02 November 2015

jinx?

The problem with writing, with making bad things happen to characters in stories, that occasionally, when bad things happen in your own life, you start to wonder whether or not you have inadvertently cursed yourself.

In my case, it's gone down like this. In Comrades We, when Aiyen received Clarity's Sight, she sometimes suffers from headaches from the visions she has. By the time we hit Ley Lines (planned release: November 30, 2015), Aiyen's headaches have just gotten worse. She's living with chronic migraines, essentially. Whatever potions Maris, Brannan, and the rest of the healers' team at the university can cook up only work for short periods of time before becoming ineffectual. And the visions (and thus, the headaches) just keep on coming.

I'm not dealing with visions, but I am dealing with headaches. About a month ago, a nasty headache precipitated itself into a full-blown migraine on the way home from a trip down to Bellingham. I puked until there was nothing left in my stomach; my eyes and light were a really bad combo; the rest of my digestive system decided it needed to be grouchy, too; and my head wouldn't stop hurting. The next day, I had what essentially is a migraine hangover.

Two weeks of nearly-constant, nasty headaches later, and the doctor was telling me that I had classic migraines. It also turns out that the semi-frequent headaches I've had for years that I thought were sinus-related were actually migraines, so this is not a new thing. The severity is the new bit.
He gave me a trial prescription of some heavy-duty migraine medication, recommended getting enough rest, no skipping meals, and avoiding stress. Caffeine helps a bit, so I've been going through tea and coffee at a much quicker rate than usual. I've discovered that exercise helps moderate the headaches in my case, so more long walks and more yoga have been my answer for the moment. I'm also avoiding alcohol, since red wine triggers the headaches, and other alcohol briefly dulls the pain but doesn't really help (i.e., not a smart coping strategy). The fancy migraine medication works, but it exhausts me and comes with a couple minor side effects that I prefer to avoid if I can.

The migraines have tapered off enough that they respond to Tylenol better than before, and I survived our annual Halloween party with nothing more than a mild headache (unlike a birthday party the week before, where I found myself wearing sunglasses indoors). I keep feeling like I'm fighting a bad one off, though, so E. and I are currently indoors with the curtains drawn, the lights off, and my computer set to "very dim."

I keep wondering if Aiyen's complaint has jumped from the pages of the book into my brain - if writing about it in her story made it so in my own. Oh, I know - magical thinking - absolutely ludicrous - and yet, the power of the human mind is not to be underestimated. If I get the rest of her problems - actually reliable visions of the future - I'll let you know the lottery numbers.

14 October 2015

New sewing things!

My new-ish serger
So, back in August, my parents came to visit. They brought the above with them. It's a serger. To be accurate, it's a Janome MyLock 204D. It was my grandmother's.

I finally gathered the courage and time to pull out it earlier this week and try working with it. The manual is poorly assembled (Language A on page 1, Language B on page 2, Language C on page 3, Language A on page 4, etc), and not as easy to follow as I would like, but I did okay. I've determined that I find it easiest to manage when the cutting blade is disengaged, and I haven't tinkered too much with the tension settings yet (that did become necessary, though, as E. saw the dials and immediately went for them).

When I was a kid, sewing with Grandma, she would usually handle the serger, or she would let me use it with her guiding my hands so I wouldn't slice my fingers on the blade. If the machine she used then had the option to disengage the blade, I never saw her use it. It went very fast and it was very noisy, and I was a little scared of it. She offered me that one when she upgraded to this one, but I was living in a studio apartment at university then and just the regular sewing machine was plenty for me to handle.

This serger doesn't seem as intimidating as the old one did. It's newer, a little lighter (still heavier than my sewing machine), and the threading guide makes more sense. It's still noisy and fast, as that seems to be typical of sergers, and it does the one thing really well. It serges. There's a few other things it can do--serging and gathering at the same time, pintucking, some special hemming options. There are a few other feet I could purchase for it so it would make piping and do beads and gather more easily, but as is, it does what I need it to do.

I set it up on top of my dresser so I can stand and sew at the same time. This option actually works well with my standard machine, too, I've discovered, which means the backache from hunching over my sewing can be a thing of the past. Plus, standing desk. It does go back into the box between uses. I have a climbing toddler, after all.

I used the serger to finish edges for a dress for E., and the next project is either a t-shirt (to see how the serger handles the inside seams) or a pair of jeans (top-stitching and precision sewing on the regular machine, inside seams that need reinforcing on the serger). It's going to take a little practice to get used to using a different machine, but it's not nearly as scary as it was in my head.

True, the serger is obviously not practical for everything. A top I have slated to make for E. next week only requires finishing on the shoulder seams, since the rest is trimmed with bias tape, so I'm going for French seams there. I don't really want to haul the serger out for everything. But it will make some of my sewing with knits a bit easier, and it gives the "how do I finish these seams?" question an additional answer to work with.

07 October 2015

I mostly keep starting posts and then not finishing them lately, which is why I haven't been blogging. The brain, it doesn't always concentrate the way I want it to. Some of that is the process of trial and error involved in finding the right combination of anti-depressant/anti-anxiety meds, and some of that is just me being scatterbrained (I doubt I'm officially ADD, but there are some tendencies. Plus, I live with a man who actually does have ADD, so I'm sure some of that just gets absorbed due to living together).

So, updates: Ley Lines is still in progress. It looks like my cover artist won't be done with the new cover by my initial planned release date, but the bonus of doing this myself (and of having such a minimal following at this point) is that I can reschedule things without a hassle. So we're bumping Ley Lines to a November 30, 2015 release date, contingent on my cover artist getting the cover completed and me getting my act together and finishing stuff. Which means, of course, that I won't even be attempting NaNoWriMo this year (it's a fun idea, though, so I'm going to give it a go another time).

I haven't been blogging in part because I have been feeling unmotivated about writing for no specific reason, and I've been reading a lot more than I've been writing. The reading is good, don't get me wrong, but it does distract from the writing. Add a sometimes grouchy and always bouncy two-year-old, the aforementioned anxiety and depression, the migraines that have been showing up lately, the attempt to knit more socks to replace the ones that are falling apart, and my recent interest in Criminal Minds, and you have a world-class set of distractions. (I mean, Spencer Reid and Penelope Garcia? So distracting. I've been forced to wait for Season 2 to show up on the hold shelf at the library for me, and now I get to go pick it up tomorrow. But I will make myself do some writing before I'm allowed to watch "Fisher King, Part 2" and find out what happens).

This weekend is Thanksgiving, and as we have the largest space and the most place settings, we're hosting again. Cooking a turkey grows less frightening every year. So, on Saturday, my sisters-in-law and their partners and my mother-in-law and possibly my aunt-in-law are descending on us. I've committed to doing the pie and the cranberry sauce, J. is doing the potatoes, and we're doing the turkey together. (Wait, that looks dirtier than I thought it would...). The others are bringing assorted vegetable and side dishes and booze. And I have to make sure to have some kid juice for E. so she won't get too grumpy about not being allowed to share.

My anxieties about E.'s language development are slowly disappearing, as it seems like she adds new words all the time, and is putting them together more frequently. Her first sentence using the first person pronoun was "I poop." It's hard to express just how excited I was about that. Now I mostly get to worry about the way she climbs things. The other day, we were in the kid's section at the library, and I was reading a book. Suddenly one of the librarians calls, "Ma'am, that's dangerous!" I turn to see E. dancing on top of a table. I wasn't terribly worried, since it wasn't a high table and she does this all the time, but rules are rules, especially at the library. If there's one place I never want to get banned from, it 's the library.

So, time for me to go make a grocery list and think about getting the chutney started tomorrow. At least chutney's an easy one to make. And I have a sock toe to finish tonight, and edits to incorporate into a short story so I can actually send it out again. Time to try being productive!

14 August 2015

grief

Some nights, I dream that she's still here, that she didn't die after all. That she just went away for a bit and then came back, her heart healed so she's finally well again. And those dreams hurt, because I want them to be true.

I want to be able to share things with her. To tell her stories about E. is growing, to tell her what I've been sewing lately, and to apologize for forgetting to call as frequently during these last few years where my life and mind got busy and frantic. I want to see her again. I want to thank her for the friendship with her cousin who lives nearby, something that feels like the last gift she gave me. I want to hug her again. And I can't.

I sort of believe in heaven. And I sort of don't. I want desperately to believe that I'll see her again, that all that she is and was isn't just gone. And I think I believe that. Sometimes. I don't know.

I love you, Grandma. And I wish you were still here.

05 August 2015

ephemera: July's gone already?

I just noticed that it's been about a month since my last post. Apparently I spaced out and forgot I had a blog for a bit. It's been a busy month.

J.'s grandmother has been in hospital for the last couple of months, and we've been visiting her once or twice a week, which involves a drive to the east side of the bridge and all the way out to Abbotsford every time. A few weeks ago, we showed up to find her not doing well at all and we left feeling like she was not long for this world. But she's rallied and is doing a lot better. The difficulty now is that she can't move back in to her apartment at the assisted living facility she's been at since 2006 because they mostly just do meals, cleaning, and laundry, and aren't set up to provide the level of care she now needs. She's going through an evaluation process so they can figure out what she does need, and then she has to wait for a placement at a facility that offers the kind of care she requires. We don't have the space (or the right kind of bathroom) to take her in, assuming she would let us do so; pretty much everyone in the family who would take her doesn't have the right set-up or room to convert to the right set-up. My mother-in-law said that the estimate they were given is that it might be December before she has a placement, and it could be pretty much anywhere in the province. It would be nice if she ended up in our area so we could go visit a couple times a week without worrying about the bridge tolls.

So, we're getting pretty familiar with the Abbotsford hospital these days. E. really likes the chairs and tables they have for children in the atrium, and is wildly excited about all the hand sanitizer. She thinks it's the best thing ever. The elevators with all the giant buttons are also cool. And the gift shop, which is full of stuffed animals, is another popular destination when she tries to run ahead of us.

There's been the usual anxiety and depression for me that varies depending on whether my meds for the day have kicked in yet, and how stressful everything else is. E. had a throat infection last week and was absolutely miserable and didn't sleep well, so I was pretty miserable, too. Two of my closest friends are both going through some really difficult times, so I'm concerned about them, which ups my anxiety levels a bit.

My parents are coming for a visit on Friday, which I'm looking forward to, but that also means that I need to clean everything up (it's really not that bad at the moment, but the kitchen floor looks pretty gross, especially after I made oatmeal cookies today). And I have to do some decluttering, since they're bringing birthday presents for E., J., and I (all our birthdays fall within the same 3 week span), and my grandfather is giving me my grandmother's serger, so they're bringing that up, too. Time to move stuff around and sort through things again. My to-do list tomorrow includes cleaning the bathroom and going to the recycling centre, and possibly sorting through the compartment under the sofa. I was thinking about going to yoga tomorrow night but I doubt I'll be up for an hour-long class by then.

At any rate, I am tired. And I have a cookie that I need to finish eating, so we'll call it good for now and I'll try to remember to post something with actual pictures soon.

07 July 2015

Lessons Learned from Godly Play: The Creation Story

Last month, I started the training to do Godly Play. Our church is planning to start a program, and I'm one of the people who are going to be heading it up. I was excited about the whole "teach kids about this thing we call religion but through play and encouraging them to form their own ideas" but more than a little apprehensive about how I might feel about the stories themselves. I am extremely ambivalent about the Bible these days, and many traditional Bible stories come with a great deal of baggage for me. I wondered how on earth I was going to teach this version of Sunday school, when I can't, in all honesty, be enthusiastic about many of the Old Testament stories (or their traditional interpretations, which is another post). 

Godly Play is a method for teaching kids about God that was inspired by Montessori education methods. The basic format involves telling a story accompanied by visual materials, followed by encouraging the kids to wonder about the story, to form their own ideas about it, and to come up with their own answers to the questions about the story. They then get to do individual work on art projects, which can include painting or drawing, writing, or a variety of other things (like playing with the story materials to tell it in their own way). The work can be their response to the story or not, depending on what the child wants to do.

Each story in Godly Play tells a story from the Bible or a story about church traditions, but they're not exactly your typical renditions of the story. And this is one of the reasons why I appreciate this method.

During the workshop series, each participant gets the opportunity to tell one of the stories. On the first day, I surprised myself and volunteered to do the Creation story--the very first one. I struggle with the Creation myth, not because it's not an interesting story, but because of the way literal interpretations of it have negatively affected the Church. Because of all the baggage I associate with the story, I have a hard time listening to it and experiencing it simply as story. Telling it felt strange until I hit the wondering questions at the end. One of them asks whether we could leave things out and still have a good story. Another asks whether we can rearrange the days and still have it work.

As I told the story, I rediscovered that sense of wonder in the legend, a joy in it that I lost a long time ago with all the arguments about creationism vs. evolution. I rolled out the felt that symbolized the darkness before creation, and tumbled headlong into the story. I saw the light emerge in the chaotic darkness, and the butterflies and birds arrive on the scene. It wasn't only a source of deep conflict anymore. It was a good story, a myth about how our world came to be. It tells us that our world came into existence through exciting and mysterious processes. We can tell it in other ways, and it's still a good story.

And with that, the creation story in the Bible was given back to me as something beautiful.

25 June 2015

new review for "Comrades We"

My first review! Lady Licata of As I Live and Read has posted a review of Comrades We. The review is available here.

She liked it and it was great to read what someone else had to say about the book. I'm still waiting on some of the other reviewers to work through their backlogs to get to my book, but I'm looking forward to seeing what they have to say.

11 June 2015

making: a shawl, yarn, and jam

Today's post is going to be more cheerful than the last one. Yes, I'm doing better, and have taken constructive steps so I don't implode. Also, I've gotten a short story rejected from two different magazines, and am setting up to take another run at sending it in to another magazine. The rejections didn't crush me (unlike my first book rejection a few years ago did - man, I did not react well to that!); they were pretty much expected. At some point, hopefully, I'll get an acceptance and it'll be a lovely surprise. In the meantime, story rejections aren't exactly personal. I've been going through my other short stories and, unfortunately, classifying most of them as "rubbish," "really bizarre and pointless," "from my way-too-religious high school phase," or "my brief foray into trying to make romance writing work." I don't think I'll give up on that last category, but the take-away has been that I need to write more and better short stories, along with working on Ley Lines.

In the part of my life where I make things, I finished a shawl for a friend and sent it off to her. It turned out beautifully, as you can see below.

Dragon Wings shawl
The shawl pattern is Dragon Wing, by the designer Patti Waters. It's available on Knitty.com. I knit it out of Handmaiden Seasilk, which is awesome, awesome yarn. The colourway is "Glacier," if you're interested. I got it secondhand from someone who was selling off part of her stash, so I got it for half-price. This is expensive stuff, and I've been hoarding my two skeins for a while until I could figure out what to make with them. This left me with about 70% of a skein, enough for a pair of mitts. I love the yarn, though my colour preferences usually lean a bit more vivid. Next time I buy some Handmaiden, I'm definitely picking one of their other colourways. The last skein I had of one of their other yarns was in "Nova Scotia," which is blue and green. It was gorgeous and I still love the mitts I made with it, but I'm really attracted to warmer colours, like purples and reds and browns lately. And Handmaiden has some amazing warm-toned colourways. (No, I don't get paid by them or anything like that; I just happen to live in the same country so their yarns turn up at a lot of local shops and they're pretty).

Silk hankies/mawata dyed with food colouring
I started (and finished!) a spinning project. It's been a while since I've done any spinning, so it's been nice to pull out the wheel and see how out-of-practice I am. I had some silk hankies (mawata) in my fiber stash, which I had dyed with food colouring (see above picture). I spent a couple afternoons working through the hankies, spinning singles. Silk hankies are hard on the hands, since you have to stretch them to prep the fiber. Silk's tough enough that I've actually developed blisters on a couple fingers.

The singles were a little inconsistent; some of that has to do with my lack of practice, but some of it was related to the material. Silk hankies aren't like working with combed top or roving, and silk doesn't adjust as easily while spinning as other animal fibers do. So there are some super-thin bits, and some puffy bits. When I plied the singles together, I ended up with a yarn that runs a little thick-and-thin, from light-fingering to DK/worsted, averaging out to a DK weight through most of the skein.

2-ply silk yarn
The final skein weighed about 45 grams (the last 5 grams are still on the bobbin; I ran out of yardage on the second bobbin and stopped there; it'll be chain-plied later so I can practice that technique), and, measuring with my 1.5 meter niddy-noddy, I ended up with about 155 meters. It's enough to actually do something with. I think it'll probably be a hat.

I've also managed to make time to do a little bit of canning. We do have a ridiculous number of jars of jam to work through over the summer, but it's also that time of year. I'm working my way through the recipes in Preserving by the Pint that pique my interest. Marisa McClellan's most recently released book is a lovely little gem of a cookbook that focuses on extra-small batch preserves. Rather than making half a dozen pints of jam, the recipes usually make a couple pints at most. The recipes I made yesterday gave me two 250-ml jars each.

  
Two jars of jam; two jars of strawberries
I made a batch of Whole Strawberries in Vanilla Syrup, because I had strawberries in the fridge that were starting to go. I had to cut some in half because these were bigger ones, unlike the small ones recommended in the recipe. The stuff tastes amazing, and I had a ridiculous amount of syrup left over. There's a 500-ml jar in the fridge that is mostly full of strawberry-vanilla syrup and will be going on pancakes.

The other jam I made was the Apricot Rosemary jam. Apricots are in at the produce store right now, so I grabbed a few (several more than I needed, so more apricots, enough for a different recipe, are on the grocery list) and some rosemary, and whipped these up pretty quickly. It smells fantastic and the taste is pretty unique. I think it'll go well on some kind of meat or with cheese. I got two 250-ml jars out of it. I'm out of empty 125-ml jars, so the last of it went into a container in the fridge.

I'm off to the farmer's market this afternoon, and I plan to pick up some local strawberries there. I want to do a batch of strawberry jam and another round of the strawberries in syrup. I think we may need a trip to the store to stock up on sugar, since we're almost out.

02 June 2015

feelings of implosion

It's Tuesday. And it's one of those days where it feels like all the things are wrong.

My toddler has the flu. She kept waking up last night because she was coughing, and it would upset her enough that she would cry and try to kick me while I tried to calm her down. She dumped a bowl of dry cereal on the couch.

I have two packages sitting at the post office waiting for me to pay the postage so they'll actually get mailed, but their credit/debit system has been down since yesterday and I haven't gotten to the bank to get cash yet.

I actually dreaded E. waking up early from her nap today because I just want a day where I have no responsibilities for my child at all. I just want to be able to drop her off with someone I trust for a day, so I can pretend that I'm not a parent for a few hours.

I stay up late reading at night and then get sleep-deprived because I go to sleep after midnight and then get woken up by a toddler. It's like grad school pre-antidepressants but with a child instead of homework.

My husband's grandmother is possibly dying; we're not sure, but we haven't gone to visit her yet because E. has the flu and J. is coming down with what she's got, and he's afraid he'll push his grandmother over the edge by giving her whatever bug our family has right now.

We have way too many sticky ant traps carefully set around our kitchen, out of reach of the small one, because our house is built over what used to be riverbed sand, and we live in the basement suite. Also, messy child. Ants think our place is paradise. Our landlord is happy to provide ant traps and is willing to either caulk up gaps or let us do that, but they're still annoying.

I'm waiting for an email about something that should show up within the next ten days, but it means I'm checking my email constantly to see if it's there yet. Not productive.

I feel...squirrelly. Like I need to do something. I have a feeling that I'm going to be dyeing my hair sometime in the next week (cheaper and less drastic than getting a tattoo or a piercing).

Maybe I'll feel less like imploding tomorrow.

18 May 2015

first backpack

Toddler Backpack, front view
Toddler Backpack, back view

I finished E.'s backpack this morning. It turned out well, and she was very excited about having a new bag to hide things in. It was a good project for me to do, since I've never made anything like this before.

The pattern is Made by Rae's Toddler Backpack. The pattern itself is great; the instructions were clear and they come with directions for enlarging the pattern and for adding a lining. I kept it the toddler size, since E.'s on the small side anyway. I may need to shorten the nylon straps a bit more; otherwise she'll be dragging the ends of them on the floor.

I used a flowered canvas that got passed on to me when a friend was de-stashing. I'd originally though to use it as a child-size tablecloth for E. when she was older, but decided it would work well for this. Most of the lining fabric, the base, and the shoulder straps were made of a green fabric that also came from someone else. I think it's mostly cotton. The base for the lining, since I was out of green fabric by then, was made of a yellow cotton.

I chose to go with a lining rather than using bias binding on the inside seams. I didn't feel like doing bias binding, and wanted the added stability of a lining. I think it probably took just as much time as it would have to do all the bias binding.

Toddler Backpack, inside view
I used a yellow-green piping for most of the trim, and yellow nylon straps for the adjustable straps. I also used a light purple piping to trim the front pocket (because I only bought one packet of yellow-green piping and then didn't have enough for the pocket. The purple piping was leftover from another project), which was my own addition. I cut out an additional piece of canvas using the front pattern piece as a guide, just folded over so the pocket would be the height I wanted. I added the piping to the pocket, topstitched it, then layered it on top of the front and added the edge piping and proceeded as the pattern instructed.

Toddler Backpack, side view
The zipper is a white plastic one with a metal toggle that will be easy for E. to pull. I had to shorten it, but that's not really a difficult modification to make. Sewing the lining to the zipper panel was a little messy. I didn't quite manage to line it up with the stitching from earlier, so it doesn't look perfect, but the lining won't come out easily, which is the important thing.

If I do another one of these, I'll probably do the front pocket again, and maybe add some inside pockets to lining as well. I'm considering getting a piping foot. I ended up using my zipper foot to apply the piping and while it worked, it was hard to get it close enough to the cording. I used a denim (heavy-weight) needle, and one backpack plus a lot of piping was enough for the tip to start getting dull by the end.

The next sewing project is a t-shirt for me. Pictures to come!

15 May 2015

book titles, sewing, and knitting

Summer shorts for the tiny one
I keep reminding myself to write a blog post, and then I forget. Sorry. I also forget about Twitter most of the time, too. I've been spending more time reading than writing lately, and I need to flip that around for a bit. There's a short story I need to finish and submit by the end of the month, and the planned release date for book 2, now tentatively called Ley Lines, is October 31, 2015. A couple of book blogger reviews for Comrades We are on their way, but I have been told that they have backlogs to get through first, so I don`t yet have specifics as to when the reviews will be available. When they are, I will link them.

I've made some time for sewing lately, the result being the picture above. There's a pair of green ones in the same pattern that are mostly done (hemming and elastic and possible applique are the only bits left). The other in-progress sewing project is a backpack for E. from Made by Rae's pattern. There'll be a full post for that one when it's finished. After that, I have a t-shirt for me that needs to be cut out and sewn up.

And I have a shawl-in-progress that`s nearly finished. It`s very pretty, and I want to complete it so I can finally give it to its intended recipient. Also so I can take pictures. It doesn`t exactly look like much on the needles. Then it will be time to cast on some socks. The many pairs I knit a few years back are starting to wear out, so the sock drawer needs replenishing. The sock yarn stash needs to decrease, too, because it composes most of my stash right now. It might be nice to use some of it up.

So, that`s all for now. My next post will probably be about E.`s new backpack.

28 April 2015

falling for non-fiction

When I was a child, non-fiction didn't appeal to me very much. The point of reading (other than learning things for school) seemed to be reading stories. If it wasn't narrative, I wasn't particularly interested, unless it was something I needed or wanted to learn about. History sometimes worked for me, since most history has some sense of narrative. But I had a complete lack of interest in most forms of non-fiction.

Then I got older. My interests expanded. Suddenly, non-fiction didn't seem so bad. I was a teenager when a book my mother had bought on a whim, one about teenage girls and bullying, sparked my interest. I started to read. I had never been bullied, but I was a teenage girl, and I was suddenly curious. I don't remember the name of the book now (just that it wasn't Queen Bees and Wannabees, which I read a decade later). Whichever book it was, that was the one that made me realize that non-fiction was not boring, so I am grateful to whoever wrote it.

Today, the non-fiction section is one of the first places I go when I get to the library. I'm more likely to check out a non-fiction book than a fiction one lately. My love of narrative remains--I read a lot of memoirs and a lot of history--but I don't limit myself to fiction when I read. It's been a gradual process, so that I can't really pinpoint when non-fiction became my first destination at the library, but it's led me to a lot of interesting reads.

I haven't abandoned fiction; I still love narrative and there is something ineffable about a well-written novel that I rarely run across in most non-fiction, but non-fiction opens up worlds of words and thoughts that don't always make into fiction (or at least into the fiction I end up reading). 

20 April 2015

Pi-ka-CHU!

E.'s new shirt (please do not pin or re-post)
So, this season's theme in Kid's Clothes Week is "wild things." I started today off fairly strong with a t-shirt (not as elaborate as some of my fellow participants, but I made something, it's finished, ta-dah!), and I added a Pokemon applique to it. It fits the theme ("you have found a wild Pikachu") and E. likes Pokemon (specifically, she likes the Indigo League theme song).

She wanted to wear the shirt as soon as she saw the applique, before I'd managed to attach it to the shirt. I'll call that a success.

I used the Tiny Tumble Tee pattern, the baby version of the Tumble Tee from Imagine Gnats. The shirt's a long one, since it can double as a a dress, and E. is skinny, so she hasn't yet outgrown the tiny version. The two shirts I made her about a year ago from the same pattern still fit. The neckline's still a little gappy, but I didn't feel like experimenting with neck binding today. It fits over her head and stays on, and it's comfortable.

I used a chunk of blue jersey knit that came from a friend's destash. I had to cut the back of the shirt in two pieces and seam it together because I couldn't convince it to work any other way. Leftovers can be awkward shapes. The Pokemon fabric came from the same friend. I found the only piece on there with a whole Pikachu, ironed it onto some interfacing, and then ironed the whole thing to the shirt with some Stitch-Witchery. Then I tried out the applique stitch on my sewing machine. It appears to have worked, but of course, the proof's in the washing (not the pudding). If it stays on after a few trips through the washer, I think it will do.

I'm not sure what's on the docket for Kid's Clothes Week tomorrow. Probably another Pokemon applique of some sort, since I cut out about half a dozen other Pokemon to use. Perhaps a pair of shorts for the warm weather. We shall see.

14 April 2015

Chaotic Neutral, at best

Well, we survived the six hour (each way) drive to visit my family for my grandmother's memorial with a toddler. Our secret? Sticking one of us in the back with the toddler so she wouldn't scream the whole way, and a couple of Terry Pratchett audiobooks so we adults wouldn't feel like screaming the entire way. We didn't do that last time we headed south and E. ended up screaming for the last two hours on our trip to Seattle (her way of saying Happy Thanksgiving, perhaps?).

It was a strange visit. Visits to Portland are typically filled with visits to Powell's; a wander through Saturday market to admire all the breakable pretty things; a journey to my favourite tea shop, the Tao of Tea; a trip to one of the McMenamin's movie theaters if they have anything good playing; spending time with family and friends that we don't see very often; and usually a pilgrimage to Mill End (as much as I love Fabricana, Mill End was where I first started fabric shopping on my own and holds a special place in my heart). Next Christmas we plan to take E. to the Oregon Zoo. J. and I tend to go for walks in downtown or around Hawthorne and play Hipster Bingo (yes, it's probably rude, but there are so many people with spectacular beards and glasses).

This journey was different. Oh, we made it to Bob's Red Mill and Dave's Killer Bread, since my parents live nearby, and I stocked up on a few alternative flours (more on that later, once the batter for the injera finishes fermenting), but most of the time wasn't about having fun playing tourist in the city where I grew up. My youngest brother was off at university most of the two weekdays we were there, though he was around on the weekend days; my oldest younger brother was busy working and we only saw him briefly a couple of times; and my middle younger brother was only able to come for the memorial service and had to run back up to Seattle for work before the reception had ended.

J. and I usually go to my grandparents' house for dinner one of the nights we're visiting. Last time we brought a tiny four-month-old E. over to their house. This time, my grandfather came over several times, and it was strange to see him without my grandmother, because they are always together. Just not anymore.

As it became more real to me, I started to cry more. I cried through most of the service. I kept crying at the reception because it felt like all I had to do was turn around and she would be there, except she wasn't. I muddled my way through an anxiety attack that night, one that kept me up well past midnight, and then stumbled through another one at my parents' church the next morning.

I was pulled together enough to drive part of the way home and not succumb to anxiety about driving, and I feel on a slightly more even keel now that I'm a bit removed, but as always, it's taking a few days to settle back into routine here at home. Everything seems a bit off, and I think most of that is related to the grieving process, however long it's going to take. I'm back to feeling a bit sad, a bit flat, and unsure what to do about that.

While we aren't exactly horrendously busy, life does feel strangely chaotic. I suppose it will sort itself out, but in the meantime, I'm finding ways to cope with the weirdness.

06 April 2015

Easter Monday

Daphne Flowers
I took a picture of one of the daphne bushes over in of the public parks because my grandparents have a daphne bush in their yard. I've always loved the heady scent of the flowers, and remember my grandmother letting me squish some of the blossoms up in a cup with water in an attempt to make perfume (no, it didn't work).

We made it through Holy Week and Easter Sunday. The week has a more bittersweet twinge for me than it usually does. I managed to complete my Lenten task. This year I chose to get the book out during Lent rather than giving something up (though the task of sending it out into the world where people can read and critique it has an element of letting go). But my mind was less on my life than on my grandmother's this Lenten season.

I wasn't sure if I would write much about the grieving process here on the blog, but it has occurred to me that, as a representation of grief, mine doesn't look like I expected it would. The deep sadness passed after the first week, for the moment, and for now, I am reconciled. But I do find myself frequently dwelling on my grandmother, on who she was, who I knew her to be, and how she affected the people around her. The memorial service is this weekend, and I will be faced, for the first real time, with her absence. I feel it when I talk with my grandfather, on the phone or on skype, but it's still not entirely real.

Bleeding Heart
This evening, I spent some time working on a dress for my daughter to wear to the service on Saturday. I think Grandma would have liked that. She loved that at least one of her granddaughters had continued to sew after she spent all the time teaching us when we were kids. It seems fitting to sew something for E. for this occasion.

In the spirit of thinking about what my grandmother would have appreciated, I found myself buying makeup to wear, and deliberating about the sort of nail polish I should use (not black, I think). I've been a nail biter most of my life, and my mother tried to use the promise of nail polish as a bribe to get me to stop. Grandma just went ahead and did my nails - irritating my mother but delighting me.

Memories like that are both joyful and tinged with sorrow right now. It's a strange feeling. I don't know if they will always feel like this, or if the feelings will someday be all joy. I think I will always miss her, though, so I don't think the sadness is going to leave anytime soon.

31 March 2015

flying sounds like a good idea

My first rating on Goodreads sent me spiraling around the house, wishing I could take off like Annabel in No Flying in the House. There may also have been some profanity involved, of the excited disbelief variety. The first rating was 5 stars. No reviews yet, but now I'm less nervous about what reviewers have to say.

I ran into a guy who had been in one of the classes I TAed back in grad school on the weekend. It's been a few years, but I know his wife slightly because she and I both go to the same mum's group. Anyway, he asked me what I'd been up to, and, for the first time, I got to say, "I wrote a book," in response to the question of what I've been doing with myself. Weird yet exhilarating.

The week's been not too busy so far, but everything takes off on Thursday. I love Holy Week, but it's going to be just a wee bit exhausting. At least I have the lamb shoulder I bought today to look forward to, for our Easter dinner (I have not been a spectacular semi-vegetarian lately, but I'm sure that I'll snap back after our trip, and at least tomorrow's dinner will be vegan).

27 March 2015

all the things

Where were we? The last week has been a confusing muddle of emotions. There's the book, there's my grandmother, and there is the upcoming chaos of Holy Week when you are Anglican and your husband happens to be in the choir. Palm Sunday includes the morning service and an evening dinner to which I am bringing a couple dozen hard-boiled eggs (and I need to check how long to boil them because lately, every time I hard-boil an egg, it comes out soft-boiled, which makes me feel like an idiot). Thursday through Sunday are booked for various services, mostly in the evening, and I have no idea about whether J. is expected to be at the contemplative services earlier in the week.

I got new glasses, which I'm still adjusting to. The slightly different shape of the frames and the unscratched lenses mean that I feel a bit disoriented. Everything is startlingly clear, but the edges of the clear vision are different than what I've been used to for the last five years. The old glasses are getting new, unscratched lenses once we figure out where we want to buy them, and then, for the first time in my life, I'll have a spare set of glasses.

E. is putting garbled syllables together in clumps that sound suspiciously like sentences, which makes the linguist in me very happy, and makes the parent in me frustrated because I still can't understand what she's saying, even if the intonation is spot-on for English sentence structure.

The book has been sent off to several reviewers; I'm half-way convinced they're all going to give it a single star, or no stars whatsoever. And I need to find a few more bloggers willing to review it and I haven't pulled myself together enough to . It's time to get back to work on Book 2, and I'm considering doing a short story project, too, just because. I need the practice; if I'm going to improve as a writer, I'll have to write more. The latest writing project has been a journaling thing that I have no desire to publish, so I need to change gears and work on something else.

We're driving down to Portland in a couple of weeks, so I've been trying to plan ahead for that. I actually found myself buying foundation at Shopper's today. It took ages for me to find the kind I wanted (something that wasn't hideously expensive and that also functioned as sunscreen), and then even longer to find a colour that I think will work. Naturally, none of the testers were in the colour I needed to try. I hope you appreciate that I'm actually going to wear makeup to your memorial, Grandma. You always commented on how nice I looked when I wore it. And now I have to do a few trial runs to ensure I won't look like a raccoon. Sigh. Stage makeup was fun back in high school. Regular makeup has never been fun, except for when Grandma let me play Beauty Parlour in her bathroom with all her makeup, when I was small.

And with that, I'm done for the day. Everything aches and my child is running around wearing nothing but a diaper and a swimsuit top. 


20 March 2015

processing...

This has been a strange week. The kind of strange where I don't really know how to process things anymore.

The week has held big things, and little things. The little things aren't that bad on their own: our bathroom fan broke and our landlord is hunting down a replacement; E. has a cold, and alternates between wanting to wear nothing and wanting to wear seasonally unsuitable things (last night and this morning's pick is a sundress my in-laws bought her last year that now fits. She slept in it. It's raining today, so if she thinks she's wearing it outside...); Facebook pages are harder to navigate than I anticipated (though the book does now have a Facebook page); and I'm not sleeping well, again.

The big things, well, there's the book. I still can't believe I actually did it. Alea iacta est. I'm so paranoid about other people reading the serious things I've written, and I just went ahead and put it up there.

The other thing is at the other end of the spectrum. My grandmother died about a day and a half ago. As I am still at the stage where I am half-expecting my parents to call and say they were mistaken and she's still with us, I don't have a lot to say yet. I have cried, and I have felt numb (mostly that). Her memorial service isn't for a few weeks, so we don't have to pack up and drive the 6-7 hours south on short notice, and I have a sinking feeling that it won't become real until I see my grandfather and realize that my grandmother isn't with him like she always is.

That's about all I can say on the topic at the moment. I doubt I'll write a lengthy post on my grieving process at a later date unless it really feels like something I need to do. It'll work its way out in other writing (there are a few chapters in Book 2 that involve death and grieving; I'll probably find revising those helpful for working things out). In the meantime, I'm trying to keep going, even though pausing everything for a while would be pleasant.

And we still have Holy Week and Easter to get through.

17 March 2015

Comrades We: The Launch

I actually did it. I finished tinkering with a book. You are now able to purchase it here on Amazon or here on Smashwords, or here on Google Play. I am currently trying out the world of online self-publishing, and we will see where it takes me. Please buy it if you are curious and let me know  what you think, good or bad!

Each of the sites it is available on have limited previews available, so you can check it out there. I'll be building it a Facebook page this week, and the page here on the blog for the book will have more stuff added as time goes on. I'm still waiting for Goodreads to hook up my author account, but I've made sure the book is up there as well in case people want to review it on that site.

Comrades We is the adventures of six friends as they grow up, encounter bad stuff, and try to fight their way out.

This is a fantasy novel. There is magic. There are swords. There are mysterious and cryptic gods. There are some really bad guys and there are good guys who are mostly ordinary and trying to do their best. There is knitting and spinning when characters are not practicing swordplay and archery. And if needed, there always tea. There is also more to come, as Comrades We is the first in a trilogy (cue me panicking and realizing that I need to finish writing the middle of the second bit).

Content warning: Some violence and mention of sexual assault. Made-up swear words. Best suited for teenagers and up, probably not for anyone under 12 (unless you happen to be super-mature and have parents who let you read absolutely anything no matter what).


16 March 2015

formatting is tedious, and other woes

I feel a little cross-eyed right now, and the word "chapter" has ceased to hold meaning for the moment. Next book, I plan the formatting more carefully so there's less to fix at the end. Four different versions later, the book has been uploaded to several sites. One is still processing its two different versions, so tomorrow is when I plan to post the official "it's a book" post, assuming the site's finished processing things (if not, I'll post and add links to the site once they are available).

I mostly feel good about the whole thing, but there is definitely some "oh dang it, I just wrote a piece of rubbish and am now trying to sell it" mixed in there. I doubt my book is the best book ever (if such a thing could be calculated), but I don't think it's terrible, either. I've been working on it so long it's hard to tell. Now that I'm done with this one, it's time to start work on the second, which is mostly in pieces. I have a beginning bit, and an ending bit, and then scattered scenes for the middle. Ironically, the third book is more complete than the second one, but there are rather important plot points from book 2 that need to be established before I release book 3. I'd like to release book 2 this fall if I can make it happen. Book 2 will also probably be longer than book 1, which is a short novel (though it appears longer or shorter depending on which ebook version you're looking at).

The high of finally having completed this is tempered by some family stuff that's been happening. This has been something of a good distraction, but I doubt the high will last much more than a few days, since it looks like we'll be making an unscheduled trip to my hometown to visit my family within the next week or two. It's a strange place to be, with lots of conflicting emotions, and we can't afford to just drop everything to go now and say goodbye in person, since two trips down in short succession is too expensive for us at the moment. I'll probably write more about it later, but for now, this is enough. I didn't realize grieving so deeply would be part of the before stage, and I don't want to think about the after yet.

So in the meantime, I'm distracted by the book, but still waiting for the phone call that will signal a very large change in my family.

10 March 2015

Book Review: Vegetarian for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff

Note: As is usual for me, this is primarily a collection of musings about and reactions to a book, rather than a formal book review. I received no compensation for this post; I just read the book and liked it enough to want to write something about it. 

Liana Krissoff of Pie and Beer has written five cookbooks. I`ve gotten my hands on two of them so far. I own a copy of Canning for a New Generation, and the copy of Vegetarian for a New Generation that I currently have out from the library is due for a second renewal soon. The local library doesn`t have Whole Grains for a New Generation, but, based on my experience with Canning and Vegetarian, I may just go ahead and buy it. More information about her books is available here.

This particular post is about my recent love affair with Vegetarian for a New Generation. I`ve been making a lot of recipes from the book ever since I checked it out of the library last month, and only one has been disappointing (and I think that may have been partly cook`s error--I didn`t get an acorn squash cooked all the way through). Thalia's Cabbage Soup has been a repeat already because it was so good, and the roasted stuffed eggplant got many thumbs up when I served it when J.'s siblings came over for dinner the other weekend.

One of the book's features is that all of the recipes are gluten-free. We aren't gluten-free ourselves, but we have friends and family who are, and it's nice to know that I can rummage through this book and find something that works for them (one of my favourite vegetarian cookbooks is rather heavy on the gluten, so this makes a nice contrast). Quite a few of the recipes are also vegan, which is another bonus. One of our friends is gluten-free and her husband is lactose-intolerant, so when they come over for dinner, planning requires a bit of thought.

There are a few odd typos in the book. The introduction has one that looks like a page reference was supposed to be programmed in and the word processing program missed it out. Other than that, though, it's fantastic, and definitely worth your time. I'm probably buying my own copy once I have to return it to the library.

yoga and my brain

Lately I've been making the attempt to go to weekly yoga classes, and to continue to practice at home. Since the practice at home is frequently interrupted by a toddler who wants to help me stretch by sitting on me, I have to say that the classes at the yoga studio are far more helpful to my mental state. I was extremely out of sorts yesterday and had to make myself go to class, but once I'd settled into shavasana for a while to prepare myself for class, the tension started to drain away. By the end of the hour, I was in a much better frame of mind.

It's true that exercise in general does seem to help my moods. We went on our first bike ride of the season last weekend, and it was a definite mood-lifter. Even a brisk walk helps. Getting outside, even if it's raining, does something to help, even if the hot summer sunshine we'll be getting in a few months is going to throw me for another loop and I'll have to moderate between sun/heat exposure and the need for exercise.

A great deal of yoga is about quieting your mind, and that's the challenge for me. My mind doesn't like to shut up. I have a rich and varied inner life that includes lots of making up stories to tell myself when I'm bored. Turning that off is hard, since I've been doing that most of my life. Sure, it sometimes gets out of hand, like the time the other week when I woke up at three in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep for an hour because I was freaking out about something and couldn't get my mind to stop.

I probably should have gotten up, picked an asana, and worked on my breathing. That does actually seem to help. Next time.

In the meantime, I try to practice daily, and hope that my toddler lets me get through a few poses before she decides it's time to sit on my head and smother me.

08 March 2015

news

I've been posting sporadically on odd topics lately. I think the last one was about my state of mind, which wasn't exactly inspiring at the time. However, I have been writing, just not for the blog, and most of it has technically been editing.

Lo, these many years ago, I began writing a novel. I was twelve. Or maybe thirteen. I'd gotten through a poorly written, overly dramatic short story, borrowed a few characters from there, changed their names, made them minor characters, and embarked on a grand epic tale. I wrote and wrote and monopolized my parents' computer for typing to the point where my dad finally put one together for me out of spare parts. My grand epic, book one, finished around the 250 page mark. Single-spaced. It was big and messy and full of contradictions, and I moved on to book two. Book two was bizarre and otherworldly and definitely influenced by the fact that, I, as a high school student, was seeing my country plunge itself into a couple of wars that I felt were ill-advised, even if I was too young to understand all the implications (I still think they were ill-advised, but now I think most, if not all, war is ill-advised).

After I finished a draft of book two, I continued to write into book three, which was much less weird. Then I wrote other things, including bits and pieces of related stories in the same universe, and took a step back from tinkering with the main trilogy for a while. For years, really (there was university and marriage and grad school and then there was a baby. In the midst of all that, I did end up wandering back to the trilogy). When I went back to the first book, I looked at it, shook my head, and started to chop things out. I ended up scrapping book two almost entirely (just too weird and didn't work with the rest of the world), and dividing the first book in half. The second half, with much editing, became what will be book two of the trilogy. I've been working mostly on the first book lately.

I did investigate getting it published and after a rejection, some more research, my reluctance to deal with the hassle of trying to get an agent to notice me without much work behind me yet, and the advice of an acquaintance in publishing, I eventually decided to go the self-published e-book route for the moment. It feels like the right step for now, and I'm certainly willing to give traditional publishing a try sometime in the future.

Recently, when working through edits on the book, I realized that I was fairly happy about most of it and decided it was time to set a date. I looked at the calendar, looked at what I had left to do, including reformatting it so it would work as an e-book, and picked a day.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, my first novel, Comrades We, will be going up for sale online on March 17, 2015. It's a fantasy novel, and there will be more information available in about a week. Wish me luck! I may be crazy. Or not.

17 February 2015

music soothes...

Have you ever experienced the phenomenon where something captures your imagination, draws you in, and you can't explain why, particularly when it doesn't have the same effect on others?

This happens to me more often than not--something reaches my spirit when I am discouraged, and bolsters me, despite the way it does not elicit the same response in others who are close to me.

I made J. watch Rent last week because when I watched it the weekend before, the music found a sore spot in me and somehow soothed it. He didn't get it. At all. I suspected that might be the case. My emotional ups and downs are mysterious to him, and while he sympathizes when the darkness seeps back in around the edges, he doesn't really understand it.

And I'm not entirely sure why a story like Rent seems to help hold the despair at bay. Something about the "No Day But Today" numbers speaks to me ("there's only now, there's only here, give in to love, or live in fear"). I think the sense that love offers hope in the midst of despair is what my mind is latching onto. And I'll take it.

I've felt more fragile lately, more likely to shatter when something overwhelms. Oh, part of it is definitely circumstantial--my grandmother's health is slowly deteriorating, and I am slowly coming to terms with the knowledge that, despite our next visit south being only a few months away, she may not be there then--but I don't think I can attribute it all to that. My fears pile up more swiftly than they usually do, and little triggers have suddenly transformed into larger ones.

I experience high levels of anxiety about driving, particularly at night or in the rain; my reaction to my grandmother's news about how she's doing sends me into a spiral of grief, often followed by nausea (a typical reaction to stress for me); and I'm beginning to find groups of people overwhelming again. None of these are good signs.

My response is, at least, healthier than last time. My first couple years of grad school were fraught, in part because I knew something was wrong but I didn't know what it was (lesson learned: depression does not always look like the symptom list, and being able to function with it does not mean that there isn't a problem). I avoided people and would "forget" to bring lunch with me to school. I'd escape home to hide as soon as classes and my shift at the library were over. I had a couple social get-togethers that seemed safe, and those were the only ones I went to. I was keeping up with my coursework and my grades were fine, so I had to be fine, right?

This time around, I'm deliberately seeking people out. I even joined a mum's group, and that's a little atypical for me. I screwed up my courage and drove in the dark to knit night last night. I'm participating in the Lenten book study at church (of course, it's a Richard Rohr book, so I'm excited about that). I've started doing yoga. I make sure E. and I get out for a good long walk every day. I listen to music that encourages.

It helps. I don't know if it'll be enough, but it helps for now.

14 February 2015

Fermentation

If you're into canning, you'll probably run across the term "lacto-fermentation" at some point, particularly if you read a lot on the subject. I read a bit about the fermenting foods thing, then said, rather determinedly, to J., that I was not interested in trying that.

Two weeks later I was making salt-preserved Key limes.

A couple months later, right after getting home from Christmas with my new canning book in tow, I was chopping cabbage for sauerkraut.

Then I tried homemade ginger beer. Followed by a second batch. Now we're on batch three of the ginger beer, and batch one of a strawberry soda, both mixed up this evening and popped into a cupboard to mature and develop fizz for a couple of days.

What we're discovering with homemade soda is that we like the not-too-sweet taste of it. And once I figure out what I'm doing with it, I can experiment and make bubbly drinks that we can't find elsewhere. I have a number of ingredients to track down before I can make homemade root beer (and one glance at the ingredients list for "root beer extract" convinced me that it would be worth the extra effort to actually use roots to make the concentrate), but I think if the strawberry soda works out, lime soda is next on the list.

What about the alcohol content? Well, there's not much. Enough to make it fizzy, but not enough to even notice that zing that most alcoholic drinks have.* Right now I'm using instant yeast to start the fermenting process, which is easy and reliable. A lot of recipes out there use whey or one of those clumps of bacteria known as bugs (not unlike what's used in kombucha). I often have an absurd amount of whey leftover from making yogurt, so I will probably try using whey for fermenting soda at some point.

It's actually more fun and less exacting than I thought it would be, and I like the results. The next big fermenting project will probably be lacto-fermented dill pickles. Like sauerkraut, that's a longer commitment than soda, and it requires more frequent checking than soda does, too. We'll see how it goes.

*A note: As we don't have the equipment to test the alcohol content of the homemade sodas, but we do know there is at least a little there, we don't share the stuff with our toddler. Better safe than sorry.

05 February 2015

Kid's Clothes Week: February 2015, Days 1-3

Tiny Tunic
It's Kid's Clothes Week again and we're already at Day 4. I did manage to get my hours in for the first three days but didn't manage to do the pictures until today. The above top is one that I sewed up over Tuesday and Wednesday. The pattern is Tiny Tunic Take 2 from iCandy Handmade. Easy to put together, but I think if I make it again, I'll shorten the neck band a little for a closer fit. The top half is from an old t-shirt of mine and the skirt is part of a fat quarter. I lengthened the skirt a bit since E. is apparently skinnier than the 3-6 month old the designer was thinking of but she is starting to get taller. The picture is not spectacular because she is a blur of motion and the light in our entryway wasn't great.

Blackbird Tunic, back view
I made a Blackbird Tunic (from Schwin & Schwin) over Monday and Tuesday. Apparently my inner 70s girl decided it was time to pop out for a visit, and this was the result. The red fabric is something that was in a bag of leftovers from an older woman we know. No idea what she used it for originally. The blue pocket fabric is from the same source, and again, no idea what it was originally for.

Blackbird Tunic, front view
E. was delighted with her brightly coloured top. I trimmed it with rick-rack, being lazy and not wanting to make my own piping, and used a big black button to finish it off. The armholes are bound with white bias binding. It fits her fairly well now and will definitely work over summer. I might make another one in different colours if I feel like it. Since it's still cold, E. was wearing it over a t-shirt and leggings, but I keep feeling like it really needs a pair of bell-bottoms to set it off.

Princess Leia in doll form
And I also finished this off. This was one of E.'s Christmas presents and she's been dragging the poor thing around the house while she was still missing a skirt. So I finally sat down on Monday morning and finished that. J. thinks it's sort of creepy looking, but E. is very happy with the "doh" (she hasn't really figured out codas yet). So we do have a princess doll, but it's Princess Leia, the wonky homemade version. I used this pattern from Simple Simon and Co.

The doll came together okay, but I think next time I might need to adjust my seams or make the body wider at the base, since flipping the doll right-side out through the recommended gap was a exercise in frustration and patience. I'm sure part of it was the fabric I used, which kept stretching out of shape (random thrift store fabric passed on from another friend who was destashing).

I've discovered, when sewing, that I can cut out fabric and patterns while E. is around, since the dresser I do that on is much too tall for her to grab anything off of, but the actual sewing has to wait until she's asleep or when J. is able to watch her. Today the plan is to do some of the cutting work before her nap, and then sew up a couple skirts while she's sleeping. We'll see how it turns out (best-laid plans and all).

23 January 2015

the rain rain rain came down down down

As is not unusual around here in January, the heavens have opened and that liquid water stuff is pouring down. It's the sort of day that makes me want to huddle up with blankets, drink tea, and knit. As both E. and I are sniffly and coughing, we definitely did some of that. Followed by a walk in the rain that necessitated a complete change of clothes and some drying off with towels. After that, we had milk and tea and warmed up.

The walk in the rain was fun, though, and the fresh air's good. So I've been told. The park had turned mostly into a marsh punctuated with playground equipment, and I was the only mother mad enough to be out in that weather. E. waded through puddles, insisted on trying to swing on the big kid swings, and fortunately didn't try to climb up to the tallest slide.

By the time we left the park and headed for the produce store, she was drenched and I was getting there. My raincoat is useless in extremely wet weather, since it just directs a stream of water from my front straight onto my trousers. I ended up soaked from just above the knees on down, and a not insignificant amount of water made its way past the hood and onto my hair.

When we arrived home, E. was chilly enough that she calmly waited for me to unlock the door and headed straight in as soon as it was open. Usually she tries to take advantage of my distraction and makes a run for it around the corner of the house, out of my sight, because mine and J.'s DNA has created that kind of child.

I like the rain. I like the greyness of the skies and the scent of water mingled with earth and leaves. I like the cooler weather. It offers a sense of calm, and today was a day when I desperately needed that. I stumbled across a "war is problematic" article which said a lot of things I agreed with. Then I wandered into the comments, which I really shouldn't have done, because a pro-war commenter waded into the battle by posting horrific pictures of dead bodies with mocking captions. And making fun of a person's violent death really doesn't make you the bigger person in the debate. I had to pull away, and cry, and find a way to re-centre after being reminded, not just how horrible people can be, but how blind they can be to how horrible they're being, especially once religion is involved.

So I went to Celtic Daily Prayer. I'm not good with daily devotions, the recommended mainstay for spiritual life in many Protestant denominations. Most of them seem trite, or only helpful once in a long while. And the attitude that it's something you must do to stay right with God never sits well with me. But Celtic Daily Prayer, a new addition to my library, but a book I renewed at the library many times, usually offers something.

And oddly enough, today's reading spoke to me. "Most of the world would like to see something of Jesus, but how we fail to show Him through our life! How seldom when we speak is it what He has given to us to be said!" (Celtic Daily Prayer, 2002, p. 317). And as I searched through earlier parts of the book, through some of the readings that aren't necessarily tied in to specific days, I then found a section of liturgy based on Caedmon's songs. And this was the part that spoke to me today:

"Teach me to hear that story,
through each person,
to cradle a sense of wonder
in their life,
to honour the hard-earned wisdom
of their sufferings,
to waken their joy
that the King of all kings
stoops down
to wash their feet,
and looking up
into their face
says,
'I know--I understand' " (Celtic Daily Prayer, 2002, p. 199).

I believe that human beings are created in the image of God. Because of that, to kill another human being is to reject that image of God in them. And that is wrong. But whenever I remember this, I also have to remember that people who say and do things that anger or grieve me are also created in the image of God, and as such, to hate them is also to reject that image of God in them. So that commenter on that article today, the one who said such horrible things and posted such horrible pictures, is just as much created in the image of God as were those people in those pictures who must have suffered so much. And so I cried for all of them. And I prayed for all of them. And then we went for a walk in the rain.

I'm mostly sad now, not angry. Introspective and sad. And oddly peaceful.

Let's leave it at that for now.

20 January 2015

yoga and me: an attempt to be more thoughtful

Recently, in an effort to improve my overall fitness level and to get out of the house and spend time with adults, I signed up for yoga classes. This is perhaps not an unusual choice for a stay-at-home parent with a toddler, but it is the sort of thing that the me of ten years ago would never have done. And the people I spent time with then would probably have  been a tad concerned about me if I had done so.

While I never actively identified as an evangelical Christian, I did spend a lot of time in those circles, particularly in high school and in much of university. Some of my attitudes were definitely evangelical (for a while, I was anti-marriage equality. Then I grew up a bit and changed my mind) and others were not (growing up Lutheran meant that I was always nearer to the side of transubstantiation when the topic of Communion arose). For a time, I was one of those Christians who thought that good Christians didn't do yoga because it would spiritually contaminate you. Or something.

I didn't really know much about yoga, but I knew that it had its roots in Eastern spiritual practices, so that had to be problematic for a Christian. Right? Even if you ignored the spiritual history of yoga and just did it for exercise, you could never completely separate it from its origins, so I couldn't, in good conscience, practice yoga. With the typical arrogance of a teenager who thinks she is right about everything, and who was immersed in a branch of Christianity that places a lot of emphasis on doing the right things in the right way, I decided that I would never do yoga. I even told my fitness instructor in a class at university that I was a little dubious about yoga and wasn't sure if I wanted to do the segment on it. The poor teacher, having heard more than one of her conservative Christian students tell her that (it was a Christian university, that was most of the student population), found a work-around. A Christian yoga video, with all the positions renamed after stuff in the Bible, with verses to go with them.

That's when I discovered that I objected more to Christianized yoga than yoga itself. When you're in the gym of a Christian university doing "the Tent" instead of the Downward Dog because you're all so confused about whether it's okay for a Christian to do yoga, I think you have a problem.

Over the Christmas holidays, I read a book about Kundalini yoga. I'm still a little dubious about the stuff with the chakras, but the exercises, the breathing, the learning to focus and relax, those are all things that I don't have a problem with. And when I remember to do at least some of the exercises, I do feel better.

I did follow the book up with another on yoga and science, one that discusses the merits of and the problems with yoga, with a focus on safety. As flexibility, general fitness, and stress/anxiety relief are primarily what I'm looking for in this venture, I think I'm on fairly solid ground.

So off I went to yoga class last night, a little apprehensive about attending a class where I knew no one, and a little nervous about the difficulty level. And it went well. At the end, lying on the floor, relaxing and breathing, I found my mind travelling back in time, eleven years ago, to the summer where I alternated between being entirely at peace with everything and being completely stressed out about what I was supposed to do with my life. The times of peace came when my friends and I took time to sit down, pray, and let things go where they would. I usually ended up lying on the floor during those sessions, completely relaxed. I remembered how centred I felt then, how focused on the immediate, rather than the future, and I felt very much the same yesterday, lying on the floor of a yoga studio after nearly an hour and a half of stretching and breathing exercises.

Meditation has a long tradition in many religions. I still find it strange that many North American Christians find it alarming. There is much we have lost in the centuries since the Reformation transformed Christianity, not least of which is this: Wisdom is found in many places, and God is in all.

14 January 2015

food and a farewell to Christmas


Today has been a cool, humid day--the kind where E. and I head out for a walk, cut it short, and then make coffee when we get home because we were really cold (well, she had milk and just tried to stick her fingers in my coffee). I took advantage of an unexpected nap to put away the Christmas decorations, at last. It's a week after Epiphany, so it's about time. It took me about five minutes. We don't have a lot of Christmas decorations. Everything except the tree fits in an old vodka box, and I'm thinking of pruning a few things next year, like the sparkly glass ornaments that were a gift and don't go with the rest of the stuff.

J. isn't that keen on household decorations that are only used for one month out of the year (my rule is that they can go up on the first Sunday in Advent, and I try to take them down around Epiphany), so we don't have fairy lights or a massive tree (not that most of the apartments we've lived in have been okay with massive real trees) or piles of ornaments, not that we really have the room to store them all, anyway. The tiny tree fits neatly on top of the shelves next to J.'s board games, comfortably out of reach of the tiny person. She was fascinated by the tree. I had to move the Nativity scene up there, too, after she started pointing at the windowsill and exclaiming about the "dolls."

So, the place is back to normal-ish. The weather's been such that I keep wanting bake things. English muffin bread is on my list for a little later today, mostly to use up more of the whey in the fridge. I had the urge to bake an apple tart the other day, and this was the result:


This was my first attempt in recent memory at a lattice crust, and I really liked how it turned out. I've been kneading bread enough lately that I've lost a little of my touch with the piecrust and it came out a bit tough, but still tasty. I need practice, or patience. Or both.

Continuing with the food theme, I tried making enchiladas using TVP as a meat substitute. TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) is a soy product that looks a bit like beige panko. You measure it out and pour an equal amount of hot water on it to rehydrate it, then mix it with whatever you're cooking. Like tofu, it takes on the flavour of whatever you happen to be cooking it with. While "textured vegetable protein" sounds like something you'd find in the galley of Serenity, it's actually pretty good. When rehydrated, it has the consistency and texture of cooked ground meat, and the first time I had it, at someone else's house, I had to be told it wasn't ground beef. I made tortillas for the enchiladas, and combined the TVP with black beans, yellow bell pepper, onion, garlic, and a few spices.

Enchiladas in progress.
And it was tasty. We had enough leftovers for dinner tonight, too. French onion soup is on the list for tomorrow--possibly officially vegetarian if I don't get lazy and use Bovril for the broth.

11 January 2015

food and sickness and knitting

We've officially had our first instance of sickness making its way around the family (at least, now that it's more than just the two of us). J. got a cold at Christmas. Then E. and I caught it in time for New Year's. Mine was worse than hers--I'm still sniffly a week and a half later and she's perfectly well. It was her first cold. Then J. came home from work on Thursday with more cold-like symptoms, followed by a fever and vomiting. He's still very congested and I'm crossing my fingers and hoping E. and I don't catch it. I suppose we'll know by the end of the week. I always tell people that she's up-to-date with her shots when she drools on them, but that's not really helpful for the things we don't have shots for. 

As we've all been varying degrees of ill lately, I have been somewhat inspired to make food. On Friday I made no-knead bread, bagels, and applesauce cake. Oh, and apple butter. The bread and bagels were partly an effort to use up some of the whey we have in the fridge. I made yogurt last week and then a batch of ricotta mid-week, so we ended up with a couple liters of whey that needed using up. I put it in pizza dough and in the bread and bagels. I think another loaf of bread is on the list, since there's still half a pitcher of the whey lurking on the top shelf next to the milk.

We've also been trying to use up the meat in our fridge since after it's gone, we're going to be eating a primarily vegetarian diet for a while (cue the random cravings for fried chicken and barbecued ribs that I have no current plans to bother trying to fulfill). I hadn't really realized how long it would take to use up the Costco-sized chunk of prosciutto we bought for our Christmas party back in December. This last week I did pizza and gnocchi to whittle away at what's left. Some kind of pasta is on the list for today.

Meanwhile, the knitting mojo's back! I knit E. a sweater, finished a hat for her, and have the last of a sleeve cap to complete on a sweater. The urge to make stuff has returned and this is good. The sewing mojo needs to show up next--I could do with some new tops and a pair of yoga pants.