Thursday, January 31, 2008

soon-to-be-spring shoes

I promised you a closer look at the shoes I wore to the opera on Saturday, and I keep my promises. Here they are as worn that night, with sparkly tights.

But in these photos taken out on my deck, you can see that these are really a versatile shoe, and that while they can work for a sparkly winter outing, they will be even happier come spring (as will I!). I'm loving this gently rounded toe, very similar to that on my Frye boots I also love the colour combination -- at four colours, these could be very busy shoes, but because the colours are all quite neutral, I think they will be fairly versatile (famous last words, right before she heads out to shop for navy, silver, and gold additions to the wardrobe -- hope not!). And while these were sparkly enough to make me feel festive on Saturday, the metallics are matte enough that they won't blind on a sunny day in May (oh, a sunny day in May -- can't wait!).
And I love the striping on the heel! As for the height of the heels -- perfect. It gives me some (height that is) while being very comfortable to walk in -- we walked from our apartment to the opera on Saturday night, a 30-minute walk, and although the shoes were brand new, I had no problems at all. I bought them at B2 in Vancouver, if you're curious, and they're by Jeffrey Campbell. Reasonable for the style and the apparent quality (apparent in the "so far, so good" way, having stood up to a solid walk in the rain).

HAve to mention here that I am now re-writing a Post-that-Got-Swallowed and it's not so much fun as writing the first time!

For now, it's back to boots, boots, and more boots, for trudging through snow, rain, ice, and freezing rain -- it's been a long, dark month and we've still got February ahead. Plus I was woken last night by that very sore throat that signals the beginning of a cold. But I've got spring shoes just waiting to be taken out in the sunshine, so I'm going to believe that it's coming. And I've still got You Made My Day awards to give out, after having my day made by Jillian, who surprised me with a happy-making badge. So it's going to be upbeat, upbeat, upbeat around here -- hindsight has shown me that this is the way to go (hey, should I add that to my list?)

And speaking of Jillian, if you've come to me from her blog, Sknitty, you might be looking for knitting. I promise you, it does happen around here, even if I haven't posted much lately. Soon to come: updates on my Dollar and a Half Cardigan, some legwarmers for my daughter, and another cute Tulip Cardigan.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I've learned a few things . . .

As I mentioned the other day, Une Femme tagged me to participate in a meme, Lessons in Hindsight. Thinking about this has been an interesting endeavour, especially since I have mixed feelings about the value of hindsight. But for what it's worth, here is my list of a few things I've learned so far:

1. Let me begin by saying that something I've learned -- through hindsight? -- is that I'm not sure how useful hindsight is. Your own mistakes can be very valuable ways of learning how to deal with what life hands you. I was blown away several years ago when my then 20-year old daughter, her cook's papers in hand, pleased because she felt "good to go," exulted about the world and life in front of her: the way she phrased it was that she was young enough to make mistakes and still recover. Yes, as a parent this sentiment clearly made me quiver, but barring a few mistakes which could have set her back very seriously, she was quite right. She tends to learn experientially, and while I would wish she could learn from my experience, and while she is getting somewhat better about consulting those of us with relevant experience, she tends to make much more risky decisions than I ever would, and so far, she's not doing too badly. It took me a while to learn this, so I count it as one of my most valuable lessons about hindsight.

2. On a somewhat similar note, I have learned gradually that the children you might predict will grow into juvenile delinquents quite often surprise you. Two young fellows from our old neighbourhood, for example, who all the neighbours despaired of for their absolute lack of constraint -- one of them, at six, startled me with a question in my upstairs hallway -- he had let himself in! But both seem to have grown into solid citizens, representing a phenomenon I have learned to recognize: we tend to judge children and young adults by how they impinge on our lives, failing to see them in the fuller context which might give us more faith. We're also quick to judge others' parenting, not always with enough information to do that. I've learned to reserve judgement, if possible.

3. I've also learned that a bit of praise or encouragement is welcomed by parents, who are often concerned about how well they're doing. Just remarking on a parents' patience or even just offering a sympathetic comment about how tough it is to manage an over-tired toddler on a bus can go a long way to reinforcing good parenting.

4. One of the most important things I've slowly learned is that no matter how strongly I believe in an issue or how well-informed I might be about it, there is nothing to be gained in arguing with someone who is not motivated to listen. Some people get joy simply from the act of arguing, but for me, it's about an exchange of information and ideas with the possibility that either of us might learn to see in a new light. If that's not a mutual position, I just let go now.

5. The closest I would get to offering practical advice to a young adult would be to say that buying a house early (I was 24, Paul was 26, our daughter was 1) was the best financial decision we ever made, and has led to the relative financial security we now enjoy. I would quickly qualify that advice by acknowledging that these are very different times -- houses are much more expensive (although interest rates are so much lower -- our first mortage was at 10.5%; my sister's was once at 18%!). I'd also point out that one of my neighbours thinks that youth should not be wasted on paying down a mortgage -- it's all about perspective!

6. In a similar vein, I will never, ever regret that I had my children young (my oldest was born when I was 23, my youngest when I was 32), even though it meant that I got a late start career-wise. For me, in hindsight, this decision was one of the best I've made. Again, it's not something I'd necessarily recommend, given the necessary tradeoffs, but it worked for me.

7. And, in hindsight, while some recommend against marrying early, I married at 21, and have so far enjoyed 33 years of marriage with a great guy. I'm glad none of my kids married so early, but my daughter has now been married for over three years (having lived together for twelve) to her high-school sweetheart, and they show every sign of having a lasting relationship. Again, a very individual decision, but my hindsight suggests that it can work.

8. I spent so many years feeling incomplete and concerned that I didn't "know what I wanted to be when I grew up" and sharing that frustration with family and friends. In hindsight, I wish I'd appreciated more how rich my life already was and not worried about what I saw as a lack (of education, of career, of status too, I admit).

9. I also wish I'd known, during the miserable years of trying to complete my dissertation, that if I did the work, I'd get it done. The process involved so much self-doubt, psychologically excruciating and often debilitating, yet when I look back at the actual research and writing, I sometimes wonder what the problem was. The work itself could probably have been done in half the time if not for the agonizing.

10. Perhaps the biggest thing I've learned so far is that time does heal, that we can survive or overcome blows or challenges. Although we've been very fortunate in the past several decades, I've experienced a few tough losses, and I've seen friends experience devastating ones, and even these are followed by surprising, often inspiring, recoveries. As for the smaller upsets -- having the car broken into and CD panel ripped out; finding the boat motor cowling badly bashed after a storm; finding that you owe money on this year's income tax; finding out that your supervisor's trashed your latest chapter -- I know from experience that by three days that sick-to-the-stomach sensation will have gone and the budget begins to adjust. Meanwhile, bubble baths, good magazines, a new mystery novel, or a DVD, chocolate, and lots of music help get me over the hump. (Not to trivialize more difficult losses where the time frame is much bigger and the depression requires other help.)

Because this is a fairly demanding meme, I'm not going to tag anyone with it, but would invite you to participate if it intrigues you -- if you do, let me know, and I'll very happily link to that post.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

After a great weekend, someone Made My Day

I'm still trying to think about what lessons hindsight might allow me to pass on for the meme Une Femme tagged me with the other day. Meanwhile, can I tell you a bit about my busy weekend? After I last posted, I headed up to Robson Street thinking I might stop in at Club Monaco and also take one more look at the dress I resisted (at Banana Republic) last weekend. Instead, at Aritzia, where the spring clothes aren't in yet and the discounts getting better and better on what's still left of the winter lines, I found a James Perse, long-sleeved, grey, drapey/boat-necked tunic-length t-shirt, regular just under $200 (who could/would pay that for a t-shirt?!) for $70. Score! Solved my bad packing dilemma and added something to my wardrobe that will get lots of use. Also found a sueded silk navy dress that feels very me. I love it, pockets and all, and I love the sale price -- also $70!! Decided not to worry if it's too short or too young -- this is a style I've always loved and I feel good in, my guy really likes me in it, and that's good enough for me. I wore it to the opera Saturday night with this great necklace made by colleagues of mine who have a jewelry sale every year to raise money for a scholarship fund -- this one is made with blue tiger's eye that you really have to see up close to appreciate.

I could have managed with the shoes I had packed, but then I spotted these in B2, right next to Aritzia, and couldn't resist -- they worked with the dress, but they're really waiting to step out into springtime, just like me. I'll show you a close-up later, perhaps, but meanwhile here's a glimpse -- and can you tell I flashed out with metallic hose (there's metallic leather trim on the shoes as well, silver and gold both). Shopping done, I headed back to the apartment and marked a stack of papers (4th-years, much easier going, and it was a short, summarizing assignment, so pretty straightforward). Then we'd arranged to meet my daughter at Kingyo Izakaya on Denman where, unfortunately, no reservations were available but where they thought they could fit us in if we were there early. Nothing cool about being there when the doors open, I know, but we did get a seat, ordered sake and a few dishes, and waited for Bronwen who got there about 6:15, 45 minutes after us. Much teasing ensued about the effects of aging, the generation gap, etc., although Bronwen had to concede that our uncool early dining snagged us a table in an always-busy restaurant. The food is fabulous here and we had a great visit eating, people-watching (the storm of shouted Japanese as guests enter and leave is part of the fun at an Izakaya), sipping our sake, and catching up on family, friends, and career news. Strolled up Davie, picking up baklava at Stephos which we took back to the apartment to have with tea. Then, although we'd decided dinner with Bronwen precluded seeing Juno --since we'd miss the early show and the late show was just too much of a stretch -- we decided to show the girl we weren't all that old, and headed over the bridge for a 9:50 showing. Folks, it was almost midnight when we got home. Talk about the wild life!

I loved everything about Juno, perhaps especially the animation at the beginning and the soundtrack. Have some minor concerns about the possible conferring of a cool factor on teenage pregnancy but I'm so pleased to see this model of acceptance on screen, at least. And to see an image of a funny, bright, thoughtful, resilient, wise young woman up there -- so many of them are, in my experience (and I did raise three young women myself).

This post is already so long, I suspect there's no one reading anymore (I could have some fun testing out that theory, couldn't I?! ), but I have to say that The Vancouver Opera production of The Italian Girl in Algiers was so much fun, so very entertaining, absolutely worth every penny you might spend on a ticket -- if you possibly can, go! you'll love it! I watched several young men, dressed up to placate girlfriends or wives, surprised to find themselves laughing at the campy humour. The music is infectious, the set design was amusing -- much of it worked like a pop-up book! -- and the props were just giddy fun.

And finally, look what Jillian over at Sknitty has awarded me: a "You Make My Day" award. I'm so pleased. Although I can tell people visit my site thanks to my statcounter and, especially, thanks to the comments visitors leave, I sometimes wonder if I'm just blathering away here. Knowing that someone with as polished, thoughtful, and entertaining a blog as Jillian's enjoys visiting mine really encourages and pleases me. Thanks, Jillian. I'm going to check out all ten of the blogs she's chosen to give this award to; as well, I'm looking forward to passing this award along to ten blogs that make my day. Choosing will be tough, but I'll try to get to it this week.

Friday, January 25, 2008

wisdom, language, and bad packing!

I'm in Vancouver again this weekend as we're going to see the opera The Italian Girl in Algiers tomorrow night. It's freezing outside but very sunny right now so I think I'll head out for a bit of window-shopping and maybe a coffee before I get back to my stack of marking. A bit frustrated to find that I obviously focused too much on what to pack for wearing to the opera and completely forgot to pack tops. So I have two pairs of pants plus the jeans I leave at the apartment, but only yesterday's sweater which doesn't really work with the jeans and really doesn't work with my skinny black pants that tend to be my Vanc'r staple. Might be the perfect excuse to pick up the sweater I resisted even trying on at Club Monaco last week. Or the perfect chance to prove I can manage a weekend in Vanc'r with a very limited wardrobe!
While I'm out and about, I'll be trying to see what wisdom I've learned so far, because Une Femme d'un Certain Age has tagged me with such a meme. I'm not sure I'll be able to reach the standard she's set: you should check out her list. Une Femme only uses the best four-letter Anglo-Saxon words judiciously, when their emphatic nature is demanded and when the departure from her normally elegant prose hammers home her point. Here she wants to tell her 20-year old self (and the contemporary versions of that self) that "You can't fuck someone into loving you," and we older-and-wiser types have to nod and say, "You tell 'em, sister!" sadly aware of how often the attempt has been made.
(For the record, I think that must be the first appearance of "the f-word" on my blog, although I use it very comfortably and all-too-regularly in my daily life. When I speak it, I'm always aware of audience so that I only use it in front of a class if I'm quoting or if I'm discussing the word as word. I wouldn't use it in front of my mother, mother-in-law, or even some of my colleagues, and since I put my blog writing out here for a very broad audience, I'm so far choosing to find language that makes the point without offending. Une Femme's use is a perfect example of when this word is the only word that will do; coyness would be the greater offense here.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

frank-ly, my dear . . .

Way back when, shortly after I started this blog, Paul and I visited the Red Rooster Winery, and saw Michael Hermesh's sculpture, The Baggage Handler. I posted not only about my impressions of the sculpture, saying I found it simultaneously moving and comic, but also offered a survey of the history of public response to the work. What follows is a condensed version of that earlier post . . . After it was installed in the Okanagan City of Penticton in 2005, city officials received complaints about Frank's nudity. Trying to accommodate the city, the artist affixed a metal plate to cover the offending area, but it was removed almost immediately as aesthetically disjunctive, interfering with the viewer's appreciation of the artwork. Over the next several weeks, while the sculpture remained in place, it was vandalized regularly, most strikingly by having the genitalia removed. Meanwhile, the mayor and councillors claimed to be offended that they hadn't been more clearly informed that the commissioned piece would be nude. Although they had seen a model before the sculpture was built, the mayor said of the model's diminuitive nature that "even if he had a telescope, he wouldn't have been able to ascertain whether or not the figure was clothed." Another newspaper article quoted him as saying that he's "not opposed to nudity, per se" and expressing his concern that the poor man (Frank, that is) is unclothed in the minus eight degree weather.

The whole affair was so ridiculous and distasteful for me as a British Columbian that I was very pleased to see in today's news that Hermesh has been awarded $14,000 in damages in a suit he brought against the City of Penticton. Meanwhile, Frank is happily ensconced in a gorgeous setting in the Naramata winery, Red Rooster. I'll drink to that!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

clear and cold here, but lighter

It's cold here on the West Coast: seven degrees below zero, Celsius, last night, so the plumbing was carefully monitored. Taps came on with no problem this morning, always a relief (what we take for granted, no?), but I notice that the goldfish in my pond are locked in by ice. Indeed, when we took our little ferry across the harbour yesterday, we were breaking a thin layer of saltwater ice -- that only happens very occasionally. But cold like this is generally accompanied here by very clear skies and last night's full moon was wickedly beautiful. My walk to school will be cold, but I'll be dry and enjoy the sunshine.

I took the photo above at about 7:15 this morning and while it was not yet light, it wasn't dark anymore either. In fact, official sunrise time this morning, according to the Weather Office of the Government of Canada , was 8:00. Early last week, it was 8:11, so we're moving in the right direction -- light is coming! spring is on its way.

In the meantime, just to keep us all happy, here's a little smile courtesy of Misstic, a well-known graffiti artist (among other things -- it's really worth checking out her website) working in Paris. Her art pops up all over the city and I began collecting photos of it last trip and hope to continue this in the spring. I particularly enjoy this work, found outside a gallery wall somewhere near Montmartre -- at least, I remember finding it as we walked back from Montmatre, perhaps somewhere around the Place Pigalle. The sentiment of leaving Lacan his lacunas appeals to me, having wrestled considerably with Monsieur Lacan's work in the process of my dissertation.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

hats, movies, drinks, sushi, and music, glorious music

Yes, I finished Koolhaas, wove the ends in, and even took a self-portrait wearing it. Not sure if I'll keep it or put it in the gift pile. I used a leftover skein of Diamond Yarns Alpaca Peru and I love it in this pattern -- the alpaca provides enough stitch definition yet has a subtle halo, and it's lovely and warm. If I knit this pattern again, I'll do one more cable pattern -- here I did 4 rather than 5.

And I'm kicking myself that I didn't add this leftover skein to my Mission Possible list 'cause now I could be ticking one more item off. Oh well!

Random weekend items:

An interior designer writing in The Vancouver Sun on Friday about how to decorate a small space effectively was making a food analogy to illustrate the concept of combining too many disparate items. Her insufficiently edited menu included the following delightful dish: cocovan! At least her spelling reflects a decent French pronunciation, but I just see a brown Hippie vehicle.

Never did make it to see Juno, as I mentioned planning to. After a great visit with my soon-defending friend over drinks at The Sylvia (a fabulous ivy-clad, super-reasonably-priced Vancouver institution with bar seats right across the road from English Bay), I realized we'd already crammed so much into the weekend that I could let Juno wait. Instead, we walked a little over a block from our place to a new Japanese restaurant on Pacific and checked out their sushi -- nothing remarkable but the sashimi, rolls, gyoza, and prawn tempura were good, and service was very friendly. I suspect this will become a new fallback option for easy neighbourhood meals.

Then we went home to watch Daniel Auteil in Mon meilleur ami. Cute narrative, decent acting, some aural practice for our French (yes, we use the English subtitles, but we try our best to get the French as well)
and, of course, the added fun of recognizing places we'd walked, such as over this bridge.

Also managed to get to the Roy Arden show which closed today at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I wish I'd got there earlier and then managed a repeat visit or two. Some of the things he does with colour are truly stunning, both colour and composition. And the cataloguing of Vancouver houses, changing streetscapes, the way his photographer's eye finds evidence in the urban wilds of habitats of the homeless. I bought the catalogue, partly because I feel as if I should know more about Arden's work and that of the Vancouver school, through the several essays included, but also just to spend more time with the work than I was able to yesterday.

Anyone who is in Vancouver between now and March might want to drive out to the Surrey Art Gallery to check out Janet Cardiff's sound installation, Forty-Part Motet. It's a gorgeous and engaging work consisting of 40 audio speakers, each of which plays a recording of a separate singer taking on a part of 16th-century composer Thomas Tallis's piece, Spem in Alium, and among which the listener can move, shifting to experience the effects of such movement on the received and perceived sound. Admittedly, the setting will not be comparable to the Rideau Chapel in the National Art Gallery in Ottawa where we heard this a few years back, but it's still a wonderful opportunity to experience technology enhancing the listening experience, warming it somehow, to pinpoint the individuals within the massed sound, and then to fold the individual voices back into a glorious whole. This installation has visited MOMA in New York as well as The Tate Gallery in London; it's the first time it's been in BC, and I'm not sure when, if ever, it will be back, so get yourselves out to Surrey if you can.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Colour, please!

It's been dreary and cold this last week on the West Coast, and I've been dreaming about spring in Paris, especially since The Sartorialist is posting street fashion from that city right now following the same défilés as Café Mode is covering, and then Une Femme added links to a site that features Paris fashion for travelers planning to visit (and wanting to know how to pack and to dress while there). We've been thinking about getting the dates organized for our trip this May/June, but it still seems too far off. Nevertheless, all this chat has me thinking about spring days wandering the Paris streets and coming across such delights as this charming graffiti on this venerable old building. Unfortunately, I didn't note where I found it, precisely, but I know it's Left Bank, somewhere between the Eiffel Tower and St. Germain (closer to the latter) maybe on Rue Grenelle or Rue de la Université. Here's a better view of this cheery, cheeky face, irresistible on a winter's day far from Paris.

Trying to find some colour in the winter, I checked out the shops yesterday and made a few (ahem) purchases at Banana Republic where there's a slightly nautical thing going on with some fun punches of colours -- some citrus which doesn't really work for my colouring, but some of the newer blues as well. Tried on a great graphic-patterned black and white dress -- sheath/shift with great length sleeves, short, but not too (important at my age, even for these Pilates-toned pipes -- kidding!), but left it for now. Prices always drop so much over a few weeks at BR that I thought I'd see what happens. As well, it's very cute and quite flattering, but it's also perhaps too distinctive to be very versatile in my wardrobe -- you know, "Oh my god, is she wearing that black-and-white dress again?"

Now I'm off for a run in the drear and then we're going to see if our crèpe place is open after their long New Year's break. Have to get to the Roy Arden show at the Vancouver Art Gallery 'cause this is the last weekend it's on. Then I'm very excited 'cause I'm meeting an almost-ready-to-defend-her dissertation friend for drinks at The Sylvia later -- haven't seen her for way too long so it'll be quite the chat! And planning to see Juno this evening (saw No Country last night - whew! hard-hitting, Coen brothers!). So there's the schedule and whoops! where's my naptime?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mission Possible 2008: the stash exposed

A few years ago at the annual January sale at my LYS (Local Yarn Shop for non-knitters), I overheard one woman say to her friend, "If I die suddenly, make sure you get into that shelf at the top of my closet, you know, over my blouses . . . there's another three boxes of stash in there that George doesn't know about." Lots of nervous laughter in the shop: we all knew that she was at least partly serious. While some knitters might buy their yarn project by project (in fact, I was like that for years, having no extra budget for stash at all), many of us are like magpies, having to take home new goodies, sure that we'll find a pattern to suit them someday. Or, like me, we buy an extra skein because our substitution calculations for a pattern are tentative and we don't want to run out and risk a dye lot change. Then the pattern turns out to need less than required and we've got two, or even three, extra skeins.
So those of you who know me, yet were surprised to learn how full my shoe closets are (as if I have such a luxury as shoe closets!), may begin guessing at the size of my yarn stash. Those who don't know me may begin to feel as if they do, especially if they're knitters or, perhaps, collectors of any kind, depending on how they evaluate said stash.
Although my yarn collection has been growing over the past few years, I haven't felt any compulsion to catalogue it, as I could on the brilliant knitting database site that is Ravelry (still in its Beta stage and not open to the public, but you can request an invitation and get in the queue). I did start trying to knit more and more from stash in the last year, especially for Christmas gifts such as wristwarmers, hats, and scarves. Despite these attempts, the yarn was taking over more and more space in an otherwise-designated closet, and to recover space, trim the budget, and reduce consumption a wee bit, I'm joining my first group on Ravelry (besides organizing, it provides several Facebook-like socializing options): Mission Possible 2008. Members of this group must commit to identifying 12 items from their stash and remove them from stash by the end of 2008.

1. and 2.
Here is the oldest yarn in my stash. In the bag on the right is all the Pingouin chenille needed to make a very cute sweater and I've even included the pattern. I don't like the look of the finished textile and doubt that blocking will make much difference. Besides, the yarn kept snapping in the row below and after that's happened three times, it's time to quit!
Chunky orange chenille, two skeins, intended for making cushion covers, but again, the finished fabric gave no joy and I lost interest.

Even more shameful is the abandoning of this Italian Velvet novelty yarn (by Drops), also intended cushion cover. The shame comes in the $25.00 or so spent on this skein which I have never even got onto a needle!

5. 6. and 7.

5. 9, yes 9! 50-gram balls of NZNaturally magic garden Cotton Candy Baby DK in a sage-y colour – I bought this about 6 years ago for a long tunic-like cabled sweater that I got very weary of knitting and realized I wasn’t even going to like it. Since then, I’ve made two baby sweaters from the frogged yarn and some of the intact skeins, but I still have 450 grams left!

6. This bag also contains 100-gram skein of Patons Classic Wool Merino, dark green, leftover from an afghan I knit 6 or 7 years ago. I didn’t like the way this felted when I washed it (Delicate Cycle).
7. 1 small skein (no label) Variegated purple novelty “eyelash” yarn – barely enough for one short scarf and I’ve had my fill of these.

OKAY, so as I understand the rules of Mission Possible, I'm allowed to give away, and that's what I'm doing with all of the above -- What did that little fly-killing tailor brag? (You remember that folk tale?) Seven at one stroke? That's me! A friend of mine who's at the young family stage that doesn't leave lots of budget for yarn has accepted my offer and is taking these off my hands. Thank you, Helen!

8. and 9.

In November, I found that the second expected baby I was knitting for turned out to be a girl. No Rocketry Cardigan for her, so I ordered two more Tulip kits. (I know, you're wondering why two. Me too. But you know, once I get Lily-Anne's finished, I want one of each for the next baby to come along. It makes sense, right?)

This is a stash-busting project that I began last year, using up yarn leftover from a Fleece Artist afghan kit. It looks as if it's not going to be enough for a long scarf, but I'm thinking I'll knit a buttonhole several inches from the end and find a cool big button so that it can be a short scarf that still fastens well.

These are leftover skeins of Zara, a merino I love. The brown and rust are left over from the Shedirs I knit, and the green is from a frogged hat experiment. I'm thinking that two of them might stripe up into a Beanie for next year's gifts.
Both balls are Handmaiden Cashmere 4-ply, left over from earlier projects. The orange ball was originally the size of the black one until I made an Odessa from it. I suspect there's enough to make another, but I think first I'll make an Odessa from the black (and try beading it this time). Then perhaps combine what's left of orange and black for a beanie or wristwarmers.
Using up these 12 items would fulfil the De-stash requirements for Mission Possible, but I'm aware that I have perhaps stretched the giveaway rules a wee bit, so I'm prepared to come clean about the rest of my stash and try to get rid of as much as possible this year (although I will make no promises at all about not buying more).
With all the working from stash I tried to do before Christmas, I never let myself even unwind, let alone cast on, this gorgeous Cashmere 2Ply from Handmaiden. I'm thinking either fingerless mitts or very short (anklet) socks.

I have 3 skeins of Hempathy leftover from the lacy cardigan I made. I think this could make quite a nice scarf, perhaps even with a beaded fringe. Not too motivated right now, since it's more a summer fabric, but it might be fun to try out various stitches with. I could also make a net bag which would be handy for shopping.

2 skeins of Handmaiden Seasilk, bought January 2007 on sale and intended for a scarf – in fact, I started one and frogged it because the pattern didn’t suit the yarn variegation. I’d love to finish this – unfortunately, I suspect I have enough for two scarves!

And at some point, I'll deserve a reward for working through this stash: finally getting to cast on this gorgeous Camelspun. Again, I'm not sure what this will end up as, although when I bought it, I was thinking of either a scarf, or long fingerless mitts

Here's an assortment of mohairs, including enough KidSeta for a a scarf or cowl -- that beautiful beaded piece -- Ice Queen -- in the winter Knitty.
I think the heavier mohairs might get incorporated into another throw I'm going to make for the apartment. But I'm going to put that off for a while because it's one of those stash-busting projects that you end up buying more yarn for and then having more leftovers and then . . .
All kinds of sock leftovers. Not sure how these could ever be combined into something palatable so I may just give myself permission to hang onto them for a few more years. I do like the mini-stockings and mini-sweaters that some knitters make up as Christmas ornaments. Or perhaps to make into Nikki Epstein-inspired flowers for garnishing.

I have already made two berets from the Kid Classic I had left over from the Cable Front Pullover I made from VK last year. And there's still almost three skeins left. This might end up in the throw I'm planning.
Charcoals, greys, worsted-weight (including the Maple Seed hat to be frogged). Hats probably, maybe fingerless mitts, although I'm not sure how much this yarn softens up.

Finally, two skeins of the variegated grey Madil Kid Seta that I made the Reversible Rib Shawl from. There's certainly plenty here for a scarf.
So there you have it! For knitting readers, this won't be terribly shocking. In fact, it's fairly modest compared to some of the stashes organized in Ravelry. How does it compare to yours? And my non-knitting readers, what do you think? Did you ever suspect such a magpie compulsion? Can we still be friends?
I know I promised the Koolhaas. It's done, but I leave too early and get home too late for any kind of decent photography light.
I'm heading to Vanc'r tomorrow (I'm going to try to catch the Roy Arden show at the VAG before it closes and maybe finally see a movie or two from my list). Not sure how likely I am to post again before Monday, so hope your weekend is a good one.

Monday, January 14, 2008

someday coherence?

Reading Laurie Ricou's Salal: Listening for the Northwest Understory, I find this quotation from poet and essayist Kim Stafford's book The Muses Among Us: "coherence is born of random abundance" (31).

Random abundance! I love this term. Dare I claim that this is what's happening here on my blog, random abundance, and dare I hope that among it all, coherence may be gestating?

Coming soon: Photos of the completed Koolhaas hat.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

still thinking about paintings and life

Out for a run after posting about my paintings yesterday, I started thinking about a couple of smaller marine paintings we bought years ago while living in Prince Rupert. We gave one as a wedding gift to friends who missed the coast and we kept one for ourselves. I tried to find it today to photograph for you, but I've either let one of the kids take it or it's in the back of a closet right now for lack of wall space. It's a very cheery painting of fishing boats jostling one another at the wharf in Prince Rupert, the flourescently bright buoys shouting for viewer attention.
When I got back from the run, I Googled a bit and was pleased to find this website which commemorates Tim White, the Prince Rupert artist who painted those pictures. Obviously put together by someone(s) who loved him, the narrative is fairly brief, quite laudatory, and only in spots hints at the colourful personality I remember meeting. Tim came once to speak at a Moms and Tots program I used to attend and I would see him at various events around town. What I was remembering on my run yesterday is running into him at some Arts and Crafts fair selling small metal sculptures alongside his paintings. Pausing to examine them more closely, I could see they were renditions of boats, and he was delighted to tell me that he'd made them from deconstructed dog food cans. In fact, he said, he figured he had the perfect system for supporting himself in his old age: should his pension prove too meagre, he'd worked out that he could always live on dog food, then recycle the cans into sculptures which he could sell to buy more dog food . . . An elegant, if not wonderfully palatable, solution!
Also thinking about paintings in our lives, my internet friend IndigoAlison, an art teacher living in London, England, posted last week about the current absence of prints on her walls despite her fond memories of them in her childhood.

My taste in painting I have noticed over the last 8 months of posting
leans towards the abstract/brushstroke/colour school yet strangely I do not
have any prints of my favourite artists work on my wall at home, preferring
to buy real art instead. Yet as a child I grew up with prints my parents
obtained of favourite pieces that were lovingly framed and hung, if my
memory serves me correctly they included Van Gogh's starry night,
Modigliani's Alice and a Utrillo, these artists are some of my favourites so
I must have unconsciously absorbed their influence as a child. My mother
however like me, prefers the real thing and now has a small collection of
lovely paintings, my sister too collects, but part of me wonders whether or
not I should mix it up with some "bigger" named prints.

Then she followed up a few days later with a post detailing some of the prints she remembers, a post which includes a charming description of her young self telling visitors that the Modigliani print in her parents' home

was a portrait of me . . . . It seriously does look like me when
I was a child. The long slightly sad face, my hair was that length and that
colour, plus ALICE is clearly written in the top left hand corner so I would
explain to visitors that it was the Italian spelling for Alison!

This particularly charms me because one of our mementoes of a family trip to France is a Botticelli print we got at the Louvre after noticing a striking resemblance between a face in it and our Megan. And while Megan didn't try to say that Botticelli had painted her, I could imagine her trying that out (after all, she's the one who supplemented our collection of author-signed children's books -- the real thing, signed by authors we've met -- by scrawling her eight-year old facsimile signatures in scads of others, so that now it's a bit hard to tell which are which!)

After all this chat about the visual world, perhaps a photo or three is in order.
First, here's my progress on a Koolhaas hat that I'm making out of some stash Alpaca Peru. I really need to sit down and figure out where I am in this, pattern-wise, so that I can get going on it again (Why, oh why, can't I remember to make a little note each time I put a project away -- I'm so sure I'll remember where I was when I pick it up the next day, except that the next day becomes four days later, and then . . . )
and here is a photo of the Ribes Sanguineum 'White Icicle' flower that is currently erupting on my kitchen counter. I was cleaning up in the garden last weekend and brought in a few branches to try forcing. Not much was happening all week and then Friday I started to see some swelling in the flower buds and today, voilà!

And finally, a visual message to remind you that this week is de-lurking week in the blog world, so comments from inveterate lurkers are especially welcome. (Although make no mistake, you're still welcome even if you refuse to break your lurking habit.)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

some paintings in my life

I'm so enjoying the comments on my post about food memories that I'm a bit reluctant to have something new here potentially shutting down that conversation. Please, if you haven't commented there yet and have a memory to share and you have a minute or two, I'd love your contribution.

But I do want to post another instalment of Leanne Brusatore's paintings. The one above, which makes a nice segue, don't you think, from a post on food, was my introduction to Leanne when I bought this at the Student Art Show at our U-C. (And btw, check out such shows in your local art schools; they help students recover some of the costs of materials and give you a chance to get original art in your home, and they're great fun as well for the wide range they represent of subjects, media, and, quite honestly, talent.) Leanne's pears are painted on a mahogany door skin -- she's built up a textured surface of surprising depth and richness which is hinted at where the camera's flash hits the painting in the photo above. I paid a criminally cheap price for this considering the materials and the time involved: for the price of a nice dinner out, I've had so much enjoyment over the last year and expect years of the same ahead.

When I bought the painting, I asked Leanne to keep in touch, let me know how her career progressed, so when she had her website up and running with some new works, I'd check them from time to time. When she posted a painting of a crow on a transformer, we bought it for our apartment, where, as I mentioned before, one of our daughters began to seriously covet it. So it made sense to buy more of Leanne's paintings for Christmas for two of our girls (again, see these previous posts for pics) and I don't think I've ever been happier about gift-giving. Obviously, it was a big risk, but the recipients do seem pleased; Meanwhile, I didn't have to go to malls, my gifts weren't produced by Third World labourers getting paid a pittance, and I was able to support a local artist (who, quite frankly, on an hourly basis probably gets paid less than a pittance, but at least she's doing work she loves). Now that Leanne's showing her work at various venues and having some success, we're having to give up more than one nice dinner for a painting, but it's still surprisingly reasonable. (We have love seats over twenty years old whose now-unloved upholstery I cover with throws; I'm happier buying paintings than new couches altho' if I won the lottery I wouldn't say no to both)

And while we were gift buying, we bought one more painting for our apartment. Again, this is much more luminous "in the flesh" but you can see the play of light and shadow and you get an idea of the rich texture. The crow feather is the real thing and in that long rectangle within the gold is a digital image of another work from the same series. Leanne calls this painting Inner Sanctuarium. I'm rather envious of Paul that he gets to live with it more than I do (he's in the apartment through the week while I only spend the occasional weekend there).

I'm off for a run now in some nasty, blustery, weather, and then I'll have to settle into some serious reading to prepare for the upcoming week's classes. The roller-coaster of term has started its climb and I'd better get ready for the ride.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

cooking up some memories

Apropos of wanting what I have, I am so enjoying the simplicity of steel-cut oats, brought to a boil and then simmered in salted water for 15 or 20 minutes, served with milk and a sprinkling of brown sugar or a dollop of maple syrup. Sometimes I add diced apple to the pot for the last few minutes of simmering; sometimes I stir banana slices to the porridge in the bowl and let the hot oats bring out the banana's full flavour before adding the milk. While I generally grab one of the copper-bottomed steel saucepans, today I remembered my CorningWare and dug out the perfect porridge-making pot. So odd to realize that this dish, one of the few surviving wedding gifts, is over 33 years old! A (perhaps spurious) rule-of-thumb sets one hundred years as the minimum mark for antiques. By such a rule, this stovetop-to-oven-to-freezer-to microwave marvel of the 70s is one-third of the way there as is the Pyrex measuring cup and a few useful pieces of 70s-coloured Tupperware. And so is the orange Le Creuset casserole dish which has served several generations of family dogs, having been pressed into service decades ago when the resident boxer chomped down yet another plastic dogdish.

The LeCreuset has an honourable lineage and its simple, durable, shape in honest materials cannot be faulted -- which cannot be so easily said of the Pyrex, Tupperware, CorningWare, all trademarked products of industrial chemistry labs. Nonetheless, these items have survived equally to harbour domestic memories, releasing them at random between bursts of chopping, stirring, scooping, and scouring. My measuring cup differs from my grandmother's only slightly in its shape (mine is less rounded) and in balancing cups and fractions thereof with metric measures, but the differences are transcended by the similar erasure of their raised red markings into mere vestiges. When I spoon porridge from the CorningWare dish into my bowl this morning, I remember making chicken noodle soup in it for someone home sick with chicken pox, and years before that, making a now-so-unfashionable 70's casserole (onion soup mix for flavour; crushed potato chips for au gratin!) for my new husband. And I remember back, back before the CorningWare, back before the marriage, way, way back to the crowded kitchen at home, myself trying to gag down the then-not-so-appreciated porridge in the morning, confident that any I couldn't manage would be willingly accepted by my little-brother-with-the-bottomless-pit-for-a-stomach. Chris will never be an antique, having been gone for over thirty years now, but porridge always brings him back to me momentarily. And then I remember my mother's memories and fall back decades further to that little girl who'd skim the cream from atop the milk and dollop it onto her porridge for a rich treat.

As my own oats have turned out to be a rich treat, affording me nourishment and the comfort of memories -- wanting what I have indeed.

What memories has your kitchen triggered? And were they triggered by specific foods or single ingredients? By implements? Smells or kitchen sounds? A gesture that surprised you by reminding you of your grandfather scrambling his eggs? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rhiannon

Happy Birthday to my lovely daughter, Rhiannon, who besides looking very good in hats is also feisty, smart, sensitive, thoughtful, funny, loyal, and often fierce!
Rhiannon often reminds me (altho' I don't tell her so for fear of being tiresome!) of the two-year old who persevered and persevered to get on the tin can stilts and walk with them. She can also remind me of the five-year-old my sister once swore must have been taking cute lessons on the side. Sometimes she's so sensitive it can break my heart, especially when she phones me about a hurt my magic wand can't fix. Sometimes, when I say the wrong thing and annoy her, I'm forced to reluctantly acknowledge having told my friend Margaret determinedly, "I'm not afraid of Rhiannon, I'm not afraid of Rhiannon" (an anecdote Margaret wisely suspected might be a useful benchmark for her own eventual dealings with a strong-willed teen). I don't know how well I faked it back then, but when the girl's angry, stand back!
Moms should be careful how much they say about their daughters in a public forum such as a blog, so that's probably enough. To my lively, engaging, fun lunch companion and prime sushi buddy, Happy Birthday, sweetie, and have a great day!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

let it (not) snow!

This is what I got to wear today! Moccasins and warm hand-knit socks and leggings and big comfy, hand-knit, lambswool-angora sweater! Because today got called a snow day! While there's not a flake of snow in view (instead wind and waves have been storming it out night and day), there's enough, apparently, to create potential havoc on the hill so campus is closed. I didn't even bring materials home for prep, my plan having been to go in early enough today to work there and then stay after class to prepare tomorrow's. Instead, I've had a day to myself, the first one in weeks and weeks, although I've had enjoyable leisurely days with Paul over the break. Still, on my own, there's no one measuring the aimlessness of my puttering (not that Paul does, just that my projections onto Paul have him potentially doing so).

On my own,

I filled the tagine with chunks of beef, onion, turnip, potato, and carrot, adding ginger, cumin, and saffron, so that from mid-morning on, the house smelled delicious.

I read a chapter from Brookfield and Preskill's Discussion as a Way of Teaching and thought about how I use discussion in my classes.

I caught up with my Blogs, and found out that my internet buddy, Thom Wong, over at Sunday Best, got a great big tip of the hat from Manolo himself, which should generate some serious traffic for Thom. It's well worth following the links to track down Thom's piece on men's shoes -- his prose is always elegant, neat, and entertaining, and his content always reflects a discerning eye and keen analysis.

I bundled up the recycling and popped it outside the gate for Bob, our island recycler, to pick up later and haul into town, and then I walked around the island -- from the other side, I could look across the harbour and see the progress of the snow, thickening as it moved up the hill.

I switched colours on the Tulip Cardigan and knit a few rows.

I napped for about an hour! Wonderful! Yesterday, hurrying out of the house en route to the ferry, I slipped on a stair and landed my butt solidly on the concrete walkway, pulling my shoulder and upper arm as I tried to catch myself. I've been tired and sore since that injury caught up to me yesterday afternoon (walked to campus and back, got through classes just fine, but once I had that accomplished, the air quickly left this balloon). So the nap was just what I needed -- nature's nurse, as one of my friends used to say.

Began Timothy Taylor's Story House. I loved his Stanley Park a few years ago, and have had a copy of SH ready to read for weeks and weeks now. With all the reading I have to do for this term's courses, I was thinking I'd have to leave it a bit longer, but with this serendipitous gift of time, I'm starting it now.

Next I'm going to brew a lovely hot cup of tea -- have I mentioned before that I like Russian Caravan blended 5-1 with Lapsang Souchong? Then I'll sit and read another few chapters from Taylor's novel before planning the rest of my day. I'd like to work on the Koolhaas hat, maybe finishing the third pattern which would leave me at only one more before the decrease. And I'd like to cast on for the legwarmers Meg requested -- I bought the yarn yesterday, altho' I probably should/could have worked from stash. I've also got a few more books that I'd like to open, two of them being at least peripheral to what I'm teaching. Also wanted to check out the Calls for Papers list and see if anything inspires me to write a proposal. But it's at this stage that the possibilities for puttering start to paralyze me so I think for now, I'll just brew the tea and take it from there.

If you're at work right now, may there be a snow day in your future soon! If you're at home, I hope you're able to enjoy some puttering as well.

Here's my comfy snow-day sweater. Because of the mixed effect of tweediness and the angora halo, you can't see the cabling. I suppose a good photographer could bring this out more, but I find it interesting how much more motivated the human eye is to discern the subtle pattern, tracing the serpentine cables across the sweater's front.

From the designer Kristin Nicholas's website, here's a photo of the pattern as it appeared in Vogue Knitting Fall 2002 with well-defined cables. Clear warning signs here of a slouchily-fitting sweater, but I ignored them, and now I have the perfect snow-day sweater!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

wishing, wanting, having

I wish . . .

Je désire . . .
to want what I have . . .
A colleague shared this, one of his primary resolutions for 2008, with me, and I think it's worth adopting. May this be the year I learn to want what I have, even more than I do now, and to appreciate how very lucky I am.
And in case you're interested, the photo above is one I took in May 2005 of an art installation in Paris's Jardins du Luxembourg at the fountain commemorating Eugène Delacroix. You can find out more about the artist, Isabella Valla-Paga, here.

What I wore last night

Had to spend a few hours at the office yesterday afternoon photocopying handouts for Monday's classes and then the plan was to meet Paul for dinner. I wanted something a bit "date-like" but that was okay in my office as well. This skirt is actually a bit more subdued than it appears with the flash. The underlayer is midnight blue but the beaded tulle is black, the cut is slim, straight, and to just below the knee, so until the light catches it, the skirt -- which I got several summers ago at French Connection -- is fairly conservative (well, okay, yes, it does depend how you define that term). I wore it with these Frye boots that I love so much and were worth every penny I paid for them. And those black tights you see in the photo, the tights that look like ordinary black tights? These are luxurious Wolford tights, one of two pairs that my daughter, Bronwen, spoiled me with at Christmas -- she's paid attention to my dictum that a good approach to gift-giving is to luxe up an everyday item you know your giftee uses ('course, before you spend what Wolford tights cost, you should probably be sure the person will know enough to appreciate the gesture -- and I really did!) And since my plain, long black turtleneck needed brightening, I wore this necklace I bought a few years ago from a colleague who makes and sells jewelry to raise money for a student scholarship fund.
Oh, and we had a lovely meal, and my husband appreciated the dressing-up!

Some Cabbages, No Kings

I know I've mentioned our island's new community gardens to you before. Yesterday Paul and I were out for a walk with my new camera and we peered over this deer-resistant (never say deerproof, you'll hear them laughing out there and moving in for the challenge!) fence to see what the driving force behind that project has done in his own back yard. Very impressive, I'd say, for a January garden. A few years ago, we all watched curiously and admiringly as this man and his wife built the raised beds, the solid fence (you can't see the wires strung for an additional two feet of height), the mason bee boxes mounted on those posts at the back of this photo, the practical and decorative climbing structures. He'll have great drainage and lots of sun (at least, as much as we get in this climate) where he is, but he's had to put considerable effort into enriching the soil. Look at the results, though. Orderly, productive, beautiful, soothing somehow.

I've just cropped and zoomed for this next photo, but I absolutely love these giant cabbages (are they Savoy? with their crinkly leaves?). Having peeked over this fence, I'm especially excited about Paul's new project (the man gets quite restless after a few days relaxing and starts coming up with projects in the yard and/or house -- I've taught him not to prune without asking first!): He's built three raised beds in an underused section of our yard -- the section's a bit short on sunshine, but there's a weedy maple that I wouldn't feel at all guilty about removing, so it might be workable. Certainly, we manage to get raspberries to ripen nearby every year. I'd love to have vegetables growing in our yard again -- it's been years. Carrots, anyone? Kohlrabi?

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