, I printed off a few sheets from my new favourite site. All I had to go was Google "folk guitar tabs" and look at the untold wealth I stumbled upon!

Actually, believe it or not, I got TWO guitars for Christmas -- the new western-style Yamaha from Mr HSBoots, and an ancient, vintage, beat-up classical model from my friend, who has spent the last two years listening to me moan and complain that I wanted a guitar to learn on, and take camping. "Free or cheap," I kept saying. "Keep an eye on the Buy & Sell for me."

The second-hand one is not in working order yet (needs to be restrung) but I am getting along okay on the Yamaha, which has great resonance and I suspect, in the hands of an actual Musician, would sound nice. In the hands of Me, though, it sounds like this:

Cool, huh?!

Only drawback is, with those fingers I can't knit lace anymore...for the time being, anyway.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Close Your Eyes, and Think of Frank Lloyd Wright

The problem with decluttering books is, in one way or another they're (almost) all worth keeping.

I have a slight book problem in my house. I don't know how many volumes I have...maybe 2,000?

I know I should get rid of some of them, but I just can't bring myself to make any real dent in my collection.

I tried to do a bit of purging this afternoon, and after an hour spent fruitlessly turning over volume after volume, I realized the key to getting rid of books: DON'T open them.

Because when you open them, even the ones you are positive you'll never get around to reading, or which will be boring or pointless, it's all to easy to be snared. I fall right in, manage to convince myself I'll get around to reading the entire thing someday, and reshelve it. I'm calling this disorder print-hypnosis. Or hypnoprint.

Look what I found today, in the pile of things I was going to get rid of.

Things to Say to the Hoi Polloi
I do not have any spare change.
Est mihi nullus nummus superfluus.
If Caesar were alive, you'd be chained to an oar.
Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris.
Hidden Insults
podex perfectus es
What You Say It Means:
You did a terrific job.
What It Really Means:
You Are A Total Asshole.

This was from "Latin For All Occasions", by Henry Beard. And in the section entitled "In The Vatican", there was a note from the previous owner of this book, who has apparently elected, out of all the pungent possibilities therein, to learn the phrase "ubi possum potiri petasi similis isti?" -- "Where can I get a hat like that?"

This cool little 1938 volume, unassumingly bound (like all good books), bears a stamp reading "Vancouver Public Library". The title is "The Complete Book of Dreams", by Edward Frank Allen.

Suspicion is indicated by a dream in which a fan dancer performs. Either a man or a woman having this dream should beware of unseemly conduct that may lead to criticism from jealous people.
FAWN (See Deer)
A young married person dreaming of a fawn has every reason to expect that his or her lover will show the utmost in faithfulness.
If a maiden dreams of drinking goat's milk, it is a sign that she will marry for money and that she will be successful in finding at the same time the man she loves.
Nudity in dreams has many beautiful implications, whether it is of a man, woman, or child. For one to dream of admiring his or her own nudity, perdicts the loss of a lover through vain ideas; but if a person is disgusted with the appearance of the body, it foretells scandal and lovers' quarrels. If one dreams of swimming in the nude, it is a prediction of pagan pleasures which will react unfavorably. To dream of seeing men or women swimming in the nude, or as members of a nudist colony, is a sign of a new and exciting love affair.

(By the way, if you have a recurrent or significant dream, leave me a quick note in the comments. I'll look it up in this book, and give you the interpretation thereof. mene mene tekel upharsin.)

"The way I've been thinking about it, riding my bike around here, is, You ride by all these pastures and they've got these big granite boulders in the middle of them. You've got a big boulder sitting there on this rolling hill. You can't just go by this boulder. You've got to try to push it. So you start rocking it, and you get a bunch of friends, and they start rocking it, and finally it starts moving. And then you realize, Maybe this wasn't the best idea. That's what we're doing as a society. This climate, if it starts rolling, we don't really know where it will stop."

From Field Notes from a Catastrophe, by Elizabeth Kolbert

Being married just meant vexatious household responsibilities. As for children, who wanted them? They interfered with the lady's health and amusement for several months before birth and, though she had a foster-mother for them immediately afterwards, it took time to recover from the wretched business of childbirth, and it often happened that her figure was ruined after having more than a couple...And a lady's husband, if she was fond of him, could not be expected to keep off other women throughout the time of her pregnancy, and anyway he paid very little attention to the child when it was born. And then, as if all this were not enough, foster-mothers were shockingly careless nowadays and the child often died. What a blessing it was that those Greek doctors were so clever, if the thing had not gone too far - they could rid any lady of an unwanted child in two or three days, and nobody be any the worse or wiser.

From I, Claudius by Robert Graves. (Though that quotation is spookily apt for current times, as well as ancient Roman.)

A culture which lives through oral tradition will disintegrate when the language dies. But through that which has been preserved of Orkney folklore, we glimpse a time past where beliefs and values coincided with the laws of behaviour and the way of life to form a consistent pattern. The course of life - from the cradle to the grave - was defined through established and accepted rites. The belief in a world where rocks and oceans, plants and animals were endowed with life as man himself, and the belief that people were surrounded by good and evil forces with which they had to learn to co-exist, survived side by side with the teachings of the Church into this century. Man used both steel and the cross to protect himself against evil forces.

From The Orkney Story, by Liv Kjorsvik Schei and Gunnie Moberg


The shades of night were falling as Adam and Grandpa came up the road. Hatless, wearing an old police tunic open and unbuttoned, in place of his lost jacket, Grandpa looked proud but subdued; there was a gleam in his eye - a chink in his armour which betrayed an inward apprehension. As I crouched at the parlour window in anxious solitude, a glimpse was enough to send me scudding upstairs to the refuge of the old man's room.
There, listening tensely, I heard the sound of the front door, followed by a dreadful chaos, filled with loud recriminations from Adam, Mama's tears and lamentations, Papa's whining abuse, but not a word, not a whisper from Grandpa.
At last he came upstairs, moving slowly, and entered his room. He was sadly tarnished; his beard needed trimming; he exhaled strange and uncomfortable odours.
He threw me a quick glance, began to potter about the room, trying unsuccessfully to hum, pretending not to care. Then he picked up his battered and still sodden hat, which, earlier that day, Mama had placed reverently upon the bed. He considered it for a moment, turned artlessly to me.
"It'll stand reblocking. It was always a grand hat." [ubi possum potiri petasi similis isti?]

From The Green Years, by A.J. Cronin, 1945


But why do we rush the other way? Why do we have to hurry to the edge and look over? As tourists we run to the beach, to headlands like this - Land's End, Finisterre, Fin do Mundo - following some atavistic instinct to see where our world finishes and where, beyond the horizon,  possible worlds begin, in the hope of finding the best of them.

From Backwards out of the Big World; A Voyage into Portugal, by Paul Hyland.


What have you got sitting on your shelves, that you are sure you will never read?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Je suis La Misérable.

My husband keeps telling me "Apparently that movie sucks," but I think he's just messing with me.

Anyhow, it just arrived in my town last Friday - "my town" is not renowned for its love of artistic film. Considering this fact, and judging from the position of the words "Les Miserables" on the cineplex marquee, it will be in one of the little, crappy theatres with poor sound. And I may be an optimist by nature, but I know enough not to pay $12 to watch Les Misérables on a second-rate sound system.

Bring on the Blu Ray! Then I can have a big drink, pause it for loo trips, wear my pajamas, and bawl like a baby if bawling is called for.

Apparently I have to wait until March.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Well, that was fun.

Posting every day was interesting. It encouraged renewed activity among a couple of the family blogs (Ox and Gwen), but it was also a little demanding.

I found that it was easy, once I got started, to "find something to say" every day. It was a struggle at first but quickly became habit. Once I let myself post whatever came into my head, pretty much, no matter how irrelevant or boring, it was simplicity itself. (Wry smile.)

The down side is that it was harder to find time or mental space to post things that were in any way meaningful. Plus the fact that, if I DID write something a little more thought-provoking, or a little longer, it was discouraging to know that it would be pushed down the page within 24 hours, to make room for another bit of inane nonsense.

Another down side is that comments dropped to almost nil, so the whole thing started to feel less like a conversation and more like I was perched on a stage in some dismal back alley bar, doing jazz hands and tap dance, sweating nervously, peering through footlights to find only a few bored, uninterested patrons scattered among mostly-vacant, sticky tables.

Yes, really.

So [bowing], I'm not doing daily posts anymore. And, like many cool things, it might turn out to be all the better for being in the past.

Next post - a little post-Christmas knitting.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

She's an unqualified success.

My eight-year-old wanted to play with a neighbour kid, also homeschooled. The other child's mom called out to us, "She has to do three sheets first before she can play."

My daughter came back in the house and said to me, "Sheets?"

"Worksheets," I said. "She has to do three worksheets before she's allowed to play."



"What's a worksheet?"

This is how I felt.
File:Come On.jpg

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

My dirty little secret...

...every once in a while, I go to my Google blog reader, see something like "187 new items", and I click "Mark All As Read". Then I shut my laptop and go have a chocolate, feeling Oh, ever so free.

Monday, January 07, 2013

"This shooow goes ever on and on..."

I went to see "The Hobbit". And I nearly fell out of my seat.

From boredom.

And irritation.


  • THE DWARVES. I liked everything about them. Good casting, good dialogue, good costumes, good jokes. And that "to find our old forgotten gold" song was a great fireside moment. 
  • BILBO. The perfect mix of deference and humour, reluctance and courage. Well acted and well-cast...but then I love Martin Freeman in anything. (Dent Arthur Dent) And... 
  • RICHARD ARMITAGE. I could watch him get a filling done, that's how interesting he is to me. Although it's a little disconcerting finding myself physically attracted to Thorin Oakenshield, who I've always loathed. 
  • THE KNITTING. Oh, the knitting. The dwarves are covered in the stuff, and it's all dreamy and so very, very copyable. 

THE BAD: Where to begin? Where, oh where, oh where to begin. All right, let's begin with:

  • GALADRIEL. I love Cate Blanchet, but Galadriel's stupid faux-sonorous voice, with that ridiculous habit of unnecessary telepathy, has got to stop. In that one scene, where she paces around Elrond's council chamber like a restless spirit, she is WEARING LIFTS. Seriously. They have jacked up her shoes by a good two inches, presumably to give her a more ethereal, Elven look. It's the stupidest thing I've ever seen, except for that laughable, noodley hair of hers. 
  • THE PLOT PACE. Seriously? 9 hours (total) for a 260 page book? I was checking my watch. During The Hobbit, a movie I've been looking forward to seeing since 2009. WHILE WATCHING RICHARD ARMITAGE WEARING FURS LIKE A SHORTER, SEXIER CONAN, I was checking my watch. That's how much this stupid movie drags.
  • All the EXTRA CRAP they stuck in from the Appendices, just to give it more run-time so they could release three, three-hour movies instead of one three-hour movie OR, okay, if you insist, two two-hour movies. It's a CASH GRAB and I hate cash grabs.

So are you getting that I hated The Hobbit: An Unexpectedly Boring Ordeal?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Twelfth Night

Today is Epiphany, the last day of Christmas, the day commemorating the visit of the Magi. I usually take my tree down on January 2, but this year I was enjoying it so much I left it up. So today's the day it comes down, and winter begins where Christmas left off.

Mum and I went shopping on December 29, which last year I vowed I wouldn't do. It wasn't too bad - not as bad as last year when it wiped out all my Christmas spirit. However, it was pretty depressing. By Boxing Day, it seems, everyone has moved on. I often hear people say, in passing, "I'm SO glad Christmas is over."

Of course, it isn't over until today, January 6, Epiphany.

The problem is, naturally, that Christmas is primarily a commercial holiday. So after 4.30 on December 24, all the spending is over until the New Year's Eve appy/liquor store wave hits.

I realised this year that, as a mother, I don't really feel like it's Christmas - I certainly don't get a Christmas "break" or "holiday", as such - until the evening of December 25th. When everyone stands up from the feast I made, and my husband goes into the kitchen to wash the dishes while I waddle into the living room to fall somnolent on the couch, then I can actually be "off". The kids play with their new toys, or read their books; no one's hungry (no one will be hungry for some time); and all the buying, cooking, baking and decorating is as done as it needs to be.

The last few years it has seemed a little unfair that I am running like a madwoman the entire four weeks leading up to Dinner, but I've changed my perspective: now I think it's perfectly wonderful to have the real Christmas season - all twelve days of it - to do what I like with. I knit, read, do a 1000-piece art puzzle (this year, "The Intercepted Love Letter"), eat leftovers, drink lots of coffee and cider, sleep at odd hours, and gaze in delight at my beautiful tree.

So every year I'll quietly enjoy Christmas, celebrating it all the way from December 25 to January 6, until Business ("Business?!?! Mankind is their Business!!!!") comes up with some way to commercialise Twelfth Night, or starts a "Three Gifts on Epiphany" ad campaign. In the meantime, let's keep lighting our Christmas candles and brewing our New Year Wassail and enjoying the last few chocolates in the box.

Because despite the insane presence of Valentine's paraphernalia in stores, TONIGHT is the last night of Christmas!