Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon
Mr. Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Saturday, July 31, 2010

housekeeping

Ugh.

After yesterday's post I got to thinking about housekeeping. For a brief time in my work history, I cleaned houses. When I was growing up, my mum worked so she had a housekeeper come in twice a week to clean our house & do laundry.

When I was single I was a mostly tidy person, especially if I wasn't working too much. My Sweety... well, he's a messy cook and I always have to go around the house to pick up piles of dirty clothing before I do laundry. He's good at cleaning, but it usually only happens when we are expecting company, or if I express utter frustration at the lack of clean house. So much of the cleaning falls to me. He does appreciate it, but in these past two weeks we've both been working so much that, as I mentioned yesterday, the house was a disaster. I spent much of yesterday cleaning and tidying so that, by the end of the day, the house was in good order.

Then I made a banana cake with almond icing for Kate-Lynn's birthday. Kate-Lynn and her boyfriend Larry are staying next door to us for the summer while they are working at the Canadian Princess. I asked Kate-Lynn what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday and I made it. They came over in the evening and we had cake, tea, and ice cream. More dishes.

I decided yesterday that I will not use this dishwasher again. In order for dishes to come out clean, they have to be rinsed and sometimes even scrubbed before they go in the dishwasher. That doesn't make any sense to me. Then the dishwasher takes a full two and a half hours to run its cycle. In that time I could have all the dishes washed, dried and put away, the rest of the kitchen cleaned. So I am done with this dishwasher. (Maybe others are more efficient?)

I'm also not very fond of this washing machine. I learned early on that the regular cycle is really rough on clothes, so I have been using the gentle cycle for everything. I wish it was a front loading machine. I wish the hinge was on the right side instead of the left, because with the way the machine is positioned, it is awkward for me to get in there.

I do have a clothesline, thank the heavens. Dan strung it up for me soon after we moved here. Today is Day 3 of roofing, though, so I can't put any clothes out on the line, lest flying roofy stuff land on our clean clothes. (Are they going to use tar? O gosh I hope not. I hate that smell).

So I got to thinking: at what point in ones life does one call in a housekeeper? Say if Dan and I were both working full time and had a handsome enough income so as to employ someone? It seems rather silly in some ways that I should consider having someone else clean my house. But on the other hand, I *love* having a clean house and all that time I spend cleaning could be spent knitting instead.

We are far from being able to hire someone to come in, but I am sure tempted. When my mum was living on the Island, she would come out at least once a week to help me with keeping the kitchen clean. I was so thankful when we first moved into this house that there was a dishwasher because my mother wasn't available. But now I'm back to doing it the old-fashioned way: by myself, with my gloves & apron on, by hand. At least I can listen to my podcasts as I do it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

a slimy fish dock

I was called back to work for one or two more boats last night. There was lots happening and I was in the middle of doing one thing (tagging halibut) when a net full of dogfish was coming up. I rushed around the halibut table in order to grab the counters to count the dogfish. But I was hurrying, there were hoses, and in my rush, I fell. I'm pretty good at falling, I've done it often. I grabbed on to the edge of the halibut table on my way down but it was slimy and I lost my grip. I ended up scraping the inside of my wrist leaving a four inch track of red. I didn't break skin but I knew that it would puff up and bruise later.

My first thought was: will I be able to knit?

I also took a few divots out of my hands but I was mostly okay. So I thought. Dan was there with me, tagging halibut, and he knows exactly what I'm thinking or feeling just by looking at me. (It's kind of annoying sometimes, really, I can't simply fake that I'm okay because he sees right through my facade). I wasn't broken or bleeding, really, and I got up right away and said "I'm okay". Put down my tagging gun, grabbed the whackers (the things I count fish with), and counted the dogfish. Then I looked at my hands.

Now I'm a weird kind of person because I would take a picture of this and post it here, but I realize that not everyone wants to see all my battle wounds, so I'll spare you.

Luckily, I didn't have to do the last boat. It was a good thing - as it was I got home at 9:30 (having started at 9:45am) and I pretty much fell asleep as soon as I got into bed. That doesn't happen to me much (never had an easy time falling asleep) so you know I was really tired.

I'm looking at it today, though, and sure it's bruised and the scrape track is still there, but I'm actually okay. I mean really. I think I'll even be able to knit today. After the house gets clean.

O gosh.

So the roofers arrived yesterday. The house we live in had, until yesterday, a tin roof. When we moved in in April, our landlord let us know that at some point in the summer the roof would be replaced with asphalt shingles. This is good - I like the look of the green tin but when it rains (and it rains eight months of the year), it's LOUD.

There are five sky lights in this house, and I guess they have to take these out during this process. That has meant that the landlord (who is a really great guy, by the way) has had to enter our suite to unbolt them. And because Dan and I have been working just about non-stop for the last two weeks, the house is an absolute mess. Talk about getting caught with your pants down. O well. I'll get it done today because I have a day off!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

feast or famine

This will be a brief post.

When I started dockside validation, I was getting 10-15 hours a week in the early days. Fishing has finally picked up, and I have now been working almost every day for the last two weeks. I think I've had two days off. On top of my fish job, I am teaching knitting classes at Knits by the Sea - five evenings in the last two weeks.

So with all this work, it means we aren't getting much housework done and don't get to see our friends too much. But it means we will be able to pay our bills!

I started an offload this morning at 9:45am. It was busy for that entire time, and it was only in between the first and second boat that I was able to stuff my sandwich into me. Usually there is a bit of a break in between but things were hustling today. The second offload happened so quick that it was over before we knew it. I was done by about 4:00.

We are short on validators at the moment, so I have to go back and do another one or two boats tonight. I'm hoping for just one (start time 6:45pm) because I know that, with the skipper being so organized with his paperwork and fish, that it will be quick and easy. I'll have someone with me tagging the halibut so I will be free to do other things. But I'm already tired, smelly, and really need a bath. I hope they find someone else for the last boat. It would be an awfully long day for me, in fact, it would go into tomorrow, if I did have to do a fourth.

Right. On that note, I have to get ready to leave.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

spelling fail

The Heinz one, in case you didn't catch it, is like someone misspelling your first name in an email when your first name is in your email address. This has happened to me and it happened a lot.















This one just made me cringe.

It should read 'you're on camera' or 'you are on camera'.

This was, in case you are wondering, the fishing rod section of Canadian Tire in Port Alberni

In the bottom part is a great misuse of 'effect' when they meant to use 'affect'. To affect is to have an impact on. To effect is usually the end result. In fact, I don't think there is any word such as effected or effecting - suffixes following verbs. Something can have an effect, which effectively makes this a noun. See how I turned the noun into an adjective by adding the suffix -ively. This is allowed and it is an actual word.

Another way to look at it is that affect is on the front end of an action. In this example, if you shoplift, we are all affected. Effect in this case can still be use. The effect of shoplifting is that items in this store cost more because they need to pay for security people. It's a subtle difference but an important one.

I abhor bad spelling. It's another thing entirely when words are mispronounced. Yesterday a friend was telling me a story of when her mother was at a conference of academics, and this one speaker kept on referring to something being the epitome of something else. Except she was pronouncing epitome as epi-toam rather than e-pit-o-me. If you are accustomed to being around people who can speak and spell correctly, then hear someone who should know better (I think in this case it was a librarian) mispronounce a word, then suddenly it is all you hear. I start to lose respect for people when stuff like this happens. And what do you do? Do yo say "psst, I hate to tell you this but it's pronounced e-pit-o-me" or do you go on let them looking like an idiot?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

long ago FO: green halter


I finished this project a long time ago, like last summer. It started out being a head kerchief. I knit up a triangle with an improvised design, and when I finished, the triangle was too small for my head.

I don't remember exactly how I put this together. Did I do the bottom first or the strap? I don't even remember the pattern but it looks like a k2tog, yo, repeat.

The strap around the neck and the band under the breast are garter stitch. I wish I'd written down how I made this because I'm rather pleased with how it looks.

It also feels nice to wear. It's cotton, so it has some weight to it but not so much that it feels heavy. It's just warm enough and just cool enough at the same time.


I'm wearing this top here over my Hussy Dress. I love this dress. When it's warm enough, I practically live in it. It's made of T-shirt jersey material and the design suits me perfectly. It's swooshy, cool, and I feel like I can still climb rocks in it. It's the perfect dress for playing in. I have been known to garden in this dress.

Dan calls it my Hussy Dress for obvious reasons - he doesn't think me a hussy, obviously, but it's a funny thing we share.

I wore this dress for much of our month-long honeymoon last year. Sometimes it was simply too warm to wear anything more. It goes great over a swimsuit and sometimes I put tights on or even my jeans if it's cold.








Yeah this isn't really meant to be a cleavage shot. Just to show the detail of the garment in this area.
















And here I joined the strap.

Dying and Grieving

Hey it can't all be sweetness and light, right? Besides, by writing about this stuff you know I'm a real person. Or something.

I have posted a couple of times this month about death and dying. I mentioned that I had lots of people in my life die in my childhood and early adulthood. Later I discovered Paganism and Wicca, which helped me to understand more fully the circle of life and that all living things must die in order that others may live. The dying process is, in fact, a large part of Wiccan understanding, since the faith is based on the Wheel of the Year, the year 'dies' at Samhain (October 31) and is reborn at the Winter Solstice (as days start to get longer again, the ancients knew that a crop-growing season would return).

Still later I would return to post-secondary education. I found myself being more than interested in hospice palliative care and cancer care, and it was through that avenue that I ended up doing my Master's research. I did a sort of research internship at Victoria Hospice, which is renowned worldwide for its innovative research. I attended the British Columbia Hospice Palliative Care Association conference three years in a row. In that time, I learned a lot about how the medical profession handles the terminally ill, they dying, the bereaved. I worked on a project that assesses the risk of bereaved loved ones to see if they need assistance after their spouse/child/parent dies.

I was talking with my sister last night about Unc, Mid, and we made a sort of tentative plan about sharing a hotel room if we do have to go to a funeral soon. I told her about the different stories about Unc's status that I had heard from Mum and Dad. According to Dad, Unc is fine, his appetite is returning and he wants to go home. According to Mum, Unc is okay but he has spoken about dying.

Knowing what I know about dying people, and also knowing that both my parents are terrible reporters (bad at collecting data and relaying important details), I'm going to guess that they are both only partly right. If Unc has his appetite back, he will probably be okay for the time being. If he had no interest in or will to eat, then it would be clear that his expiry is imminent. So I don't think he's going soon, at least not in the next few weeks. But he has spoken of dying to Mid. This tells me that he is getting ready to go, and that he is trying to prepare his wife for this. As I mentioned yesterday, Unc doesn't have full on dementia but he's also not all there. For him to say something so lucid as to mention dying, to me, is significant. Also, knowing his wife as he does, he had to say this because Mid does not handle unpleasant or uncomfortable news well. She will ignore it or pretend she didn't hear it and remain optimistic.

Later, grief snuck up on me.

I got to thinking about my grandmother, then my great-grandmother, then my grandfather, and how those that have passed represented a time in my life, a part of my life, that I regard fondly. I also got to thinking about that this is something that I don't - nay - can't - share with either of my parents. It is my sister that was with me through all this. Mum and Dad remember these people differently, had different relationships. But Lori and I had a particular lens as the children. And thinking about all these beloved departed relatives triggered my grieving. Unc will go soon, Mid will go soon after. Mid is really the last person of that generation of people that represents that era to me and my sister.

We navigate through our lives with the relationships with people that we have. Knowing our place in a family or set of relationships often helps us to understand our place in the larger world. When the last family member of that generation dies, it will be much larger than the loss of connection with that era. It's a sign that my own time is marching on. I'm not really concerned about my own mortality (perhaps I will discuss this in another post) but it is always sad to lose a loved one. But my big question to myself last night was 'what will it be like after [that generation] is gone?' The answer, of course, is 'I don't know'. Obviously I will carry on because I have to. Fish will still come off the dock, socks will be knit, ice cream will be eaten, blogs will be posted. I guess it will be a shifting in my consciousness.

Maybe I am overthinking this. It's possible, you know, I overthink a lot. At any rate, I don't think grieving now is premature. I know people who have known a loved one was dying and did the majority of their grieving pre-death. I think that's healthy, actually. There was even a study that said that bereaved persons who knew their beloved was dying beforehand had an easier time of coping than those faced with a sudden loss. Makes sense to me.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

random recipe: Banana bread

Someone at work asked if I had a good banana bread recipe. I found it in my files and thought I should type it up. And if I'm going to the trouble of typing it up, I might as well share it with you!

Here:

Banana bread

325 degree oven


Need two loaf pans or one bundt pan. Best grease them up first.


In one bowl:

1 1/3 cup soft margarine

3 ½ cups sugar

4 eggs


In a measuring cup:

2 Tbsp white vinegar

Top up with milk to equal

1 1/3 cup


In another bowl:

4 ½ cups flour

2 ½ tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp salt


And four mashed & smashed bananas


Mix bananas in with the margarine/sugar/egg mixture. Add milk/vinegar alternating with flour mixture, stirring until just mixed.


Add walnuts or chocolate chips if you like.


Try the batter, just to make sure.


Pour into two greased loaf pans or bundt pan. Should take about an hour to bake. If the sides get dark while the middle still goopy, turn down heat to 300 degrees and give it an extra 15 minutes or so. Should pull away from edges and look a bit cracked on top when it’s done.


If you can, wait until it cools for at least an hour before taste-testing. When you slice it up, for extra calories & fat, add butter or margarine before eating.


Goes good with coffee & tea. An arguably healthy breakfast, particularly if you add nuts.


note: the milk/vinegar mixture is a common substitute for buttermilk, which my mother never bought. If you're a purist and would prefer buttermilk, have at 'er.


Unc

For as long as I remember, we have referred to Uncle Ken as 'Unc'.

He's not my uncle, he's my second uncle, technically. My mum's uncle. His wife is Mid (who is really Mary) but ever since my mother was a child, they have been known as Mid & Unc.

When I was growing up in Alberta, we would go to Kelowna every summer to visit with my mom's parents. Sometimes we would stay two weeks, sometimes the whole summer. We would go to the parks, the grocery stores. Old MacDonald's farm (amusement park), or Flintstone's (amusement park) or the waterslides. We would play dice or cards, watch TV, play outside. It was in Kelowna that I learned how to ride my bicycle without training wheels.

My grandmother died of cancer when I was 8, so I don't really remember too much of her. Still, it was always fun to stay with Grandpa in Kelowna for summer or Christmas, because we would also see Mid & Unc. They are always lots of fun, Mid has always been an active woman and even when we saw her last year, her mind is as sharp as a pin.

My grandfather died in 1992, and ever since then I haven't been to Kelowna too often. Probably only a handful of times in the last 18 years.

Just after Christmas in 1999, Unc had a stroke and then a heart attack within a week of each other. A month later Mid had a fall that injured her ankle, which took her months to recover from.

But they kept on.

Since Unc's 1999 episode, he has been moving a lot slower. I wouldn't say he has full-on dementia, as often happens after a stroke, but Mid steers him towards food, clothing, and (when guests are present) conversation. They have been married for 63 years.

While I was at a chaotic live fish offload last night, I received a phone call from my mother's cousin Donna, whom I have not seen since I was 12 (24 years ago), calling to tell me that Unc has had another episode - not sure it it was a stroke or heart attack - and a fall. He's been in the hospital for several days. He's 84.

At this point, nobody expects him to live, at least not for long. I don't have any more information than this, but it's easy to see. I'm not as close to Mid & Unc as I used to be, so while losing a loved one is sad, I still sort of feel removed from the whole process.

But still. These are relatives I spent a significant amount of my childhood with. As we know, those kinds of memories are very powerful. So losing a a loved one like this digs up those old memories, nostalgia kicks in, tears fall.

I think what makes me the most sad about all this is that when Unc goes, Mid won't know what to do with herself. She and Unc have been together for more than three quarters of her life. It's common for the second spouse to die soon after the first in situations like these. I can't imagine what it will be like for me and Dan and that's what hits me the hardest. When your love is so solid that you are like one person, how do you go on?

I am fully expecting to have to go to Kelowna for a funeral in the next few weeks. I haven't seen most of this family in more than two decades and I can't even begin to imagine how emotionally intense it's going to be. And I'll have to go by myself because Dan will have to stay here for work and the kitty.

So I'm a little sad right now, mostly oblivious to the Ukee Days parade noise going on a block away. Time marches on, more fish must come off a boat at noon today, and life must continue.

Friday, July 23, 2010

almost posted to the wrong blog...

Has it been so long? Two whole days since I wrote?

Current status: reclined on sofa, relaxing after having spent the day in Port Alberni. It's the place that people around here refer to as 'Town' because it's where all the shops and services are. Dan needed boots for work and a fishing rod. We were out of rice, Asian vegetables (good old Fairways), and sweet chili sauce. Needed more containers for homemade ice cream. I found a high-vis t-shirt for work (it's that or wear those uber-bright safety vest). We had lunch at the J & L Drive In.

Drive-ins aren't really common around here, it seems like a throwback to the 70s. It sure is nice though, to be able to pull up and have an old-style messy burger. The gals don't come around on roller skates, nor do we have to shout into the speaker.

Blueberries were also on sale: 5lbs for $7.98. You know what that means: blueberry ice cream! We bought 20 pounds. Hopefully we'll get some jam out of it. Perhaps a pie.

There was something I wanted to tell you, something that I posted about on Twitter but I know not all my readers here are on Twitter. But what the heck was it? I can't remember.

Speaking of Twitter, I must express some slight irritation at some of the (lack of) etiquette people use on Twitter. I don't care if you're going to have a shower. The post that simply says 'brb' or 'bbl' is totally unnecessary, since I am not really interested in your every move. (brb = be right back; bbl = be back later). I'm not sure why these people are tweeting hundreds of times in a day - to clutter up my Twitter feed? This is the reason why I would 'unfollow' someone. I just don't have time to read about these minute unimportant details...

In case you're wondering, Truth or Consequences is now the top of The List. The conversation continues, but even so we're still looking at six months at a minimum. I have to be honest, Dan and I are getting a bit tired of the fog. See, we get something like eight months of winter (read: rain) here, and a warmish non-winter season that is often foggy or muggy. The desert is starting to look really good. I just want to be warm. Dan prefers the heat.

We saw a bear cub this morning!

O! That guy whose head got mangled by a bear at Taylor Flats the other day lives on the street next to where we used to live. (He lived, btw).

I really should go nap before work tonight. I'm doing a live offload at the government dock, then heading over to my favourite plant for the rest. It's Ukee Days this weekend so with any luck, we'll actually get some time off.

Toodloo

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

another I.C.E.: live rockfish

Last night was an all around interesting evening, actually.

The first thing was that I went to Tofino to teach my beginner knitting class. At the start of yesterday (Tuesday), there were only two people signed up. Just as I arrived, the sixth person signed up. Four women, one man, and a teenager. It was great. Some of these students already knew some of what I was teaching, some of them caught on really quick and were zipping right along. This is great! Everyone will learn what the class promised: cast on, knit, purl, cast off. But because we are moving so quickly, they will learn other techniques as well as stitch patterns. Garter stitch, stockinette, ribbing, seed stitch. Next week I'll show them k2tog, yo, and other increases/decreases.

On the way home, I picked up two hitchhikers. They had been at one of the beaches and were originally going to go to Tofino to have dinner, they realized it was getting dark (it was about 9:20pm at this point) and they had better return home to Ukee and find dinner there. Interesting people. The fellow had a biology degree and worked at the MEC call centre in Vancouver. The gal, also from Vancouver, is living in Ukee for the summer working for Parks. I told them all about my Master's research (they were interested!) and grad school, etc. I recommended the Offshore Restaurant, and dropped them off there.

I got home and Dan was not here. Where is My Sweety?, I texted. At the Whisky Dock. Right. I had forgotten he wanted to have a look at what offloading of live rockfish looked like. So I went down and joined him.

Turns out they didn't have enough guys to help. There was only one and they needed 'two more guys'. I said 'I'll be a guy!' and we set to work.

So here's how it goes: on the vessel, one of the deckhands scoops out the fish swimming in the hold full of water with a net. He passes the end of the net to another deckhand who flips the fish out of the net into a bucket with holes in the bottom. The fish have to be sorted by species for the validator, so there are about eight different buckets. Species we saw last night: Quillback rockfish, Copper rockfish, China rockfish, Yelloweye rockfish, and some rather large Lingcod. These fish are so beautiful when they are alive.

So depending on how many fish there are, the bucket gets lifted off the vessel and put onto a scale. The validator takes a count and weight of the species, then one of the 'guys' carries the bucket from the dock up to the ramp to the truck. The guy tells the truck driver what species it is and how much it weighs. He grabs the bucket, dumps the fish into his totes full of sea water, hands the bucket back, and guy goes back to the vessel for more.

I don't know how much live fish we offloaded last night, probably 700-1000lbs. It took just over an hour. The vessel gets $10/lb for live rockfish, $2/lb for dead. So doing live is definitely worth the effort. These guys had only been fishing for three days.

While we were there, a tourist came by to see what was happening. He was polite and respectful, kept his distance, but found the whole process fascinating.

Also while we were there, one of the skippers from another vessel came by, totally in his cups (i.e. drunk) and was very friendly with me and the attractive female validator. Not too friendly, thank goodness, because Dan would have gotten ... well, I don't want to think about it. We were on the dock next to water, the skipper was drunk, and people could have been hurt.

It got me thinking though, about fishermen being drunk. They are so used to being on the boat, do they still have their sea legs when they are inebriated? I mean, sure they are obviously not as safe when they are drunk, but do they stand a better chance than someone who wasn't familiar with being on a boat all the time and drunk? I'm curious.

Dan had put a stew on to simmer hours before and when we walked in the door just before midnight, it was ready. Normally when I eat so late, so soon before I go to bed, I have a hard time sleeping. But it was a long and eventful and physically demanding day, so after that delicious and rewarding late meal, I was asleep soon after I laid my head on the pillow.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

dreaming of dpns

For those of you who are not knitters, 'dpns' refers to double-pointed needles. They are used for knitting things in the round, such as hats or mittens or sleeves or, in this case, socks.

Last night was the first of my two sock knitting classes. There were four students, each armed with five dpns. Including myself that made five women with five dpns = 25 wee pointy sticks. It's no wonder I couldn't sleep last night and all these needles kept floating around in my mind.

It was good, I enjoyed the class. When teaching knitting like this, I am discovering, there is quite a range in skill level. In this case, the most advanced knitter knew how to read patterns and has knit several sweaters, but this was her first foray into knitting in the round. The newest knitter learned only a month ago and barely has a grasp on purling, but we mucked through.

I assigned homework. We are all knitting wee socks on 2.5mm needles at 40 st per round. I have knit a sample sock but am knitting one with the class as well so as to demonstrate the techniques I'm teaching. In this way, I am learning to teach. What works? What doesn't? I have taught before so (I like to think) I have a good teaching ethic. I am told that I am very patient with students, which is very important when learning to knit. The homework I assigned is to get to the end of the first set of instructions so that we can pick-up-and-knit the heel flap next week.

As I'm learning to teach sock knitting, I realize that this assumes a number of things. I assume that the people in the class know the following techniques:
knit
purl
slip 1
slip, slip, knit
purl 2 together

and given that the newest knitter is having difficulty with purling, even these simple techniques may elude her. Now to be fair, in the advertisement for the class, it did say something like 'must be comfortable with knitting and purling' so we can't turn people away if they think they have the skill set. I just hope she is not discouraged by being so far behind everyone else. We were all on the heel flap while she was still on her second row. I applaud her enthusiasm in any case.

I made the drive home just after 9pm. Tofino is about 35 minutes away from Ucluelet, and there are often hitchhikers on the way. Being one person in my truck I feel a bit silly driving by, since it is absolutely safe to pick people up around here. Mostly it has been native males, last night I picked up Mark the Carver. Lovely fellow, very interesting. I dropped him at the turnoff to Port Albion.

When I turned on to Bay street (a block from my house), I saw these two young fellows carrying three pallets. In my pick-up truck I pulled over and offered help, which they greatly accepted. They weren't going far, just to the campground at the other side of the pub (about .5km), but pallets are heavy (and were intended for firewood).

Got home and went to bed soon after. But I couldn't get comfortable, couldn't let my mind rest. I supposed I could blame it on the snack I had when I got home. Eating right before bed usually does not bode well for my sleep, but I hadn't eaten in six hours so was a bit grumbly. Well, I'll go to my offload today (should be short), take a nap this afternoon, and then teach some beginners how to make a slip knot, cast on, and knit tonight.

Then, hopefully, early to bed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

sneaking in to lace knitting

Remember this? This is the beautiful 40% bamboo/ 60% silk lace weight yarn that I bought from Twist of Fate at the Victoria FibreFest last month.

The other night, I took it in to Ellie's shop and used her swift and winder. Holy cow did that ever take a long time. 1695m takes at least 10 minutes of turning that little handle.

To be fair, it went quite quickly. The yarn was so expertly wound up that there were no problems with tangles - which is surprising given the weight of this fine yarn.

So I was pretty happy with how it wound up.






I've had this little cake of lace yarn sitting on my table, waiting for me to attend to it for a few days now. Meanwhile, I have started knitting up the Blue Sky Alpaca yarn and have been stumped by the pattern I'm using (is there an errata for the errata?). I also decided that what was formerly known as my St. Patrick's Day socks will now go to my Twitter friend @felyn, as we have decided to have a little swap. She's a lighthouse radio operator in Newfoundland (doesn't that sound cool and exotic?) and has the most interesting Tweets of the 90 or so people I follow.

Anyhow, back to the lace.

A few posts ago I mentioned the generous gift of yarn, that it would free up some of the earmarked money for this lace book I wanted. I really shouldn't be spending the money, but, well, I have no excuse. It's all kinds of pretty and this one lace book should do me for at least five years.

I have been having a problem with this yarn, though, in that it is fairly new on the market and no one on Ravelry seems to have knit anything with it yet. This means I can't ask anyone for advice. I'm new to lace and really want to expand my skills, and I'm hoping I didn't make the same mistake with lace yarn & pattern as I did with socks (choose the most difficult project as my first, before even getting my training wheels).

I selected a pattern out of this book and started knitting my gauge swatch. You heard me, I knit gauge swatches. I didn't use to, but after a few disasters (a 'Boogie Vest' that became my 'Cavewoman Vest') I now never fail to include this crucial step. The problem I'm having with this lace gauge swatch is: 1) that my needles are too heavy. I'm using 4.5mm but they are straight metal needles. I think I need to acquire bamboo in this size; and 2) I'm supposed to get 18 stitches over 4 inches but it turns out more like 2.5 inches.

Now my dear @felyn tells me that blocking works miracles, so I will press on with this little gauge swatch. But I think before I go any further, I will get those bamboo needles tomorrow to save myself tears and wasted time.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dogs

I'm not really a dog person. I get along with dogs but I will hopefully never own one. I am a cat person.

In the last place I lived, our landlords had three big dogs. The one dog was older and had some emotional issues (yes, really) but he was a great companion and watch dog. He was well behaved and only wanted to be loved. And yet he was the most ignored. The two younger dogs were ill-behaved, jumped up on people, barked at and chased anything that moved, and shat everywhere. It was nice to move away from there, as our current laundry room has no dog smell.

Just about everyone here has at least one dog, so we stand out a bit. I'm finding myself in the company of dogs fairly frequently but most of these dogs are well-behaved. Every so often, though, I am present when something unpleasant happens and my thoughts about dogs (or perhaps more appropriately, dog owners) turn a bit sour.

Case in point: I went to the beach with some friends the week when it was really hot here. We met up with some of their friends and a few of them came with their dogs. One dog shat on the beach, and instead of picking up the poo in the little baggie, the owner simply buried the pile.

Now I don't know about you, but if it was an ocean beach, I wouldn't kick up a fuss. The tide would come in and wash it away eventually. But this was a lake beach where children play and people walk. Take your shit with you. I'll say the same about cigarette butts.

The other night Dan and I were eating dinner at the picnic table on our front lawn. Sam (the kitty) was outside with us, sitting under the truck. These two women with a stroller and a fairly large dog walked by and the dog, excited by the sight of the cat, started to bark and chase after her. Kitty ran away, no harm done. The dog was on a leash so no big deal. But then the owner took the dog across the street, sat him down, and started talking very sternly to him. Well that's nice to see, I thought, good discipline. And then the dog yelped because she hurt him. This is where I got irritated because this seemed to me like abuse and totally unnecessary. I thought okay, the dog gets that he did something bad, but did you you really have to hurt him?

While even though I'm not overly fond of dogs, I abhor the sound or sight of an animal being abused. You bet I will come to the rescue of any animal in peril. I now started to feel sorry for this dog because he was in pain.

Should I have said something? It was enough that the enjoyment of my dinner was ruined, I don't know what to do in situations like these. I expect the response to be something like "mind your own business" since, in my experience, dog owners (like smokers) are adamant and assertive about their right to own a dog or be a smoker. Like these things somehow give them more privileges than those of us who aren't dog owners or smokers. I'm not much for conflict, so usually my response is to say or do nothing. I call it 'choosing my battles' but maybe it's that docile Canadian in me.

On my way back from the library just now, I heard a dog barking somewhere in the neighbourhood, and he sounded like he was in pain. (All dogs are males, in my mind, like all cats are female, just so you know). Again I thought "should I investigate? What then?" Was this animal being neglected? Was he strangling on his leash? I hate the sound of barking dogs because it means that the dog is either not well trained or neglected. I don't just mean a bark here and there, but constant barking. Again, in the last place we lived, the neighbour's dog barked incessantly and it was enough to drive one crazy.

In contrast, there are something like three or four dogs living next door to us (I'm sure I've mentioned this before) and we didn't even know for several weeks because they are so quiet.

I know there are a lot of responsible dog owners out there, so I hope if you are one of them that you don't take offense to what I have written here. I just wanted to put it out there that even though you love dogs, especially your own, that not everyone does.

Friday, July 16, 2010

finished object: Ocean socks

I started these socks quite a long time ago. By that I mean several months.




It was my first foray into toe-up socks. I know I probably said that about the Jim Socks too, but it's because I started them at the same time. With the Jim Socks, I used a pattern from the Socks from the Toe Up book.

In this case, I was just going to use a formula (also a first) for toe-up and the short-row shaping for the heel.
I used some Regia yarn for this. Still have rather a lot left. Might get a pair of ankle socks out of them, actually.

It took a long time to get through these partly because I got bored of the yarn, got bored of the pattern, got stuck on the short row heel... But eventually I had one sock and I was tired of having only one sock. I bound off sometime last week and then another few days passed before I actually wove in the ends.

But now, I have another pair of socks to wear! They are a bit slouchy but that's okay. I can now wear hand-knit socks for five days in a row. That's pretty exciting. I only had my first pair of socks in February this year, so I'm doing alright.

more food

This first one is of a poached pear. I won't go into too much detail about it since My Sweety blogged about it here.

All I can say is that it was yummy. He made four and we scarfed the first one in a minute. Three days later, after sitting in the refrigerator, it was still fine.



Next was the bacon-wrapped halibut with home made tartar sauce. I have to say, normally I don't like things wrapped in bacon, as I like my bacon unadulterated.

Mmm. Bacon.

As a thank you recently we were given a whole halibut (!) so Dan worked his magic on this. The tartar sauce was made with the last of the mustard pickles. When it comes cucumber time and we make another batch, I'll have to post the recipe. (Did I post the story yet? It's a good one, I'll have to write that up here).


This was the first thing he did with the halibut. The fish was good, the sauce (curry? I can't remember) was good. But the pink stuff was (note the past tense) potatoes that were whipped within an inch of their life after having been boiled with a beet or two. Then they turned gelatinous. So for me, who isn't crazy about certain textures, this just tasted like flour. But it was pretty.



Next we have the meringues. OMG these were so yummy Egg whites and sugar (maybe some vanilla?), whipped and then baked on parchment paper. I think that's how it went. I just ate them.

The thing about meringues is that you really do have to eat them soon after they come out of the oven or they start to - well, I don't know how to describe it. They become more dense and they 'sweat'. They are still yummy, but not that light airy melt-in-your-mouth kind of feel.

The reason we had an abundance of egg whites is because the yolks went into the ice cream.

Ah, some easy comfort food. Ground beef, spices, tomato, cheese, on a bun. Quick lunch.

Food My Sweety makes

It's truly no wonder I can't lose weight.



So what do we have here...
Locally caught spotted prawns. I think the green stuff on top was the shredded innards of a broccoli stem. Served with salad. Reds, pinks and greens served as dinner that night.






A wee omelet for breakfast served with a salad.






This was a breaded chicken with some mystery seasoning, breaded deep fried onions (good but heavy) and slices of avocado.





And the big pile of brown - that is a fried egg on top of a hamburger on top of steamed rice, with a bulgogi gravy on top. Dan's version of Moco Loco. Way yummier than it looks.






(I promised a few weeks ago I'd blog about food. Here is some.)

Every so often, Dan gets on a kick. Last fall it was mustard pickles. The year before it was ciders. Earlier this year it was marmalades (we had something like eight kinds of marmalade). At the moment it is sorbet and ice cream.

In our freezer right now:
golden kiwi sorbet
regular kiwi sorbet
peach ice cream
cherry ice cream
chocolate ice cream
roasted coconut ice cream
apricot sorbet
mandarin sorbet
lemon ice cream

They don't photograph very well so you'll have to take my word that they are yummy.

a super nice thank you!


Do you know what this is? It's seven skeins of Blue Sky Alpaca Worsted Handspun.

I can't really talk about what I'm making with it, in case the person I'm knitting the thing for eventually reads this blog. I will post about it on Ravelry, so you can find me there if you're curious.

I had Ellie order this for me last month, back when we were still expecting to have some money coming in by now. This yarn with tax would normally retail for about $150.

Back in January of this year, when I knew we were going to be moving to the area, I went on Ravelry and searched for all the people who live in Tofino or Ucluelet. ellieknitting popped up and I saw that she had posted on a forum, asking if she opened a yarn shop, would people come? I leaped up and said Yes! Not only that, I offered to teach classes for her. So our plan was in place a good three months before we actually met in person.

It was about a month after we moved here that she was able to open up shop in her first/temporary location. Dan and I drove up to Tofino with the truck to help her move in on a rainy Friday evening. I believe I posted about that when I was still blogging on LiveJournal.

The week before last she was finally able to move into her new (and much nicer) space. Again, Dan and I drove up to help. How often does a knitter get to be a part of opening/moving a yarn shop? It was three hours of hard and heavy work (I mentioned the heavy shelves a few posts ago) but very rewarding because she and her partner took us for sushi afterward.

The other night when I showed up early for Stitch Night, she packed up this yarn I had ordered and said "Here!" And I said "No!" and she said "Yes!" She said this was thanks for all my help, that she couldn't have done it without me. I nearly cried, I was so overwhelmed!

So, wow. I am a lucky gal. Even more so because I now have the pleasure of knitting with this sumptuous yarn. I'm almost through the first skein - it is meant to end up as a Christmas gift for someone but will (hopefully) be a display piece for Ellie's shop for the fall.

This also means that the money I was going to spend on this yarn can now go towards other things, such as the Victorian Lace Today book and some other knitterly goodness from her shop. It also means I will bend over backwards for Ellie. In September she will be in Nanaimo for the Vancouver Island Fibre Arts Showcase and then in Toronto for a family wedding the week following, so I will be looking after her shop for her. It will be cool to have a window into working at an LYS.

on the list

For those of you just joining us, "the list" refers to places My Sweety and I might end up someday soon. We moved to Ucluelet 3 1/2 months ago for a job that is no longer happening, and since we are having a hard time making ends meet here, we are once again considering relocating.

Not that we want to move. In fact, we hate moving. We really like it here and would rather stay. But there is someone in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, who is very interested in Dan's brewing talent.

I haven't started looking into this area yet. Things I'm looking out for:
1) local yarn shop
2) public library
3) gardening
4) work (which really should have been #1, but I don't want to put the cart before the horse. Dan has to get the job before I think about finding one. We worry about the fact that I don't have a work permit yet until later).
5) recreation (lakes, etc.)
6) cost of living (right, this should be higher up on the list too but really, the cost of living is already quite low compared to here).

Santa Fe is still on the list too, apparently. This is good. I love New Mexico, the Southwest as a whole, and will gladly drop everything and move there in a heartbeat. When I visited Tucson, Arizona, in 2004, I fell in love as soon as my feet hit the tarmac.

Why I love the Southwest:
1) food. Mexican holds the #1 spot (with Thai) for my favourite cuisine
2) weather. I love the climate, the 300 days of sun per year
3) cacti. I love these plants.
4) the land. There is something about the colours of the desert in this area that inspires art.
5) art. There is a lot of art in this area. Lots of pottery, obviously, but also lots of semi-precious stones (especially turquoise) which means jewelry, lots of textiles... So much pretty
6) proximity to Cool Places. I have always wanted to go to Texas. There is family in Utah. Dan's mom & stepdad have land & a cabin in Datil, a three hour drive from Truth or Consequences (in contrast, we are a 4.5-5 hour drive from family in Victoria

So yes, it's a long shot but I'm getting to the point now where, if we do end up moving, I think we can be happy just about anywhere. Did you know there are almost 500 Ravelers in New Mexico? If we move there, I will Friend them all.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

ramping up for a new set of knitting classes


I am in the process of putting together a How to Read a Knitting Pattern class. Have you ever taken one? Me neither. I'm largely self-taught, but I bet I could have saved a lot of time if I had taken such a class. Mostly for me it was borrow lots of books from the library and occasionally ask the one friend I had who knew how to knit to help me out. Backyardfeast helped me to negotiate my first pattern/lace project (which I'm to embarrassed to talk about).

Next week I'll be teaching a sock class. Teaching how to knit socks on dpns - which as I mentioned, is something I have yet to do. I'd better hurry up and get my sample sock going! I'm also rather behind on the #12socks project from Twitter. It's a Knit-along and I've been so busy with fish job (and the overdose the other day, but we're done with that now) that I haven't had much time to knit. At any rate, I'm excited that I'll have a bit more time to knit this week - for myself as well as for the classes I'll be teaching. Apparently there have been some big storms and swells offshore, which means not much fishing is happening. Good. I needed the break.

And now, a teaser: I finished a project! I'll do a proper post about this soon, but I figured since I'm (mostly) on the topic of socks, I will present to you my finished Ocean Socks!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

it's just wrong

What do you do when your father brings home a woman younger than you are to be your stepmother?

She's 31.

31.

I'm 36. My sister is 32.

I'm still a bit stunned.

Monday, July 12, 2010

another off the list

Lakewood, New York.

They had a solid offer for Dan but it wasn't nearly enough money to entice us to move, and no offer of moving allowance.

feeling grounded and a life-threatening experience






This post will be dense and newsy, since lots has happened.

I haven't been on my computer all weekend because I was busy working at fish job.

The green fish is a Ling cod. Why is it green and the others are not? Um... food source?

Two plant guys holding up a rather large halibut.

One of the buyers wanted photos of certain fish. Jewel is holding the gills open so I can take a picture of the Pacific Cod and the Petrale Sole (Brill).

Also, a longnose skate. This is the one I think I'm going to knit this winter. They are beautiful.

Righty ho, on to the news.

I worked a lot this past weekend. Friday was a 12-hour day. The power went out the night before, apparently one of the main power poles had a transformer explode or catch fire or something and the entire west coast was without power for something like 12 hours. Without power, no offloading can happen. No ice can be made. Everything stops.

I was scheduled to be at a 7:00am offload but, not knowing what happens here when the power goes out, I showed up. No one there but me and the truck driver. And he was desperate for coffee. So I brought him back to the house and made coffee on our camp stove. After this post from a friend, I should have been more prepared for a power outage, but we weren't really expecting one until the winter. You know, with winter storms. Well who knows why this happened but I was very glad when we had our camping stove ready. I was also extremely glad that we didn't get rid of this hand-cranking coffee grinder. Because I was out of ground coffee and I was happy to offer some up to the truck driver.

We sat and waited for an hour. Someone sent a text message and said BC Hydro says the power will be back by 9am, but it was actually just after 8am. When it came on, the truck driver and I went back to the plant and waited. The offloading began at 9am and we had two boats to do. I was there until 7:00pm it was a l o o o n g day.

It wasn't a bad day, though, because we were all there, all in it together. Something I have found that people really pull together in situations like this. I'm thinking back to the Blizzard of '96 - all of Victoria was shut down for three whole days because Victoria seldom gets winter. Yet all the neighbours were out on the street, shoveling snow, clearing snow off their roofs (which aren't really built for snow) and clearing a path to a storm drain. Everyone was in a cheerful we're-in-this-together kind of mood.

Meanwhile, back at the plant, at some point, the sister of one of the guys brought about 30 McDonald's cheeseburgers from Port Alberni. This is a big deal because Port Alberni is an hour away and most of these guys seldom get a chance to go into 'town'. So these cheeseburgers were like gold and O BOY did the morale increase after that.

The next day was a long day too, with boats sort of showing up unannounced. My two hour shift ended up being six hours, and I knew that Sunday would be long too.

I work around a lot of smokers and, since it's an outside job, I don't usually worry about it, especially since I'm only there for a few hours at a time. But I think the cigarette smoke was getting to me after these two long-ish days, and by Saturday night, I knew I had a migraine coming on.

I used to get migraines a lot, like three times a week, but then I got a handle on them between my medications (at the time), the food I was eating, my lifestyle, etc. Now I only get them once or twice a month and I don't need the expensive $20-a-pill migraine meds. Usually ibuprofen will do. But this time, I wasn't going to take any chances because I really wanted to be at that offload. I took 800mg of ibuprofen and then 2 Tylenol 3s on top of that before going to bed.

Holy shit.

That was dumb.

A couple hours later I woke up with ripping pain in my stomach. Got up to take some Tums, tripped on my way back to bed, and then, apparently, I passed out. Dan was awake by this time, after I had tripped noisily, and wondered what was going on. He found me not breathing and gave me the Heimlich maneuver to get me breathing. My pulse was difficult to find, then super slow on finding it. I faded in at one point, remembered being in the recovery position, dripping with sweat and feeling hot even though Dan told me I was ice cold and clammy. I remember him telling me he was glad I was still with him. Maybe I passed out a second time? In my incoherent state, my biggest worry was being able to show up for work the next day.

I did get up for work, feeling woozy and nauseous. Dan asked me if my ribs hurt, if I was bruised. I had no idea what he was talking about, until he told me what he had done. I drank some juice and kept it down. Then some cereal. I thought I'd be okay for work. Showed up at 7:45 and the offload began. I let the girls at the plant know I wasn't feeling great, that I might at some point need someone come to cover for me.

Every five minutes I thought to myself "I should go home. Can I make it? How much is left?" and after about four hours, my legs were wobbly and I thought I was going to pass out again. I was green. I got on the phone with my boss and called for reinforcement. A minute later the plant girls were whisking me away from the work area and into the office. Dan came to pick me up and drive me home. I spent the rest of the day in bed.

Apparently T3 takes about 40 hours to work its way through your system. I'm at hour 34 right now. Still feeling like my head is a block of cheese. So yeah, my husband saved my life and I am so thankful that he knew what to do in that moment.


Feeling Grounded
Before all this happened, I was starting to feel like yes, we would like to stay here. A week or two ago, Dan and I were both on the fence about whether we'd like to move or stay here. I'm developing some good friendships and work relationships here, I'm really starting to feel invested here. I have tremendous job satisfaction (and I can't say I've felt that in years) so there is a lot to keep us here. We even have a couple of investors for the business we want to start. So things are looking up.

In contrast to how I felt much of June, I'm feeling happy again. I am happy to be here, happy with the way our life is going. I would be even happier if a bucket of money landed on our doorstep, but for now, we are okay.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

off the list

Yuba City is off the list, at least for now. They won't be ready for 4-6 months.

Santa Fe is off the list too. The job isn't interesting enough and doesn't pay enough.

(me crying)

(not really. Sante Fe is well above 5,000 feet which makes it off the list for that criteria alone).

That's okay. I've just applied for a job as a local newspaper reporter. I don't have any journalism experience - (not as a reporter, but I have submitted pieces that were published so long ago I wouldn't know where to look) but I figure I can write and I can learn stuff. Hey, if you don't buy a ticket, you can't win the lottery, right? If we end up staying in Ucluelet (and a job like this is a big motivator), it could be the beginning of a good writing career for me.

On that note, I just went through my blog posts for the last month, trying to imagine it through the lens of an editor/potential new boss. My content is personal, obviously, but also in some cases unconventional. I don't know if a writer's reputation is subject to the same kinds of scrutiny that politicians are, but if so, then I am the first to declare I am unabashedly opinionated. I'm telling you this, dear reader, because if you are the newspaper editor who is doing the hiring, then you will see I have laid myself bare here.

What you won't see here is too much detail about my fish job, my marriage, the people we have befriended here. I do have a high degree of respect for the privacy of others; I am mindful of personal boundaries. I am required to keep confidential about a significant portion of my job with the commercial fishing industry.

If I don't get the job as a reporter and we do end up staying here, however, I am seriously considering producing a podcast about the Ucluelet/Tofino area. This area has so much to offer that I think it would be a fun thing. I've even drawn up a plan/agenda for topics I would cover. I'm such a big fan of podcasts that I'm actually quite surprised that none exists for this area. If I do get that project going and you are a podcast junkie, what kinds of things would you like to know about?

learning to chat

My dad is in the Crimea!

He created a gmail account soon after landing in Europe when he was having difficulty opening his regular email. This means he is very new to the world of web-based email applications. He had had previous experience with Hotmail, and is awe-struck by the functionality of Google mail.

When I was checking my email yesterday, I saw that he was on-line, so I initiated a chat with him. You know how that works, right? If your friends with gmail are online there is a green dot next to their name...

He was surprised that a chat box would come up. Wondered how I knew he was online. (I had to explain this to him a few times). We chatted for about an hour, I'd say, and it was actually a pretty good conversation.

See, when we talk on the phone, it is usually hours and hours of him doing most of the talking. About 80% of the content is stuff I've heard before, sometimes hundreds of times (not exaggerating, believe me). So usually, because I'm on Skype, I have my headset on so my hands are free to knit while he is talking away...

But with typing, I am way faster than he is, so this whole chatting thing was more my game. We talked about sending text messages (he just got his first cell phone ever last month; I have been a cell phone user since 2003). I told him it's especially fast for me now because I have a QWERTY keyboard on my iPhone.

"What's a QWERTY keyboard?"

(Thus followed the history of typewriters, how the hammers with the letters on them needed to be arranged so that the ones that were used most frequently were far enough apart so as not to get stuck.) (Now that we have computer keyboards, this arrangement is no longer necessary but we are so used to how it is that it makes no sense to change.)(I would hate to learn a new keyboard. It would mean rearranging my entire brain.)

This kind of surprised me, actually. This is a man who assembles and repairs computers for a living, claims to be up to date with state-of-the-art technology.

And yet.

He only heard about Skype a few months ago, just discovered gmail, and only learned how to chat for the first time yesterday.

You know how on gmail chat if you want to send a :-) to someone you type colon/hyphen/end parentheses? I did that and he asked me how I got that 'cute little thing' on there. I guess it is a generational thing. He's a hunt-and-peck keyboarder. I fly along at 80wpm.

So yeah, that was an interesting cultural experience. ("Interesting Cultural Experience", btw, shall now be referred to as I.C.E. I use this expression a lot when I'm trying to understand a new concept or understand why people do the things the way they do.)

As for the whole being in Europe thing, he is currently in Kerch. On the Black Sea. I guess he went for a swim in the Black Sea (ew. Isn't that one of the most polluted bodies of water on the planet?) and hurt his back. He was laid up for a week, it took several days before he was able to sit up at his laptop. I hope he has people helping him, but he's not so good with these kinds of details.

I asked him if he has posted his pictures anywhere. He said 'why?'.

Um...

(This is obvious, isn't it? I mean, why would someone ask if your photos were posted? Because they want to see them, right?)

Because I'd like to see them, I said.

(He's in eastern Europe for crying out loud! The place of thousands of years of interesting history and architecture! And I've never been there.

I said "how is the food? What is it like?"

"The coffee here is really strong."

(By this time I'm getting exasperated. My dad is obviously not a good storyteller nor reporter. If I was in Europe, I'd be going on about the music, the architecture, the art, the food, the colourful people. He just complains that they don't have debit machines in shops, that you have to carry cash).

*sigh*

I guess he is a man on a mission: to find a wife. Galina from Kiev and Olga from St. Petersburg didn't work out, so now it's Tamara from Kerch. The saga continues. This is nothing if not interesting.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

keep on swimming

Something Dr. Gemma talks about a few times on her CogKnitive podcast is to 'keep on swimming' as one of her strategies.

I really like this podcast. She is thoughtful and articulate. It's mostly not about knitting, but then, with a hundred or so knitting or other fibre-related podcasts out there, there is only so much one can say.

When I first started college at the fresh age of 21, my plan was to be a prison psychologist. Then I spent a summer volunteering at a youth correctional facility. Then I switched to an English literature major. Now, thanks to Dr. Gemma, I can live vicariously through her and hear stories about the work I'll never do.

I'm fascinated by the stories she comes up with. She has a number of segments in her podcast, including 'strategies' and 'something I like' and 'blather'. It's great because she has a set agenda of what will be included in every podcast and, because she is talking to the microphone as she is driving to/from work, she just talks. She is articulate and never has any non-words ('um', 'uh', 'like', 'you know', or other filler words when the speaker can't think of what to say next). So when she gets on to her strategies segment, I perk up especially because they are strategies that can apply to everyone.

The 'keep on swimming' strategy has come up a couple of times. She refers to the character voiced by Ellen deGeneres in the film Finding Nemo - that when you run into difficulty, just keep swimming to get you through. It's a good idea.

I live in a place where lots of people cope through their difficulties with alcohol, nicotine, or drugs. I have a hard time relating to this, of course, because I cope with knitting. Lots of the people I work with are smart as a whip but either dumb themselves down to fit in or dull themselves with substance.

That got me thinking about the choices we make in our lives. Would you rather be in a rut or on a roller coaster? Being in a rut you have a predictable and possibly stable life. You have that comfort in knowing that this time next year, you will be doing the same job with the same people in the same place. But if you are on a roller coaster, you never know what will happen next. Sure that uncertainty can be scary, but sometimes adversity can throw you into some amazing situations that you wouldn't have otherwise encountered.

Case in point: have I told you the story about when we crashed our van on the first day of our honeymoon?

We had crossed the border into Washington state at around 11:00pm. We pulled into a Wal-Mart and camped the night there, then the next morning were going to make our way to the Olympic Peninsula for the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend. We were both of us looking down at the map while driving, and looked up too late to realize that the BMW in front of us had stopped to make a left turn off the highway. Dan braked hard but still rear-ended the guy.

CRASH!

I knew right away that Dan would be worried about me, so the first thing I said was "I'm not hurt!" The next thing that happened was that both vehicles pulled off the side of the road. Dan was freaking out. This van has been in his family since 1986 when they bought it new. Dan learned to drive in this van. Dan had spent the previous three months, evenings and weekends, renovating this van to make it ready for our month-long journey on the road in the 10 western states and Canada. Now Dan was absolutely freaking out, worried that he had ruined our vacation, that we'd have to go home, that he'd wrecked the van.

BMW guy, nice fellow, was okay. His vehicle was hardly damaged. But our van took a pretty hard hit. The front passenger side was crushed in, all the lights were rendered useless.

After we exchanged insurance information with the guy and the state trooper, we went off and parked in a Lion's Club park (or something like that) while Dan got out the monster tool kit he had brought. He just happened to bring a drill and a file to adjust the hinge on the door so that it hung right. Just happened to have an extra set of lights and the van's electrical wiring manual so that we still have lights and signals so we' re road safe. Just happened to have a piece of sheet metal to cover the hole. Just happened to have a huge roll of duct tape and a pool noodle to patch it up and make it all secure. That's my Sweety.

Later that day we went to the local library for the Internet connection. Dan got on the Toyota Van Forum and asked if anyone between Seattle and New Mexico had an old van they were willing to offer up for pieces. A day later, a fellow in Mammoth Lakes California replied.

So Mammoth Lakes became part of our itinerary. We took lots of pictures of this time, so I really should post them. Another time, perhaps.

We needed to be there for two days while the deconstruction of the other van happened. Sam, the fellow we were getting the pieces from told us about this place where the locals all go to camp. If you drive south on the highway for about twelve miles then turn left at the green church then drive west for about six miles, there is a road you turn left on. Keep going until you see the old tire hanging on the chicken wire fence... then you know you've found the outdoor hot tub with the natural spring.

So there are hot springs (at 7,000 feet) and a spot where this hot creek emerges, someone had diverted some of the hot water into a big hole they had dug in the ground and then filled with concrete - a hot tub. It was amazing! The Sierra Nevada mountains are all around and it is otherwise high desert. Nothing there, just hills, desert, and sky. It was so nice to have that experience. We never would have heard of it if we hadn't met Sam, if we hadn't gone to Mammoth Lakes, if we hadn't had that accident. So see? Something good came of our adversity.

We are expecting that our move to Ucluelet and our current hardships will result in something amazing down the line. It could be that we end up moving to a great situation somewhere else - something that wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been looking for work somewhere. If there is one thing I do believe in, it is that (for me, at least) everything happens for a reason. So when the going gets tough, I just keep swimming.

St. Patrick's Day socks

I joined my first KAL (knit-a-long) through my Twitter friend @knittyornice. There is a sister blog where all the participants (I think we're up to 13 now?) contribute and post about their socks. I think it's a fun idea, I really like the idea of communal blogging.

I have posted about this particular set of socks there so I'll only mention this briefly: these are the Belle Epoque socks from the 2-at-a-Time Socks pattern book by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. It's a great book and through it I taught myself how to knit socks.

Now here is a funny thing. In a couple of weeks, I'll be teaching a sock knitting class at Knits by the Sea in Tofino. So, while I taught myself how to knit socks the 2-at-a-time method on circular needles, Ellie would like me to teach with dpns, one at a time. Hm. I have never knit socks on dpns. Well, how hard can it be? The pattern and the techniques will be just the same, it's just going to have lots more pointy ends. I'll do my practice sock this week.

In case you are wondering why this post is entitled "St. Patrick's Day socks", it's because, last March 17th, I realized to my horror that Dan and I didn't have hand-knit green socks to wear! My birthday was the week that followed so I marched myself over to the Gaia's Colours workshop and got myself two skeins of sock yarn: by the time March 17 rolls around next year, we'll have socks.

For those of you who are new to following me, I used to blog on LiveJournal and posted about why March 17th is special to us here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

moving right along

New list of potential places for us to consider:

Santa Fe, New Mexico (pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease)(three yarn shops)(amazing food)
somewhere in Maine (would totally love that too) (they have maple syrup)
Pennsylvania (I'd have to learn how to spell that unassisted)
Phuket, Thailand (O heavens, of all the places in Thailand, does it have to be Phuket?)(Thailand's sex trade capital)

or here. Here is good. I went to Kennedy Lake with new friends yesterday and today. Swimming. in. a. lake. Who knew it was so much fun? I don't even feel self-conscious in my bikini. I'm shapely.

So much going on, so much to consider.

O! An update on my dad. He's still in the Ukraine or Russia. We aren't sure, exactly, he hasn't been great at keeping us posted. Apparently he hurt his back though, (he had three of his vertabrae fused together in a surgery in the 1990s, has never really recovered from it and takes a daily dose of morphine to combat the pain) and was unable to travel. So he'll return to Canada any time now. The lady, my current new step-mother, has a name: Tamara. Apparently she'll be following my dad to Canada in three months, after her paperwork has been processed. Well, at least he hasn't been kidnapped.

In other news, we helped Ellie move her yarn shop Knits by the Sea to its new location on Sunday. Now with moving a yarn shop you'd think yarn isn't that heavy. And it isn't. But the shelves - I hope we never have to move those suckers again. Eight feet tall particle board shelves with lots of cubbies - they were heavy. I'll spare you the pictures of the bruises on my arms and legs from moving them. I won't whine at all about the pulled muscle in my back or my sore shoulder. They took us out for sushi afterwords! (Alas, Tough City Sushi does not live up to its reputation). It was fun though, and the new space is much more suitable. I'm looking foward to having knit nights out on the back deck.

Also, Dan is on an ice cream and sorbet-making kick right now. Golden kiwi sorbet. Vanilla custard ice cream. Pink grapefruit sorbet. Apricot sorbet. Root beer sorbet. White peach ice cream. Mandarin sorbet. He couldn't have picked a better week: we're expecting temperatures in the high twenties later this week!

One other random thing: we were having a conversation with our neighbours last night about unions. A long time ago, in a past life, I was on the executive of a very weak union and held the position as president for about eight months, until I realized that that I was completely unsupported by the executive and membership (I was 27; most of the membership was at least 20 years my senior). I thumbed my nose at these people and left the country to teach English in Korea. After my union experience, my politics have changed drastically (actually, I try to stay out of political discussions as much as possible now). After thinking about last night's conversation, Dan had an idea: that perhaps unions are unnecessary in first world countries because we are already so protected by labour laws. It's an interesting suggestion. If you agree or disagree, I'd love to hear what you think.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

walking away from Paganism

I have been meaning to write about this for months. I kind of forgot about it, really, and I think it's good. I started composing an essay on this topic several months ago now, but set it aside because it seemed too angry, and that wasn't what I wanted to convey. I'm addressing this now for a few reasons:

1) I have just today listed all my Pagan books for sale on Amazon.
2) A Google search of my name turns up some Pagan stuff.
3) because of these things, I want to set the record straight about where I'm at.

I will begin with a brief history.

(N.B. Below I use some jargon that may be unfamiliar to those who don't know much about this topic. Hopefully that won't detract from the content of my narrative).

I identified as Pagan/Wiccan for about ten years. Not solidly, but within the space of ten years, I developed into quite an adept. I studied with an excellent teacher, led and co-led several public group rituals, had a few rites of passage, wrote an article for Witchvox, and was really active in the Pagan community. I led a group at the University of Victoria for three years. I even started the process of enrolling at Cherry Hill Seminary to do a Master of Divinity, on the path towards being Pagan clergy.

But after I returned from living in Asia, when I came back to find my teacher/priestess had an actual class/coven, I started having my doubts about the whole thing. There were a few things I was uncomfortable with - nothing to do with my teacher - I have the utmost respect for her - but nothing I could really put my finger on.

I did a lot of internal storming about my discontent, trying to pin down exactly what I was discontent with. Which of my needs were not being met? Why did some of these experiences leave me so irritated? Why couldn't I turn off my inner critic and just have the great religious experience I was supposed to?

Soon after I started the club at UVic, I left the coven I was practicing with. I enjoyed my time with the club, but eventually I knew that after I finished my schooling, without leadership, the club would probably fade. And it did. I finished my degree, went on my honeymoon (which was in fact a full moon cycle), and came back to no real commitment to any group or path of study.

A few months later, I realized that I didn't miss it. At all. Previously I had felt guilty if I didn't celebrate a sabbat or a full moon, but even after learning all I could about these holidays, I had a hard time getting in the mood short of simply wanting to decorate a la Martha Stewart.

My last act as a Pagan was to go to a Yuletide ritual held by my former group last winter. I was even asked to lend a hand, since they were short and I was an experienced handmaiden.

But that, as every other Pagan ritual I have ever attended, left me feeling kind of empty. I never got that satisfaction from having gone into trance or had a deeply moving experience in ritual. According to the literature, this is supposed to happen at some point. With nearly a hundred rituals under my belt, I really should have had this experience at least once.

But I never did. I got the routine down pat, I could set up a circle like nobody's business. Putting on a public group ritual us much akin to putting on a play: script, costumes, choreography, music, props, etc. I was good at it and I enjoyed that part. But that is just theatrics, and not so much about the faith.

I stopped identifying as Pagan around Christmastime. It was around then that I came to a few conclusions.

Religion serves a number of purposes for people. I know I won't include all, we all have our own reasons for seeking or not seeking, but here is what I came up with.

1) People who seek religion want communication or connection with deity.

Right. Fair enough. I don't believe in God, or a set of gods or goddesses. I am a scientist. I cannot believe that there is some sentient being out there who is orchestrating all this.

For a while there I was listening to CBC's Tapestry, the weekly program about religion and spirituality by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Always interesting, the guests that the host Mary Heines was interviewing last fall and winter were (by accident?) often people who were devout athiests or people who went so deep into their faith that they walked through it - came out as non-believers. I thought this was an interesting thing - partly because of the content itself but also because of the timing, as I was having these own feelings myself.

In another post today I talked about the death of my friend Jeremy 20 years ago, and that a number of people I knew or who were in my life in the few years following also died. Death makes you question God - or whether there is one. I'll likely cover this topic in another post, another day.

2) People often seek religion for community.

And here is where I get a bit controversial. In times of old, the church was the community. Nowadays, with so many faith options, choosing a faith is also a choosing of community. I don't know what it is like in the monotheistic faiths, but with Paganism, it seems to be either very exclusive or overly inclusive. What I mean by this: by 'very exclusive' I mean closed covens who have enough members and don't want you in their group. Okay, understanding the nature of ritual as I do, fair enough. But then there is the 'overly inclusive'. This is the kind of situation where because someone identifies as 'Pagan', then no matter what their flavour is, everyone comes, from the people who believe in fairies and angels to people who claim to have been ceremonial magicians to people of the different sects within Pagansim (Wicca, Druids, Astruar, etc.) to people who call themselves Pagan but really just want another outlet for their SCA fantasies.

I don't mean to be insulting, really I don't. But in my experience, maybe one in twenty of these people I have met are true to their faith and are not what serious Pagans refer to as 'fluffy bunnies' and I call flakes. And the sad truth is that flakes turn up to public ritual and you have to pretend to circle with them 'in love and trust'. For lots of these people, because they are already on the outskirts of the status quo, the only place they feel like they have community is among other Pagans.

It took me a long time to realize that I don't actually want to spend time with most of these people. The serious Pagans are nice people outside of the faith - which means faith has nothing to do with it. And I already have a strong and solid social community, so I don't need that from my faith.

3) People often use faith as a means of personal development.

I'm not saying this is true for everyone. Sure, I experienced a lot of personal development through working with my priestess. But I am an introspective person by nature; I have done lots of work on myself with my counselor at uni and with the help of a number of self help books and journaling. I started to feel like I hit a wall in my spiritual development.

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Now before I walked away from religion entirely, I did give some thought to the other faiths out there. Not believing in a God, all the theistic faiths were out of the question. That left Buddhism.

Before I happened upon Wicca/Paganism, I would have referred to Buddhism as my 'spiritual mother tongue'. Not like I ever got far enough to Take Refuge or anything, not like I ever had any sort of regular meditation practice, but I did a fair bit of reading on the subject. So, before shutting religion out entirely, I had a last glance at Buddhism.

Amazingly, I found it didn't really suit me anymore. The person I am now is quite different from the person I was a decade ago.

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So it's been six months now since I stopped calling myself Pagan. I have spoken about this to a few friends and family and most people are surprised: they knew how serious I was about my pursuit of knowledge about faith. But when it comes down to it, I don't miss it at all. I can still appreciate it and have huge respect for the work that is being done, as I respect everyone's right to have a faith. I only submit that, at least for right now, it is not for me.

And if you ask me what my religion is, I will say knitting is my religion.