Monthly Archives: March 2010

What I Read in March 2010

The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran
Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Muse & Reverie by Charles de Lint
The Affinity Bridge by George Mann
Farthing by Jo Walton
The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
A Cotswold Mystery by Rebecca Tope
Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Wyrm King by Holly Black
Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: A Giant Problem by Holly Black
Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie’s Song by Holly Black
When Autumn Leaves by Amy Foster
The Good Neighbors: Kith by Holly Black
The Good Neighbors: Kin by Holly Black
The Queen’s Governess by Karen Harper

Weekend Roundup: Spring Concert Edition

We had a good dress rehearsal Friday night. This church has fabulous acoustics. The celli were a bit crushed as the front pew hadn’t been moved, so some of us were staggered and our principal ended up turned so that she was almost facing the sanctuary instead of the first violins. They had lovely padded folding chairs, though, and bonus cushions that some of the cellists filched from the pews to use as added elevation at the back of the seats.

On Saturday we had a very relaxed day at home, for which I was very thankful because I was fighting a low-grade but insidious headache for most of the day. Looking for music to listen to in my burned CD box, I found the copy of the Aria soundtrack mp3s that Marc gave me. Now, I know that theoretically the Xbox can play mp3s, and I wanted to listen to this music without calling it up on the computer and turning my speakers so that they faced the door to the office, so I turned the console on and put in the disc. The Xbox does indeed play mp3 discs! (Not that I doubted you in the least, Ceri. I just needed to prove it to myself.) The problem was that the Xbox wasn’t being run through the stereo (it used to be, but must have been accidentally left out of the last Massive Rewiring Run that also ended up running the Blu-Ray player through the stereo only and not the TV at all), so the music only came through the TV speaker, and sounded awful and flat. So when the boy went down for his nap, HRH unplugged everything, sorted it out, and wired all the consoles and the Blu-Ray player into the TV and thence to the stereo. We now have everything in surround. Muah-ha.

We had an early dinner, got dressed, and headed out. The boys dropped me off at the church for our warm-up, and went to feed Ceri and Scott’s cats and reassure them that they had not been abandoned. From all reports the cats were kind of casual and all “Oh, hi. Food? Well, if you want to, but we’re not starving.” (Which is, I suppose, a good thing. But somewhat odd, as anyone with cats will know.) The concert was very well-attended, with the church pretty much full. A huge thank you for their attendance and support goes out to Paze, Tamu and Patrick, John and Mel, HRH and the boy, and Marc M, who left another engagement to come to the concert and then went back, bless him.

The concert went very well. It was tight and a lot of fun. Oddly enough, I didn’t have the choking-up problem at the end of the Butterworth where I usually do; this time it was at the beginning, during the gorgeous clarinet solo. There was a minor hiccough in the Butterworth, but so very minor (although these things always seem major to the people involved when there’s a hiccough) and at the best possible moment it could have happened, a perfect transition point. I don’t remember anything particularly worthy of triumph on my part, but I do remember enjoying playing the Haydn even more than I usually do. I nailed one of the nasty Debussy bits I always fail at but fluffed it the second time it came up, most likely due to White Stick Syndrome. Overall, I enjoyed the whole thing. After the concert I got a spontaneous hug from the boy and an enthusiastic, “Mama, that music was so good!” Although when I put him to bed he seemed somewhat stuck on the wasps, asking why they kept coming back, and indeed why they were in the music at all to begin with. He wasn’t so sure about them.

(Today I opened iTunes and instead of choosing something specific, I wanted a surprise, something I probably hadn’t heard in a while. I told it to play my entire catalogue of mp3s on random. It gave me… Vaughan Williams’ ‘Wasps’ overture. I don’t know if this is evidence of a sense of humour, or evidence of a complete lack of one.)

Sunday morning HRH made waffles as a huge treat, and I did a batch of scones. The boy and I picked up Paze and Devon and headed out to our monthly Pagan playgroup. (This is why I made the scones. I proceeded to forget my Tupperware container there, sigh.) I’m having trouble settling into this year of the playgroup. It’s half again as big, which isn’t exactly the problem; it feels like there’s too many older kids feeding off one another, and it makes focusing hard. The older kids run around and act crazy in the next room before and after the meeting, and the boy always asks to join them. Every time I say no, because this is supposed to be a quiet, focused time for learning and crafts, and if he starts he won’t stop. “But they’re doing it,” is his standard comeback, to which I usually reply that just because someone else is doing it doesn’t make it right. And snack time used to be bowls of healthy things like veggies and fruit and cheese and scones, and this meeting had piles of cookies that the kids focused on instead of the hummus and pita and grapes. (The Girl Guide cookies for sale were a different matter entirely; they’re sealed. I was just stunned at the platefuls of cookies the older kids had, and which the boy asked for because he saw them; he ignored everything else because the older kids only ate the cookies. I’d like to see purchased cookies banned from the group’s snack time.)

We got home and the boy had only a bit of sandwich before nap time. HRH headed out to take a look at poor Mousme’s buckled basement floor after severe water damage (much more severe than anyone had suspected, as he discovered that there was pink insulation as well as that blue Styrofoam insulation packed between the floor joists, all of it still soaking wet from the flood, with water beneath it all). While he was out I made the heroic decision to pull out the top-down sleeveless sweater I cast on in April 2009 in order to work through the bits that scared me (binding off for the cap sleeves, casting on fewer stitches there in the next round to form the body under the arms). This is the sweater that I frogged last October and cast on to knit again, then stopped at the sleeves because I was worried that I’d ruin it somehow. I just went ahead and did it this weekend, reasoning that if I ruined it I’d only lose about four inches of work and could always start again. Anyway, the scary-to-me bits are done. I have some very iffy raglan increases and some loose stitches that I am hoping will block out when it’s all done. I’m past the hard part, but I am such a bad knitter that I managed to knit a circular rubber stitch marker INTO the row I was working on while I was doing a cable cast-on increase in the middle of a row. It’s now woven into the sweater. I’ll have to cut it out when it’s all done. I now see why some people use split rings as markers. However, now I’m on the straight knitting bit for the body of the sweater. I’d like to say it’s all fine from here, but I think there’s a bit of shaping under the bust. It’s probably just k2tog, but it’s the placing that’s tricky.

I had a cello lesson last night, where we played through some of the ensemble stuff. I have another this Wednesday, as my teacher is gone over Easter weekend, and then one next Tuesday because I’m gone the weekend and following week to help Mum after her surgery. I didn’t have a lot of focus; I kept wandering from tenor clef into bass in a piece that stayed entirely in one clef or the other (a holdover from Debussy and Vaughan Williams, which jumped back and forth between the two clefs all the time, I think) and dropping accidentals. Not my finest hour, but some good work done on phrasing and shifting nonetheless.

And then I came home and had a hot bath, started to reread the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and had a good sleep. The end.

Good Things

1. The leaves on the lilacs out back are ready to pop. They’re so excited about spring that even the branches have a green tinge to them.

2. This morning, thanks to a post on a weaver’s Yahoogroup I belong to, I followed a link to an Etsy listing, and I FOUND OUT WHAT MAKE MY LOOM IS! Yes, those are all caps, and no, I didn’t think I would be this excited about it, either. Turns out I have a Structo Artcraft 600 loom, probably from the late 1930s judging from the iron levers, when they stopped making toy looms and started making real ones. And just with that wee bit of knowledge I tracked down some Structo history, a Yahoogroup devoted entirely to Structo looms (where I found the original owner’s manual in pdf form with the original patterns done for it by a well-known weaver of the time), and had the excitement of adding my loom’s specs to my profile on Weavolution (sometimes referred to as “the weavers’ Ravelry”). I am so thrilled. There’s a whole subculture of Structo loom owners out there, and they’re considered sturdy workhorses with flexibility. Hmm, sounds like my Louet spinning wheel…

3. The taxes got done on Friday. It didn’t take as long as I expected it to because I had fewer receipts and such to sort out than previous years. I made more than I thought I did last year (the Canadian equivalent for my anthology editing fee was more than I remembered it being) and I spent much less, mostly because I wasn’t working on an original contracted book and so didn’t need the research materials. (Well, there’s also the fact that my two major purchases were a cello and a spinning wheel, neither of which qualify as work expenses.) I’ll probably break even, which is no fun because I was hoping for a couple of thousand back to dump on my Visa, or into my very empty ING account. But bundled together with HRH and with the RRSP tax credit, we’ll probably be okay. It’s done, which is the main thing.

4. My mum goes in for hip replacement surgery today. Keep her in your thoughts!

5. I have a pot of beautiful purple hyacinths that the boys brought home for me last week. They bloomed and now the entire house smells like spring. And I saw two little crocuses (crocii?) just about ready to open up in the front garden yesterday.

6. The concert rocked! More on that in the weekend roundup, which is next.

The Best-Laid Plans…

… of those being virtuous and preparing info for tax reports gang aft agley.

The plan of the day was to take my file of collected business receipts into the living room, spread everything out in the sunbeam on the floor, sort things, then add the sorted piles up, then enter it all in my spreadsheet. The spreadsheet would be e-mailed to HRH at the end of the day, who would print it out at work (no, I still do not have a functional printer, because I can’t afford to refill the colour ink cartridge so that the black ink cartridge will work. I hate this stupid co-dependent cartridge thing). Then we could call our awesome tax guy, drop the stuff off, and pick it up in a week or so when I’d have received a freelance cheque and could pay him.

That was the theory, anyhow.

The actual order of events went like this:

    9:45 EDT: Okay; taxes today. Going to carry my messy, bursting-at-the-seams file of stuff into the living room and work on the floor in the sun. To me, my calculator!

    10:30 EDT: Receipts sorted into general piles. Now sorting into more precise subcategories, and the fun of adding it all up. Losing my sunbeam, though.

    10:45 EDT: GAH ARRG RAWR — Gryff just tore through the room, caught the carpet in his claws, yanked it up and over as he went, scattered the sorted receipts, and overturned a full mug of tea on it all. I sopped up what I could, hung the worst of the larger pieces of paper over chairs to dry, then peeled the soaking receipts apart and lay them in what sunbeam is left. When it’s dry I’ll have redo all the piles. ARGH!

So I and this task are on hold until things are less damp.

The bitter irony is that only last night I looked at Gryff, who was on my lap while I spun the rest of the chocolate Coopworth long-draw and plied it all up, and said, “Your claws need a good trimming, mister,” because he was poking my knees with them.

Deep Sigh

Okay, this week’s freelance assignment has been handed back. It was really tough, because it was good; it was the structure that fought against it. I’m not super confident about my report, but that’s why they’re reviewed by the editorial team. We’ll see if they want me to handle a rewrite. I’m kind of dazed now.

We had our last regular rehearsal before Saturday’s concert last night. We did the entire programme with bits replayed to work on them. I had a great day yesterday, but I ran out of steam three-quarters of the way through. I already miss the Vaughan Williams and the Butterworth, even though the concert hasn’t happened. There’s something fabulous about sitting in the middle of all that lush or tight music, and I am an unabashed fan of early twentieth century English music based around folksongs. Which is not to say I don’t get anything out of Haydn and Debussy; sitting in the middle of all that is just as exciting. But Vaughan Williams and Butterworth are extra-special.

(Mendelssohn’s fifth symphony, the Reformation, is being considered for the Canada Day concert. I adore the Reformation symphony.)

I have to say that I am loving the whole I-don’t-have-to-wear-boots thing that spring is giving me. Even though I wore them Tuesday night, along with my winter coat. My sinus cold is dragging like all my colds drag, and I ache all over, but what else is new?

As a reward for getting through this week, I made brown-butter sea salt Rice Krispie squares. Tonight after the boy is in bed I plan to tune in to Unwoman’s live at-home concert stream, assuming I can stay awake. I missed last night’s, but I watched the recording this afternoon (which included some of her fabulous originals, as well as not one but two great covers of Dr. Horrible’s ‘Brand New Day’ on cello, as well as Amanda Palmer’s ‘Ampersand’ on piano). And I am kicking the laundry list today.

Finally, Molly the owl has two hatchlings. The boy and I check in regularly before he goes to school, when he gets home, and before he goes to bed.

Now, there are Rice Krispie squares calling me. And woo-hoo, my report was okayed!

In Which She Ruminates On The State Of Things

I’ve been doing a very good job of recording what’s happening, but not how I’m feeling. That has much to do with the fact that I’ve been feeling lousy for a good long time now. (Or perhaps that should more correctly read ‘a bad long time’.) This isn’t a particularly cheerful post, so be ye warned.

Winter really wore me down. I was cold all the time no matter what the heat was set or or how many sweaters and socks I piled on. I was in pain a lot of the time, too. And now that it’s spring things haven’t changed much. I’m still struggling with a sinus cold that’s dragging on, some major back and muscle pain, and ongoing fatigue. Mentally and emotionally I’ve been pretty fatigued, as well. I’m having trouble reading, of all things, not being able to focus or retain information for long. I have problems thinking through a project, whatever it might be. I’m finding it hard to focus through an entire piece of music while I’m playing. Heck, I have problems thinking through a conversation. I know it’s fibro. That doesn’t help me much.

None of this is doing my self-confidence or self-esteem any good. Pretty much the only thing I’m handling right now is freelance work on a very light basis. Weaving takes time and energy to set up and the actual weaving part is over too quickly. (Somewhere in my mind there’s a little voice saying, “Well, it would take only a bit more energy to warp a larger loom, it might actually be easier and less cramped, and you could do a longer warp for a bigger project that would last more than two or three hours of actual weaving.” To which the responsible adult part of my mind replies, “Yes, well, a larger floor loom costs money, of which there is none, is there?”) I did a bit of sample spinning with some of the incredibly lovely cashmere that Bonnie sent to me, and it’s exquisite: it’s so light and soft that I joked about sleeping with it on my pillow and carrying it around to pet it. I also spun up the Corriedale/Tencel blend I did on the homemade hackle and it’s very nice indeed, quite silky; it would have a lovely drape if knitted.

Part of my problem is because my focus is all over the place, I’m having trouble with time management. I never feel like I’m accomplishing anything of worth. Which is wholly untrue, I know. I’m bringing enough money in to cover my bills, though not any more than that. I’m baking a lot and feeding my family. I’m handling at least one freelance project per week, from start to finish; I’m at my desk nearly six hours a day because it’s slow going, though. I’m better at cello than I was even three months ago, although I’m not practising much because I don’t have the energy beyond getting to orchestra and my weekly lesson. But I lost the three-day a week yoga schedule I was doing, I badly miss being able to write, and I’m feeling generally lacklustre and rudderless. I suspect that last is partially due to the knowledge that we’re moving at an undetermined time this year, and there are other undefinable things up in the air time-wise, too.

I didn’t realise how bad it all was until I began considering a really short haircut or drastically colouring my hair last week. That’s usually a certain sign that I feel powerless and not in control of what’s going on. I’ve actually been avoiding getting my hair cut, mainly because I can’t afford it, and also because the boy asked me to grow my hair long again. I haven’t decided if I’ll do that or not, but for now that’s what’s happening by default.

So that’s the state of things, as they have been for some time now. I’m restless, can’t focus, feeling worthless, and really down on myself because I feel like I can’t do what I want to do for a variety of reasons. A lot of this is health-related. Some of it is the time of year. When the sun came out for over a week it noticeably helped, so I know things will get somewhat better as spring moves along. I just have to hang on till then.

Weekend Roundup, Spring Edition

On Friday night I had my cello lesson where some things fell apart, and others worked. I guess overall it was good, but there were parts that left me really down. This is the part of the-tearing-apart-current-technique process I hate. I know to expect sounding awful while my brain and muscles struggle to implement new info, but it doesn’t do much for feeling good about yourself or your work. A new étude that my teacher assigned had me trying to figure out what it sounded like, and I finally made the connection: it was in the same key and rhythmic pattern as the piece my teacher had suggested doing for the spring recital back in January, the Bach Gavotte from the third Suzuki book, a piece I love. I shared this insight with her and she was slightly taken aback, because we haven’t started it yet and usually she prefers students to present a polished piece they’ve worked on for a good long time. So there was miscommunication: I expected her to assign it when she thought it was time, and she perhaps forgot or had just been thinking aloud. She suggested doing the Lully Gavotte instead, but told me to work on both as the Lully has lots of stuff we can apply to the Bach, and if the Bach is good enough we can do that. We have three months; we’ll see what happens.

Saturday was our spring co-coven all-day retreat. I was up at six baking a double batch of cinnamon buns that I’d mixed the night before. We left at quarter to eight to drop the boy off at his local grandparents’ house, pick up the last-minute supplies we needed, get gas, then pick up our two coveners and get to the workshop site (theoretically for nine, but we didn’t make it there till nine-twenty because of traffic and losing a bit of time at every stop). The morning was great: the cinnamon rolls and tea or coffee, then our opening ritual that invoked the energy of the elements in various ways to bless the weather, our creative pursuits, and new beginnings or reawakenings, then a good talk on shield theory, and a discussion comparing and contrasting the handling of energy in Reiki and magic. Lunch always arrives surprisingly quickly, and it was fabulous: cannelloni, honey-garlic chicken, salad, and homemade bread. The main ritual was a guided meditation, after which I had to leave for a replacement rehearsal at orchestra as we’d lost two earlier in the season due to weather and March break.

The rehearsal was good work. Things are starting to come together, although I have determined that I have White Stick Syndrome. This is similar to White Coat Syndrome in which people’s blood pressure skyrockets at hospitals or doctor’s offices, except in my case when the conductor turns around and stands right in front of me to conduct our section I completely lose any ability to read my music and play things I know perfectly well. Sitting second chair has its hazards.

Two and a half hours later I went back to pick up the rest of the crew. We dropped them off and picked up the boy, then went home for dinner. In my quest to turn my son into a fellow Vaughan Williams fan, At the end of dinner I played the Wasps overture for the boy so he’d know it at the concert, and then the March Past of the Kitchen Utensils which came next on the CD (why are there no recordings of this to share? I am sad, it’s a great piece), doing a puppet show for him with my hands over the half-wall between the living room and the kitchen while telling him this was the wooden spoon marching past, this was the ladle, and, timed to coincide with the crashing chords, this was the meat tenderizer, THUMP! He giggled so hard he almost gave himself the hiccoughs and kept saying, “Do it again, Mama, do it again!” I promised him we could do it for HRH one day with the real kitchen utensils, and we went through the tin of spoons and such by the stove to figure out what we would use. I may even break out the fabric stash to make little cloaks for them, and possibly acquire googly eyes to stick on with a bit of blue-tack for extra fun.

Sunday morning I felt awful. I’d worn myself out on Saturday, so the sinus cold that I’d been fighting for the past week gained the upper hand. I took sinus medication, which pretty much knocked me out, and I spent most of the morning in a doze wherever I was sitting. While HRH vacuumed, I showed the boy the live feed of Molly the wild barn owl sitting on her eggs, the first of which was due to hatch Sunday. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch her; barn owls are incredibly elegant, and knowing there was an owlet working on chipping its way out of the egg made it hard to turn the feed off. The first one hatched while we both napped and HRH was out getting groceries, and then the feed went down, so we watched a recording of the owlet instead. (The feed is back today, thank goodness; the servers crashed because so many people were watching it.)

As it was the first weekend of spring, we celebrated by going out for ice cream. We visited the opened-last-summer Bilboquet location in Pointe-Claire village, which has seats inside (our regular spot doesn’t) and it was just as fabulous as everyone who’s enjoyed the downtown location has ever told me. The boy had straight chocolate, I had chocolate with white chocolate-vanilla slabs and nuts in it, and HRH had tire a sucre ice cream, vanilla swirled with real maple taffy from a local cabane a sucre. It was incredible. It’s a limited-time availability thing, so, um, we’ll be going back next Sunday so we can all have some before the season is over. It snowed on Sunday, too, enough to cover the grass again (although it melted overnight) and there was something peculiarly decadent about sitting on the stools at the front window, eating ice cream while watching the snow fall.