Monthly Archives: August 2009

What I Read in August 2009

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Spinning Designer Yarns by Diane Varney
Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold
Worldwired by Elizabeth Bear (reread)
Scardown by Elizabeth Bear (reread)
Hammered by Elizabeth Bear (reread)
Teach Yourself VISUALLY – Handspinning by Judith MacKenzie McCuin
Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs
Good Things I Wish You by A. Manette Ansay
The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs
Holy Smokes by Katie MacAlister
Light My Fire by Katie MacAlister
Fire Me Up by Katie MacAlister
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James
The Piano Teacher by Janice Yee
Evita by Nicholas Fraser
Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien
The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin
Start Spinning by Maggie Casey
Spinner’s Companion by Bobbie Irwin
Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs

Quick notes:

The Magicians by Lev Grossman: I wanted to like this more than I did. The tone of the book kept me at arm’s length the entire time. And it felt like it was trying to be two different novels.

Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs: Why do I read Kathy Reichs novels? They get worse and worse. They’re so monotone. Actually, I do know. I like the forensic stuff. And the relationship and interaction between Tempe and Ryan. But everything else… ugh. No tension, poor writing. I’m stopping here.

Worldwired, Scardown, Hammered by Elizabeth Bear:
Just as good upon the third read as they were upon the first in 2005.

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James: Much better than I expected it to be. I couldn’t remember what I’d thought of the Jane Austen one she’d done a couple of years ago (I read a lot of Austen-focused stuff around the same time and they all sort fo merged in my head), but this was on the new releases shelf at the library so I brought it home. A pleasant read, and a decent imagining of what might have happened.

Out of the spinning books, I’d say The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin and Start Spinning by Maggie Casey are essentials to have on hand when you start out. They cover a lot of the same stuff, but explain it in different words and with different photographs (both are excellently illustrated) so you come away with an even better understanding of whatever technique you’re looking up.

Weekend Roundup, End Of Summer Edition

I’ve got the second round of canned tomatoes happening. I think I’ll get one more round from the garden. Some of the weather has been so bad this past month that we’ve lost lots of green tomatoes, and a couple of entire tomato plants. Still, I’ll have about a dozen jars, which is more than nothing. I may buy a bushel of tomatoes from the market and do a whole bunch more preserving this season. It feels very much like canning weather, what with the sudden dip in temperature to high teens or very low twenties.

This was a packed weekend, made more difficult than it should have been by my increasing fibro flare-up, now with exciting bonus back pain, seized lumbar region, and spasms. Friday night HRH mowed the lawn and vacuumed, because we were going to be out pretty much all weekend. Saturday morning we visited the Preston-LeBlancs for a lovely tea party, where we all settled down and relaxed and knitted or chatted or drew, and feasted on cinnamon rolls (I tried a new recipe, yum!), zucchini brownies, berry cake, and zucchini bread. Back home there was a quick lunch then a nap, for both the boy and I because I wasn’t feeling well. After nap HRH and the boy went grocery shopping, because I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed to do it, and then we all went upstairs to have Chinese fondue with Blade and Scarlet, which was a lot of fun.

Sunday morning was the monthly Pagan playgroup meeting, which the boy adores. It was a belated Lughnassadh-themed circle, so I baked my Lughnassadh herb bread to share afterwards, and that was a hit. While the boy napped I made cookies, and when he woke from his afternoon nap we packed them, the corn pot, and the cello up for the beginning-of-season BBQ at my cello teacher’s house. The boy wore his Superman t-shirt and the little red cape ADZO had made for a birthday party, and ran around the beautifully landscaped backyard through pergolas and archways and lovely shady areas. There was fabulous corn on the cob, hot dogs, delicious artisan sausages, salads, and the usual fun BBQ fare, and it was nice to talk to people we don’t often speak with. After dessert we set up and did some playing, which was fun too, although it highlighted how lax we’d all been with practice over the summer. Then it was home for a quick to-bed, Blade came down to be the Designated Responsible Adult On Site, and HRH and I headed back out for our monthly RPG night. During which, I must say, I laughed harder than I’d laughed in ages, and appreciated how all the clues finally fell together.

The boy discovered the Justice League yesterday. He’s known about them, but he finally saw a couple of episodes, and now we are all referred to as superheroes. I am, of course, Wonder Woman, and HRH is usually cast as Green Lantern. I think this month’s treat will be a season of JL on DVD.

I went back on active duty with the ongoing freelance gig this morning. Orchestrated‘s pretty much done, the bank account’s looking low, and I need discipline. Also, I suspect that by working on someone else’s deadline again, the spinning wheel I’ve awaited for the past six weeks should arrive at the shop within about three days in response to my drastically reduced free time. Because life is like that.

In Which She Throws Down the Metaphorical Pen, Exhausted

A Twitter exchange between Ceri and I:

Autumn: Where are all the commas in this chapter? I usually have an excess of commas problem. Who wrote this?

Ceri: Cats! They’re in ur chapterz steelin ur commaz!

Autumn: Well, that would explain a lot. There must be a pile of commas in Kitty Wonderland. I’ll bet you anything it was Nixie.

Ceri: Someday, you will find her curled up asleep in a pile of stolen commas and it will be like a scene from a Jasper Fforde book.

But the point of this post is actually to say:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a complete second draft of Orchestrated. *passes out*

Fifty Months Old!

I’m totally blanking on the monthly update. I kept horrible notes this past month. So much of it would have involved the trip to Nova Scotia, so I point you back there.

His caregiver came back from Toronto Trek Polaris with a miniature sonic screwdriver for him, and he adores it. He ‘fixes’ things with it, including people’s teeth and ears. ( “Because I am fixer guy who fixes things,” he explains.) We put the kibosh on ‘fixing’ people’s eyes the first time he tried it, because the thing has a blue tip that glows when you press a button. He also loves to help in the garden with HRH, which is great. He helps water the plants, and tidy things up. He was thrilled to be able to help HRH paint the hallway, too.

We are running into an irritating problem with food. When he asks what’s for dinner and we tell him, he immediately says, “Oh, I don’t like that.” Now, this is patently untrue a lot of the time. We tend to prepare meals that we can all eat together, so the automatic response really, really gets on our nerves. Both HRH and I have blown up at it once each this past month. Part of it comes from his conflation of the terms ‘want’ and ‘like’ – we have to point this out to him sometimes – and part of it comes from the fact that if he could live on chicken nuggets, he would. Except his memory hasn’t caught up to his tastes yet, because when we give him chicken nuggets these days he sort of half-heartedly nibbles them, then decides he’s done. We just need to keep reminding him that the kneejerk reaction isn’t helpful to anyone.

The biggest drama of the past month happened the day or the day after we came home from Nova Scotia. I’d unpacked everything and placed a travel-sized tube of hand cream on the toilet tank next to my hair stuff, to remind me that I wanted to take it out to the car. He used the bathroom and flushed the toilet, then spun around… and knocked the hand cream into the bowl as it was draining. There was a shriek and screaming and he ran into my office crying so hard that we couldn’t understand him. HRH came running from wherever he was, and I had the boy by the shoulders trying to calm him down. We honestly thought he’d hurt himself badly somehow, although we couldn’t see any blood. We finally got him calmed down enough to understand that he’d knocked “the sunscreen, your sunscreen, Mama” into the toilet and it had vanished. He was deeply distraught, and we had to kind of hide the snickers while I hugged him and told him that it was okay, that it hadn’t been irreplaceable or expensive, and that we knew that it had been an accident. We talked about how important it was to close the lid before one flushed, and gradually the sobs stopped. HRH told him that when he was little he’d done the same thing, only he’d knocked his mother’s hairbrush into the toilet, and he’d been afraid his parents were going to be mad, too. “Did you get it back?” the boy asked, interested. “Oh, no,” HRH said. “Long gone.” And then we had a talk about where the drains go, and the boy decided that if we got a big net we could go to the water filtration plant and scoop out both the hand cream and Grandma’s brush.

The language. Ye gods. I live with him and I keep being surprised at how he expresses himself. One morning he came to my side of the bed with a small stuffed rabbit and said with pathos, “Mama, Snowball is sad. He is very sad. Tears are dripping from his eyes, do you see?” And his storytelling is evolving, too. The stories he makes up to tell us are becoming increasingly developed and complex. It’s really interesting to listen to him. His expression and inflections are making a large leap forward now, too; he knows how to modulate his volume, pacing, and delivery to enhance what he’s saying really well.

Let’s see, other firsts this month… riding in the canoe, riding in the motorboat, swinging in a hammock, roasting marshmallows, learning how to skip stones. Uncharacteristically, Nixie is allowing him to pet, kiss, and hug her. I still can’t get over how good he was on the two-day trip down to NS and back. I’m so proud of him.

One Year Anniversary

A year ago yesterday my new glasses arrived. I have been wearing them full-time since then.

I can honestly say that wearing the full-time has improved daily life. I must also be honest and admit that even after a full year of wearing them, I still forget to put them on in the morning. I suspect this has less to do with my memory and more to do with the fact that my dresser is black and my glasses are dark brown, so they blend in. Also, I can see without them; I just start squinting and getting a headache if I forget to put them on. If I couldn’t see without them at all, I’d be reminded to put them on as soon as I opened my eyes. They’ve certainly made working at the computer and reading a lot easier, and watching movies and TV, too.

Overall, I like them very much. I think my switch to full-time glasses-wearing was aided immensely by thinking of them as an accessory rather than a medical aid.

Cautious

I was miserable late yesterday afternoon, and last night was worse. I either had a very bad system-wide reaction to something I ate, or had something gastro-like. It’s possible that it was related to the boy’s two separate episodes of illness last week (well, we thought they were separate, anyway) but whatever the origin, I’m just thankful it’s pretty much over. This morning it’s the traditional morning-after-the-night-before breakfast of tea and crackers, which is what I had for dinner last night, too.

The kicker is that I dreamed of making peanut butter marshmallow squares, so I woke up craving them. I don’t have butterscotch chips, or even chocolate chips to substitute. It’s probably a good thing.

The boy was very solicitous of my health yesterday. When I tottered out of my bedroom to read him a story before bedtime he met me and took my hand, patting it and saying, “It’s okay, Mama. I know your tummy hurts. Mine does sometimes, too. We’ll just go get you a couple of crackers, and that will help make things better.” Then he took me into the kitchen and opened the pantry, I got down a box of crackers, and we shared some. When I’d read him his story he turned to me and said very seriously, “Now, Mama, if you have to be sick, just run to the bathroom. You don’t have to be scared; I’ll be with you, and I’ll hold your hand, okay?” He was adorable; his tone was so serious and soothing. I loved it. I think we’re doing okay with this kid. He told me very proudly how he helped with one of the new babies yesterday, Sophia (nicknamed Kiki), and how he was officially at the Big Kid Table. HRH told me later that he’d had a couple of unsure moments at preschool, where he was evidently struggling with the very exciting ‘I’m a big kid and I take care of others and help the teachers’ concept while trying to integrate it into the ‘but I’m a little kid too’ reality. Apparently there were tears at one point, and when asked what was wrong he said, “I miss my dad,” which we think was shorthand for needing a reminder that yes, he was still a kid, and he wasn’t responsible for everything. It’s hard to integrate new responsibilities; there’s a lot going on internally with the whole self-consciousness and self-esteem and establishing one’s place in the world, forging new definitions and associations for interpersonal relations.

Today I’m planning to take things easy. I may cast on my lace scarf. I may knit some more rounds in my sweater. I’m certainly not going to work at the computer; sitting here is uncomfortable and hurts both my stomach and my head. I’ll read, and doze.

Weekend Roundup, In Which There Is A Visit To The Godforsaken Howling Wilderness

Wonderful, wonderful weekend.

Friday the boy and I had our special day out together. We visited the Melange Magique for incense, and the boy played with the resident cat Tequila and chattered away to Sam and Debra when she arrived. From there we went to Ariadne Knits to visit with Mary Louise and her ten-month old son Henry, and to inquire about the status of my wheel order. She tracked down my order for me and discovered that the model of wheel had been backordered at the CDN warehouse for a month. The order was closed on Friday morning, so it’s either on a truck or will be on one as of Monday, so I figure a week to two weeks at most for my wheel. I picked up a lovely skein of Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino fingering weight in soft variegated greens with which to knit a lace scarf. I will lick my hatred of fingering weight and lace in one simple yet elegant scarf for my fall jacket! We somehow spent an hour there, the boys interacting with one another and the store spinning wheel (the boy spent a lot of time turning it via the footman, and told a client who came in that he was spinning yarn for her to buy). Then it was home for lunch and rest, and then to the local movie theatre to see the new Miyazaki film Ponyo. It was very sweet, and the feel struck me as being a cross between My Neighbour Totoro with the magic of Spirited Away, and a dash of the humans-and-Nature-in-balance thing from Princess Mononoke. Excellent voice acting, truly stunning art (a lot of it takes place underwater or involves sea creatures), and a lovely score. The boy got very excited when he saw the Studio Ghibli logo on the big screen, as it’s a sketch of Totoro. Also: Astro Boy trailer! Woo! And Toy Story and Toy Story 2 coming out as a 3D double bill this fall!

Saturday morning the boy woke up at five. I sent him back to bed where he stayed very obediently till about six-twenty, but he didn’t go back to sleep. Then an hour or so later he experienced digestive upset, which was no fun at all for the poor kid. HRH was gloomy and predicted canceling our long-planned trip out to the Fearsranch to spend the day with Fearsclave and his lovely wife Carolyn, but I was stubborn. We’d already reduced the trip from an overnight to a day trip, and I wasn’t losing the single day. I bargained for leaving an hour later, and all was fine by then. We arrived in Alexandria at eleven-thirty on the dot and the fun began. The boy romped with Jack the dog and crawled after cats, then pulled books on trains off the shelf and brought them out to the swing on the back deck to share with Carolyn while the gentlemen hacked away at the threateningly overgrown tomato patch. There was a late lunch of corn on the cob, Greek salad, and homemade whole-wheat bread. We even had dessert first, a delicious lemon-blueberry-vanilla cake with vanilla glaze and strawberries on top. After lunch we wandered next door to the abode of Fearsclave’s parental units to coo over Bonnie’s new-to-her 30″ white ash Saxony Schacht-Reeves spinning wheel, and they left me there, spinning piles of BFL fibre that Bonnie just kept cheerfully handing to me. The slowest ratio on the Schacht-Reeves is 14:1; the fastest on my forthcoming wheel is 10.5:1! She also showed off her bouquet of spindles, which were lovely, and her fibre stash.

Dinner was a wild turkey, slow-roasted at a low temperature with lots of liquid to counter the leanness, potatoes and beans form the garden, and a Caesar salad. I whipped up some sage and onion gravy for the turkey and baked a pecan pie for dessert, and everything was delicious. Unsurprisingly, the wild turkey had a different texture and taste from the supermarket kind. The only oops was that we whipped the cream for the pie into butter. Heh. Around five o’clock the boy was a bit punchy so we asked if we could put a movie on for him, and wonder of wonders they had Kiki’s Delivery Service on DVD, which we haven’t seen in ages because our VHS player finally died. We paused it so we could all gather for dinner around seven, through which he was slightly drunk on sun and exercise and a missed nap, putting his arms around people and leaning his cheek against theirs, professing his love, and saying, “I like these people. These are nice people, Mama.” He went back inside to finish watching his film while the rest of us had tea and dessert, and we left with great reluctance around eight-thirty. The boy was fast asleep before we got to the end of the road. (Apparently we just missed t! and Jan on their way home from Tal’s housewarming party, which was a shame.) I was thoroughly pleased by the boy’s behaviour: he was polite, thoughtful, exuberant, and a very good boy in general. There were a couple of hiccoughs, such as his inability to remember that we told him (over and over) not to pick George the very old cat up, but George didn’t seem to mind, thank goodness; and when we were leaving Carolyn gave him her copy of The Jungle Book on DVD, and he was so tired that he held it and said, “But I don’t need this.” We had a whispered discussion about how when someone offered a gift we accepted it gracefully with thanks, and there was eventually a mumbled thank you. (All was well the next day when he saw it on the table and bounced up to it, saying, “I need to watch this today! It’s my new movie!”) He was very taken with all the adults who wandered in and out through the day. All in all, we had a wonderful time, and we didn’t want it to end. As we brought him out to the car the boy said, “I don’t want to go home. Can’t we stay here?” As his resistance to the idea of an overnight had been one of the deciding factors in making it a day trip instead, the whole-hearted about-face was satisfying. (The other reason was Monday was the first day of school for both the boy and HRH, so a full day at home before it seemed like a good plan. And it was.)

Sunday was our at-home/errand day. HRH picked up new shoes, and we went to the hardware store to pick up stain for the forthcoming wheel, new work gloves for the boy and I, and a belt pouch for HRH’s work essentials. The boys washed the car while I chatted with my mother, and that afternoon we did garden work, liberating a good two dozen full-sized potatoes and about six dozen tomatoes. I dashed out to pick up new jars for canning (because if one is canning, one needs jars, something I’d completely forgotten about) and to have a cup of tea with Ceri, then came back to start the process. In the past I’ve had horrible luck peeling tomatoes, even with the boiling water/ice water dip, but yesterday it worked like a charm. I suspect I’ve just not boiled them long enough is the past. I was quite disappointed that so many fresh tomatoes only yielded me four 500ml and one 250 ml jars of canned, but that’s what you get when you cut up things with lots of juice and seeds, I suppose. (Note to self for the future: Don’t start boiling the water for sealing the jars till you’re almost done ladling the stuff into the jars. Also, try making crushed tomatoes instead of doing a cold pack.) We were going to have steak with garden potatoes and carrots, but the steaks I’d bought had gone bad, so we defaulted to soft tacos.

Okay, there. That was the weekend. Lovely and relaxing. And really nice weather during the days, too, with rain at night.