22 July 2014

KCW: Day 2

On track so far with KCW! I made a bonnet for E. yesterday for Day 2. I made her a sun hat a while back, and while it is fantastic, we've discovered that it's much harder for her to pull bonnets off and toss them on the ground while we're in transit. I have run over that poor sun hat so many times with the stroller.

I used the same pattern for this bonnet that I used a while back for E.'s pretty floral bonnet for her costume when we went to Fan Expo. The pattern is from MAKE, and it's a bonnet that was originally designed for upcycling vintage linens. The only vintage linens we have on hand were ones my great-grandmother and great-great grandmother made, so obviously, that won't do.

Pink fabric, purple and yellow rick-rack. No, it's not stereotypically girly at all.
 However, my fabric stash has a number of odds and ends in suitable amounts, so I ended up pulling out a very pink piece of floral-printed fabric. I don't usually often sew pink items for E. because we already have so much pink in her wardrobe, but this fabric suited the pattern well, and I had coordinating ric-rac on hand (is it rick-rack or ric-rac or either/or?).

This pattern let me practice some hand-sewing--after sewing the lining and outside together, you flip the bonnet right-side out and blind-stitch the gap together. I used to be terrible at doing blind-stitch--I kept mixing it up with whip-stitch and doing that instead, but I seem to have finally figured it out.

If I make another one (and I kind of want to), I want to line the bill with interfacing to make it a bit stiffer. The first time I made the pattern, I did the ruffled brim. This time I did the flat bill option, which I think I like better than the ruffle, but lack of interfacing on the bill means that it doesn't have as much structure as I think it should.

Baby in her new hat!
 E. seems to like the hat well enough. I showed it to her and she grabbed it and wandered off across the living room, waving it over her head. Shortly after that, she got distracted by a pair of sunglasses and abandoned the bonnet next to one of the many boxes decorating our home.

On the list for today: A new Geranium. We are moving up a size! 6-12 months, here we come!

21 July 2014

Kid's Clothes Week - Take 2

Well, I signed up for Kid's Clothes Week again. The latest round of it started yesterday and I'm making plans. And I got a headstart on it by sewing a baby dress Friday (I just couldn't stop myself). This is the Easy Summer Baby Dress from See Kate Sew.

I tweaked the pattern a little--I enlarged the bodice, which turned out to be an unneccessary change. E. can wear it as a jumper dress in the fall and winter, and as a slightly-too-big summer dress right now. It's also a bit long--blame it on how I cut out the dress so as to avoid weird skinny strips of fabric from the edge of the material. I whipstitched the lining over the seam at the bodice. The tutorial makes it sound like you just sew bodice, lining and outside, together to the skirt and then maybe zigzag or serge the edges of the seam and I preferred a neater finish. I could just be misreading the instructions, though. I accidentally set the straps a touch too far in. They're supposed to be at the very edge of the bodice and that didn't quite happen. Oh well. It works anyway.

What I love about this dress in particular, other than the simple construction (it took me an hour or so to make this, with the hand-sewing), is the straps. They are gathered with elastic and they make the whole thing look adorable. It's a simple thing to do, but it adds so much to the dress without being over the top.

It occurred to me when I signed up for KCW that it might not have been the smartest idea, what with us moving two weeks from now and all. Now that we're closer to time, I think committing to sewing for an hour or so a day will be a welcome distraction from the stress of moving. We've checked off some of the important things, like moving our hydro and internet and booking the truck. Now we're mostly at the "get more boxes and put stuff in them" stage. The really breakable things are nearly all packed, so I can put stuff in boxes around E. without worrying about her trying to help me unload them.

Sewing is a lovely break, and it uses up some of the fabric I have lurking around, so there's less to pack in the sewing supplies boxes. I've tidied up the sewing corner of the bedroom, so that's helped a bit. I've almost finished a tailor's ham that I've been stuffing with fabric scraps. It's not quite full enough, so I'll have to do a couple more projects and use up the leftover bits and pieces.

My first contribution for Kid's Clothes Week was another Easy Baby Summer Dress, this time in a purple rayon. Rayon and me don't usually get along very well, but I did much better with it this time. I suppose it's mostly a matter of practice, fabric weights, finished seams, and lots of pressing.

Not the greatest picture, but at least she's holding still.
After that, I think I may be more willing to sew with rayon. I may need to get a non-blurry picture of the dress later. E. is walking and getting faster every day. When she sees a camera, she just moves closer.

Next on the list for KCW: a summer bonnet, aka hat that babies have a harder time throwing on the ground. It's cut out and partially pieced at the moment. In a burst of "use up random fabric," I've ended up with a very, very pink creation. At least no one will assume she's a boy in that hat.

08 July 2014

Recent Discoveries

Recently I learned...

Washing cotton batting to pre-shrink it is a bad idea. It looks sturdy, but it does not like the washing machine. I now have less useable cotton batting than I had before, and more stuffing material.

We have close to a thousand books in our collection. I haven't finished cataloguing all the children's books, so my numbers aren't exact yet, but the unscientific estimate is "a lot." That number won't be dwindling anytime soon, either. The beautiful pine bookcase I bought for myself when I was a kid, that once housed my entire personal library, is now too small for our non-fiction collection. J.'s science reference books will be staying boxed up for a while after we move, just to make sure we have some shelf space.

Babies are very contrary creatures. When they are able to walk, they walk up to you and then insist that you need to pick them up and carry them.

Pretty much all of our wall decorations fit into one box. It's a good-sized box, to be sure, but it's just one. Whew.

I don't like summer. I knew this already, but I re-learned it again, like I do every year when the temperature soars.

Nutella goes well with apple slices.

You cannot buy crickets or any other type of insect at the local gourmet food store.

And lastly, cleaning the oven is far more annoying than vacuuming.

02 July 2014

reading notes: Pelkey's Mandarin Tone in Historical Epic Quest Perspective

I'm including this in my Reading Notes series in part because it's just a fantastic piece of work, and in part because I had the great privilege of working with the author several years ago as his teaching assistant in a course on historical linguistics and as his student in a directed studies course on semiotics. Only Jamin would come up with a work like this on the historic of Mandarin tone. 

Pelkey, Jamin. (2013). Mandarin tone in historical epic quest perspective. In Jones, Trey, Slater, Keith W., Spruiell, Bill, Pulju, Tim, & Peterson, David J., The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics (p. 43). Washington: Speculative Grammarian Press. Retrieved 1 July 2014 from www.academia.edu

Pelkey's summary of the development of tone in Mandarin is told in a unique fashion, via an epic poem. The tones are characterized as knights. The development of register is signified by the addition of a lady paired with each knight. The division and rivalry between characters and deaths over time reduce the tones back to four: high-level (first tone), rising (second tone), low-contour (third tone), and falling (fourth tone).

My own study of Chinese is very limited; I took an introductory year in the language during my undergrad and was very interested but at the time unable to continue with any subsequent courses. Since then, I have read a few articles on the subject, and when I took a course on tonal analysis, I went with any optional readings on sinitic tone that the instructor offered (the instructor's specialty was African tone, so the course leaned more heavily on that side of things). While I've no real idea whether I'll ever up going to China (given my seasonal/environmental allergies I might not fare too well in most cities there long-term), I've wanted to at least visit the country for a long time, and would like to learn more of the language, both from a speaker's and a linguist's perspective.

At any rate, I know the very basics of tone in Mandarin from learning a little of the language, and I do have some education in the development and analysis of tone, though it's not exactly a specialty of mine (when I TAed for phonology courses, I ended up doing the lectures on stress, the other category of suprasegmentals). And this poem was a delightful way to learn the outline of how tone developed in modern-day Mandarin. It makes me want to learn more. Thanks, Jamin, for rekindling an old interest when I finally have time to actually pursue it!

20 June 2014


In about six weeks, we will be moving. There are lot of reasons for the move. Closer to where my husband works (I work at home right now, so I just need an internet connection and my computer for work). The new place is cheaper and has laundry in-suite. And it's time. Counting the years J. and I were university students in this town, we've been here for almost a decade.

We're not moving out-of-province. We're not even moving to a different area of the province. But we are moving across the river, closer to Vancouver, and that's a big leap. The river acts as a barrier--crossing the bridge to go to one side or the other is an effort, especially since the tolls went into effect. A trip to Vancouver is a big, all-day deal right now and will suddenly be less so once we've moved. But a trip to visit J.'s grandmother, on the eastern (well, more southeastern) side of the river, will be more of an effort. We've decided that we can probably do two regular trips across the bridge a week. This will mostly be for church and the gaming group/movie night that we do with friends. I can come to my weekly knitting group once in a while, and my knitters' guild is only once a month, so that's doable. However, spontaneous, last-minute get-togethers with friends on the east side of the river won't be happening like they do now.

The change feels big. We're leaving an apartment that we've been very happy in. The landlord for our new place seems very competent, but we're friends of sorts with the managers of where we live now. They're familiar. Our neighbour down the hall, who has the same name as E., will miss us. We're still going to be close to a library and a grocery store, still close to the downtown core. But it will be a different downtown. Different people, different places.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

When we left our last apartment, it wasn't hard to go, even though that was the place we'd spent our first year and a half of marriage. Two freezing winters and one blazing summer there was more than enough. Our current home has been a good fit for a long time, and we are sad to leave,yet ready to go.

I've been examining the new city. We peered into the windows of the library the Sunday we looked at the suite, before we applied. We drove around the neighbourhood. There's a dim sum place, a donair place that J. says is really good, a few sushi places (it's the Lower Mainland, of course there is sushi), and there's a shop that sells Indian sweets (fresh jalebi!). The parks are lovely. The nearest used bookstore that I can find via Google is a drive or bus ride away, rather than a walk, but it's one that I've been wanting to check out. The nearest yarn stores are one that I know is fabulous, and one that I've yet to visit.

We've started packing up non-essentials, since we're moving end of July/beginning of August. I boxed up DVDs and some books today. We have so many books that I can box up quite a few before finding something to read becomes a hassle. E. doesn't really know what to make of the boxes, other than noticing that she has something else she can hold onto while walking. We recently took her on a camping trip that went very well, so I think she'll adjust to our new home fairly well.

And me? I don't love change. Or rather, I dislike the idea of change, but when it happens, I tend to do fine with it. I recently stopped by the linguistics department at my old school, since I was in the area, and said hi. And even though I had been there for a long time as a student, and the place and much of the staff are familiar, it's not the same anymore. I very much had the sense that I no longer belonged there, and that that wasn't a bad thing. That chapter in my life has come to a close. And the one here, in this home, is ending, too. And it's not bad. If nothing ends, then nothing new can start, and that would be a pity, wouldn't it?

17 June 2014

The Winter's Tale

The Winter's Tale was a fresh read for me. I've never seen it performed, I haven't had to read it for a class, and I'd never gotten around to just sitting down with it until now. I had heard good things about it, but I had always been unclear on the plot and the only thing I could really remember was that one of the primary female characters was named Hermione, and there was something about a statue. Now I've read it, and well, wow.

Winter's Tale gets bundled in with the comedies in my Complete Works, though it's not really comic. It has a happy ending, but it's better called a drama or a romance. The story is set at a break-neck pace, though it covers the span of sixteen years, and there are only a very few incidental moments (occurring in the last two acts), unlike with some of the other comedies. The comic subplot is a character whose business is thieving and meddling.

I was tempted to title this post, "The Winter's Tale, or, Pregnancy Makes Men Crazy, Too," because the events of the first three acts happen so quickly and so strangely that I'm half-way convinced Leontes is an early example in English literature of couvade's syndrome. Listen to this:

Leontes, King of Silicia, and his wife, Hermione, are expecting their second child. They already have an heir, Mamillius, a cheeky boy of indeterminate age. Leontes' best friend, Polixenes, king of Bohemia, has been visiting for the last nine months. He announces his intention to go home, Leontes pleads with him not to go, Polixenes stays firm, and then Hermione persuades him to stay. Leontes promptly loses it. He becomes convinced that his beloved wife has been cheating on him with his best friend for the last nine months, and that the baby she's carrying must be a bastard. He assigns a nobleman to murder Polixenes, but Camillo refuses to do it (killing a king, historically, proves to be very bad luck for the assassin), warns Polixenes, and flees with him back to Bohemia. Leontes, however, is still on a murderous rampage. He sends for the oracle of Apollo to testify as to his wife's chastity and has her imprisoned. Everyone thinks he's gone nuts. When she delivers a baby girl who looks exactly like Leontes, he wants to have the baby killed immediately. One of his nobles persuades him to relent, so king decrees that Antigonus, the noble, should take the baby to some remote place and just leave her there (a literary device found in Oedipus Rex, among others, and based on the Greek and Roman practice of exposing an unwanted newborn child to the elements and animals outside the city). Antigonus' wife, Paulina, has argued staunchly in the favour of the queen, but the king refuses to listen to reason.

Then the messengers from the oracle arrive. The decree is that Hermione and Polixenes are innocent, and the king should acknowledge his daughter and have her rescued post-haste, or the kingdom will be in jeopardy for want of an heir. The king, still crazy, shouts that Apollo is a liar and the trial will go on. Suddenly, a messenger arrives with the news that the king's son and heir, Mamillius, has died from grief over his father's actions. Hermione collapses, and suddenly Leontes is no longer crazy. Hermione is taken from the room and Paulina returns to announce her death. The king is stricken with grief--his wife, heir, and daughter are all lost to him.

Meanwhile, Antigonus is attempting to fulfill the king's wishes while preserving the child's life. He lays her down in a remote area with some indicators of her identity, names her Perdita, and then, when he sees his ship sink in a sudden storm, is about to hang it all and just save the kid when a bear (yes, a bear!) appears and pursues him offstage. Perdita is found by a shepherd and a clown. The shepherd adopts the baby.

Sixteen years go by. In Bohemia, Polixenes' son, Florizel, has fallen in love with the beautiful daughter of a shepherd. Camillo, now attendant on Polixenes, brings Polixenes to the sheep-shearing celebration hosted by Perdita and her adopted father to soften his heart towards Florizel's intended. When Polixenes learns that not only does Florizel want to marry a peasant, he also has no intention of informing his father, he grows angry, shouts some rubbish about destroying Perdita's beauty because of her pretensions, and storms off. Camillo convinces Florizel and Perdita to go to Silicia to make amends with Leontes on Polixenes' behalf, sends them off, and heads out to tell Polixenes in the hopes of returning to Silicia and bringing about reconciliations with everyone. Meanwhile, the shepherd and the clown also head out to tell Polixenes about the stuff they'd found with Perdita, in hopes of sparing themselves torture (obviously, they can't read the letters they found with Perdita which establish her identity as the princess of Silicia. Fortunately, Polixenes can).

Perdita and Florizel arrive in Silicia, followed by Camillo and Polixenes. Leontes has been grieving for sixteen years, refusing to remarry to atone for his sins. Paulina extracts a promise from him that he will only marry at her behest and of her choosing, and only a woman exactly like Hermione. The reunion between Polixenes and Leontes takes place off-stage, as does the revelation that Perdita is Leontes' lost daughter. The events are discussed by two other characters.

Then the really crazy thing happens. Paulina invites them all to her house to see a statue of Hermione that she has comissioned. It is recently finished and has just been painted to be exactly as Hermione would be, were she alive now. It is so lifelike that Leontes wishes to kiss it, and begs his wife's forgiveness. And the statue comes to life. Hermione is alive, her daughter is alive, and Leontes and Polixenes are reconciled. It's never made clear whether Hermione was just in hiding all those years, or if she really was restored to life. There's evidence for either reading in the text. The story has a happy ending, though Antigonus and Mamillius are both still dead, victims of Leontes' temporary insanity (and of the lack of safeguards to prevent a king suffering temporary insanity from wreaking havoc).

I very much enjoyed the play, though it is much weaker in the last two acts than in the first three, which are absolutely riveting. Most of the sheep-shearing scene is completely irrelevant, and Autolycus, the subplot guy, is pretty superfluous, too. I'd like to see this performed and watch how it works out on stage. The disadvantage of reading Shakespeare is that a play is harder to follow when read than prose. Like a number of Shakespeare's works, Winter's Tale contains a couple of choice female roles: both Hermione and Paulina have some good speeches, especially in the first half of the show, and the story bears them out as in the right.

One thing I keep noticing with Shakespeare is his tendency to sprinkle names throughout the text that don't match up to the locale. Polixenes is from Bohemia. Polixenes is a Greek name. Florizel, also from Bohemia, sounds vaguely Italian. Perdita is Latin ("lost," the root of such lovely words as "perdition"). Leontes and Hermione are both Greek names (and Hermione states that she is the daughter of the Russian Emperor), and Paulina is Latin. I suppose Shakespeare assumed the names were roughly from the same area and thought they sounded good. And it's not as though names can't spread from one area to another, or be old enough for us to forget where they came from. 

And so, with The Winter's Tale, we close out the comedies and move on to the histories. The Life and Death of King John will be our next stop in the Shakespeare canon.


"Be pilot to me and thy places shall
Still neighbour mine." Polixenes, The Winter's Tale, I.2.577-578

"Were I the ghost that walk'd, I'ld bid you mark
Her eye, and tell me for what dull part in't
You chose her; then I'ld shriek, that even your ears
Should rift to hear me; and the words that follow'd
Should be 'Remember mine.' " Paulina, The Winter's Tale, V.1.2897-2901

"Such a deal of wonder is
broken out within this hour that ballad-makers
cannot be able to express it." Second Gentleman, The Winter's Tale, V.2.3130-3132

"If ever truth were pregnant by
circumstance." Third Gentleman, The Winter's Tale. V.2.3139-3140

31 May 2014

A Follow-Up to the Story on FFF

My breastfeeding/formula feeding story is over at Fearless Formula Feeder today. Suzanne Barston's book, Bottled Up, was something I stumbled across during early pregnancy and read. The resources she offers on formula feeding were invaluable as we made the transition from breastmilk to formula, and I was much less distraught about the choice because I'd read a more thorough discussion of some of the studies on breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. My submission to FFF ends shortly after we made the switch to formula and saw the drastic difference 2-3 bottles a day had made in our child. Here's where we are now:

E. is nine months old. Several days ago, she took her first, unaided, unsupported steps. She still definitely prefers help when walking, but she's not far from taking off running on her own. She's still a tiny child, but she was less than six pounds when she popped out, so that's not suprising. She's about fifteen pounds now, and on track to triple her birthweight over the next few months, just like the books say she should.

She loves food. Yesterday she tried eggplant for the first time and was pretty interested in it. The list of solid foods she can eat is growing, and so far, she has no food allergies. We've tried her on a number of the major potential allergens and nothing's been a problem yet.

We're down to one breastfeed a day. Back in February, I learned that I had gallstones and would require surgery to have my gallbladder removed. I started slowly dropping our daytime breastfeeds because I knew it would be easier afterwards if she wasn't as dependent on the breast by then. The "morning snack" feed went easily, but the afternoon one, the one she relied on to propel her into her afternoon nap, took more convincing. In the process, she discovered soothers (Canadian word for pacifiers, for any Americans reading), and now uses those to get to sleep, rather than nursing or a bottle. Once we were down to breastfeeding only in the evenings, night, and early morning, I called it good for the moment. Then she dropped her middle-of-the-night breastfeed, followed by the early morning one. The evening breastfeed is the only one left. She seems to want to make sure the breasts are still there, but isn't as into it as she used to be. The feeds don't last long, and she keeps getting distracted. She isn't quite ready to stop, but I don't yet know how much longer it will be.

My surgery was just over a week ago. The first three evenings after, I didn't nurse E. Between the incisions on my abdomen and the codeine in my pain medication, it just didn't seem like a good idea. Once I'd switched over to normal Tylenol, I put her back on the breast. I'm still making milk, which sort of surprised me. We'll see how much longer she keeps going with it. I don't want to nurse past a year, but I'm willing to keep going until then.

She's pretty happy about formula. She can hold a bottle on her own now, and often, after she finishes it, she lies back on her pillow (handy use for a breastfeeding pillow, by the way), and sings to the empty bottle. She gets grouchy when she sees me mixing it up and she's not getting it fast enough, or when it's too cold for her taste.

We've ended up with the Costco brand of formula. If you just need regular formula, or even sensitive formula, this is definitely a great way to go, pricewise. The stuff they sell at the Costcos here in Canada appears to be fairly similar to Similac, which was the one E. responded to best. Our go with the Nestle samples was not encouraging--she didn't like it and the formula made her extremely gassy. The one time we tried the Costco formula from the States, we discovered it was weirdly frothy and came in smaller canisters than the kind here in Canada (other than that, it was fine).

Formula's been a good fit for us. E. rarely gets sick, and is gaining weight normally. She often ends up being a little skinny around the middle because she'll have a growth spurt and get taller, but her arms and legs have an appropriate amount of baby chubbiness. She's finally willing to sleep most of the night on her own in the crib, though we're still convincing her it's safe to fall asleep on her own. My worries now mostly revolve around whether or not she'll find something on the floor I've missed and eat it or whether she's going to start climbing soon, not about whether or not she's starving.

Our Milk Saga? Not really so much of a saga anymore. Drama gone. Baby happy. Parents sane. Life is good.