Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I OWN TIME


People often wonder how it is that I do so many things in my life. I seem to be the only person who makes people tired after telling them what I did on the weekend. Is it because I am all too willing to accept crazy challenges (even more so, blithely impose them on myself)? Is it because I have this need, this desire to be that over-achiever my inner C grade Public Schooler wanted me to be so badly (and that I actually mustered into being by Grade 8 much to my own astonishment)? Is it because I strive to do things (seemingly impossible things) for other people just to get them to like me?

No.

It is because I am nuts. And how has all of this become possible for me and perhaps not so much for you? Because I have become a Time Lord. (Without ever watching Doctor Who...because it scared the be-jeezus out of me when I was a little kid. I have been led to believe that it has come along way since the Darleks were disturbing tin cans and that the Doctor is a hottie, but still, this Time Lord can only bend it like Beckham for so long. Even I recognize that I have limits.)

So, I’ll bet you want to know why it was I had to bend time itself to achieve a crazy self-imposed goal. Well, it started with a little email from a friend of mine. Banjolina asked me if I could knit a cool hat for John in a week. No problem, I said. A week is a breeze. Lots of time. The hat was for his birthday on the Tuesday of that week to be presented at the next Corkery Road practice on the following Sunday.

So I went to the local yarn shop and proceeded to the wall of Paton’s Classic Merino, the most wonderful felting wool in existence. This yarn in charcoal I could not get. Nice mossy green, yes. But I wanted charcoal for the hat that was in my mind. So I turned instead to the Briggs and Little rack and picked up the required amount and thought, ‘It’s a 100% wool. It will felt.’ And went on my merry way.

I’ve made several of these Fiber Trends hats now. They are easy, fast, almost fool-proof. This yarn works really well. In a few hours you have a great gift for under $20. And the things are stylish and practically wind-proof (very good for Ottawa Valley winters). So, getting right on it, I cast on Monday night and was done the knitting by Thursday night. I was taking a leisurely pace because I had until Sunday to present the finished product.

I had Friday off, so while playing about with the children, I felted the hat. Normally this involves throwing it into a pillowcase, tying it shut (to save the washing maching from a linty death) and run it through a hot cycle once, maybe twice. After three trips in the pillow case alone in the machine, I added my towels to give it more agitation. I still hadn’t shrunk down to the size it should have been. To the size it would have been had it been Patons Classic Wool.
So I removed it from its pillowcase and let it commingle with the towels for a go or two. Then I threw it in the dryer, thinking, ‘Ha. That’ll fix you, you bastard.’

Not so. And still I did not give up. The fact that it did not shrink any more than it had already shrunk after the third try, should have made me pause. But I had the fever on me then. And not enough time to begin again. What did happen though when I let it take its trip with the towels is that it became covered, nay encrusted with towel lint.

So for all my efforts and my hot water bill, I had a furry hat that only a giant could wear. Great.

I confessed the whole affair in the car on the way out to the outer reaches of Orleans while John and I travelled to our music practice. We laughed about it. But in my mind I thought, ‘He’ll be at jam on Wednesday night’ as in tonight.

So, Monday saw me back at Yarn Forward when I once again stood in front of the Patons Classic Wool, clawing down the lovely mossy green wool and I headed off to now complete a knitting feat. I would knit and felt that sucker in 2 days. (Keep in mind I do not knit during regular work hours….lunch doesn’t count as anyone who has seen me take me knitting for a walk will attest to.) So, Monday after the girls were in bed, it was GAME ON. I cast on and worked like a fiend. A fiend with a splitting headache. I got 4.5 inches done. Things did not look good for the deadline. However, a good night’s sleep rid me of the headache and last night, I called down the moon and bent time to my will. In 3 hours, I burned through countless stitches and sewed the top stitches together, tied it up in it’s pillowcase, tossed it in the laundry on hot and went to bed.

In the morning I had this. It might still be a bit moist, but most recipients of knitted items have encountered this.

Oh, yeah, I also had my knitting mojo kicked in the arse again last week. I bought some lovely yarn at the Real Wool Shop. Wendy Fusion 50/50 wool acrylic in a wonderful varigation with sea green, deep blue, aqua, to a lime green. It looked magnificent in the ball. It looked like ass in the hat I made. The Pinwheel Hat that I had gotten from The Yarnpath blog is a beautiful hat. I don’t advise variegated yarn. Not so nice. So, it’s going to be frogged and turned into a scarf and I’ve already bought some replacement Patons D├ęcor to do another one.

I am one stubborn woman. Who has the ability to bend time. Remind me of this around Christmas time when I may need help to bend it as much as I’m going to.

For now, Happy Hallowe'en!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

If music be the food of love…

I have heard a few people, quite recently, express that music has changed their lives. I have been one of these people, myself.

What is it about music that makes us sing, play, dance? At a very fundamental level, it echoes our heartbeat (or perhaps echoes the beat of our mother’s heart while we were still in the womb). Is this why music is present in every culture in the world?

At a literal level, it can raise our heart rate. Put on some good dance music and get your chores done in a hurry. It can also lower it when we are living a little too close to the edge.

It can change our moods. It can bring you up when you are down. It can level you out when you have been firing on all cylinders for just too long. It gives us a feeling of presence when everyone else is absent, lost or just plain gone. It can make you anxious, if you are not careful about what you’re listening to. For example, might I suggest that Wagner’s Ring Cycle is inappropriate listening during rush hour traffic on, say, a hockey night.

It is enriching, energizing, cathartic. It makes our brains work, even without our knowing. Brain function is engaged when we tap our feet, when we decide whether or not we like a tune, a riff, a lyric, a voice, an instrument. When we memorize a song, when we learn to play it or sing it back. It keeps our minds well exercised. It can even provide a bone fide workout. (I play the drum, I know whereof I speak.)

It gives us a reason to go out. It opens up communities of like-minded people. It brings us together and binds us in rhythm, beat and harmony It gives us a common goal or understanding for one precious moment in time. I fondly remember the dance halls of Cape Breton and all the lucky people who can kiss goodbye their gym memberships because there’s a dance every night of the week if you’re willing to travel to it.

There is a special camaraderie in a musical group. The very idea of a disparate group of people from all different walks of life, with different jobs and personalities, coming together on a regular basis just for the enjoyment of playing the same kind of music is magical. For many of us, it is integral, vital, healing, downright nourishing to our very souls. The groups I am associated with have become like family. From mere acquaintances, I have found community. A place where I am liked and accepted for who I am. A place where I am appreciated for my talents. A space in which acquaintance can grow into friendship and in turn, can lead to love.

My life has been enriched by the music that surrounds me. It is as nourishing as any meal. It has helped me in the painful healing processes of my life and has given many, many rewards. Thanks Mom, for the heartbeat that laid down the first tracks which lead me through this crazy life.

Music is the food of love. Play on.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Girls!


Friends, Romans, Countrymen! Lend me your ears.

The girls have turned three. A triad of years to romp, stomp and roar. Thrice twice in fact. Having two three-year olds fills the house like 10 children running and jumping and rolling around on the floor. Two three-year olds is practically your own orchestra! And music is one of their great loves. They love to sing. They love to dance. They like all kinds of music: Celtic, Cape Breton Fiddle, classical and, God help us all, country. I know they listen to it at Josie's.

Everyone enjoyed a fab party on Saturday. There were balloons, musical chairs (during which all participants cried) and a pinata! The floor was littered with excellent gifts! (If they didn't get the chance in the chaos and mayham to actually say thank you, they would like to extend their gratitude with chocolate covered faces.

The House Giveth

In other news, the weekend saw some modifications to the modified fireplace. A few years ago, my mom and dad had a gas insert that looks like an authentic coal fire installed in my hearth. I am extremely glad that they did this because if I had tried to light a fire in the original fireplace, I'd have burnt the house down. No liner and billion years of detrius laying around it. As he was digging out the old, icy tiling that surrounded the original coal box, he found a couple of very interesting items.

A Christmas card that looks like it came from the 20's or 30's. Santa drives a Model T Ford and is tossing presents for all the good girls and boys as he put-put-puts through the Christmas Eve night.
(Don't be surprised if you receive one of these for Christmas this year!)

And a tin picture frame from an insurance company. It says:
The Reliance Loans and Savings Company of Ont
Toronto
Loans made on Improved Farms and City Property
Debentures Issued and Deposits Received.

It's got an Art Decco flare to it and two little girls in bonnets are peering out a window into a water colour landscape. And there is room in the bottom right for a photograph to go.

There was also a box of fish food which had instructions on keeping your gold fish alive and well which was stamped by a pharmacy in Carleton Place. No date though.

It doesn't quite make up for the fact that I have to replace the furnace, but there is some balance there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Domino Effect

There are things conspiring against me. Things that I myself have set into motion. These things set other things in motion that keep me from doing what I wish to be doing. Regrettably, these things are also unavoidable and the chain reactions MUST be dealt with.

Domino #1

Perhaps the most difficult to overcome: work. Yes, 44 hours one week and 36 hours the next and still more of it when I get home. Knowing that most of us suffer from this malady does not lessen the load I am currently juggling at work. As an editor, I find there is a tidal effect with work. Sometimes the tide is in and the work is fast and furious. Sometimes the tide is out and things move at a more leisurely pace. Right no the tide is IN. Now, if this were the only domino in question, it would not be so bad....Enter the next domino

Domino #2

Editing Certification. Most of you are aware that I am an editor of several years experience now. The Editors' Association of Canada has devised a wonderful certification program by which we can all gain more respect and, dare I say, a bit of well-earn prestige in the workplace. Lovely. Yes. I, of course, being me, have decided to take all three of the available courses:

Elementary Knowledge of the Publishing Process;

Proofreading; and

Copy Editing.

This involves separate study guides and practice exercises and the testing to be done in November. I have also tied this testing to my work performance review. So, I'm really going to put some effort into this. But of course, considering the nature of domino #1, it may be difficult to get much studying in during the now non-existent slow period at work. This has also spawned the need to write up a training plan to submit to HR for reimbursement for the testing and study materials.

These two dominos alone, I could handle quite nicely. But, they aren't the only ones.

Domino #3

The smell coming from my cold air vent. It's that time of year again. The Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beasties, come back into the house for warmth. Occasionally, some accident befalls one and for some unknown reason, they perish in the cold air return. For a few days I thought it might just be the damp coming out of the basement. However, inspection of the basement revealed that it was no more damp than usual. This is
Carleton Place and my basement is typical for the over century old set of houses. The floor is bedrock. The walls are stone. It is as old as dirt. But I digress. After a few more days, the smell changed to that of some kind of CSI crime scene. How can one mouse do that? It makes me thankful I've never and I am likely never to stumble across a larger carcass. Especially not in my cold air return. So, you're wondering now, what's the spin-off on this one. Wait for it. This one's a good one. So I thought to myself (and Bruce gave a helpful suggestion), better get the ducts cleaned. That should take care of the problem. And while I'm at it, I'll just have the furnace serviced too. Want to be safe for the coming winter. They tend to be cold (-40 deg C cold). Yep, that's cold enough to freeze the balls off your average brass monkey.

So, the dudes from Ed's Home Comfort showed up today to "service" my furnace and for my money, they told me that if it were in their basements, it would have been gone long ago. And they didn't advise trying to get another winter out of it. It is 26 years old and really didn't heat parts of the house anyway. BUT, it does create a bit of a cascade. Now, I've had to call an energy efficiency inspector because...I'm about to say something that doesn't come out of the mouths of Canadians very often...God Bless the Government (both Federal and Provincial) because we have an Energy Efficiency program that will give me a bit of a break on the price because I am retrofitting my house which is older than dirt. NRCan requires a blower door test which will effectively and scientifically tell me what I already know: my house leaks air like a sieve and is not terribly efficient in its usage of our precious energy.

This has to be done before I can get the new furnace. Check the date folks. Time is running short before potential snow fallage. Eeegads!

So what am I going to do now that I have poured my heart out to you? I'm going to start another knitting project, but this time, it's just for me. All for me. Not for Christmas. Not for a loved one. Not for a rainy day. Not just in case. No. I am going to start this: The Aran Accent Vest from Patons Cables book (No 500846). And I am using a yarn that was a gift to me from a wonderful lady, Bruce's mom Joyce.



It is Briggs and Little 2 ply in dye lot #308 from goodness knows when in a lovely seafoamy blue. I'll show you pictures when it's underway.

I have also finished a couple of pairs of socks for my beloved. The first pair are done in Austermann Step with Aloe Vera in # 3 Gras. These were my first socks done all to
measurement and using a simple sock recipe. I did a swatch to see how many stitches I'd need to make socks that wouldn't cut in to his ankles or calves. You can see from the picture, cutting in isn't going to be the problem. Far from it. Falling down is the trouble. They may get frogged even though they are done. Or perhaps gifted to someone with larger feet. The whole point was to learn something from the process. And learn I did. You can start the toe an inch sooner than you thought and things will work out just fine. Ribbing down the leg is advisable if a bit boring. They are socks. How interesting do they have to be? Now that I understand better the size I'm dealing with, I can knit better ones. Which I did.

These babies are made with Briggs and Little sock yarn. 100% wool and not to be put in the dryer. However, you will notice that they fit the feet much better than the green ones. Learning has occurred. My inspiration for this pair was from Maud at the Garn Boet - Yarn Nest, and one of my favourite blogs to read. Check her out! Like her soccer socks, I used a knit 3, purl 1 rib all the way down to the toes (stocking stich on the under side of the foot). This gives them a nice appearance and is a bit better to knit than k1p1 ad nauseum.

Well, that just about wraps it up for tonight. I'll leave you with a couple of pictures from the gigs of a couple of weekends ago. The International Ploughing Match where it appears we were playing in a cage just like the Blues Brothers, but really it was a flatbed trailer stage that faced south on a hot, sunny day and we all got BURNT. It was amazing and the crowd stuck it out with us without a shred of shade for most of them. The best part was my personal cheering section at the back (ironically in the only shade) my girlies and my parents and their friends. Nothing like playing to a stacked and packed crowd.

And the Russell Celticfest. A whole day and evening of excellent music, pipe bands and storytelling. We didn't have to play in a cage in Russell. But I bet Big Jeezus Truck should have.