Monthly Archives: May 2010

What I Read In May 2010

A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
Changes by Jim Butcher
The Accidental Sorceror by K. Mills
Overnight Socialite by Bridie Clark
Soulless by Gail Carriger
The Story of Cirrus Flux by Matthew Skelton
Simple Weaving by Hilary Chetwynd
By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear
Jacqueline du Pre by Elizabeth Wilson (reread)
The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner (reread)

Changes: Whoa yeah. Well handled.

Soulless: I really, really wanted to like this more than I did. I wanted the world to be deeper, and the characters to be less light. It’s not the fault of the book; my expectations were different.

By the Mountain Bound: Elizabeth Bear is one of my favourite contemporary writers. She uses language so beautifully.


How’s that for an inspired post title? That’s pretty much where I’m at.

It’s been a remarkably awful week. Not in terms of bad things happening, but in terms of not having enough time to do everything that needs to get done, and the literal (oh, how I wish it were figurative) nigh-incapacitating headache I’ve been fighting since Monday morning. My schedule is insane, and the insanity continues through to next Monday. I owe people stuff like replies to e-mail and uploaded writing and it’s just not happening. I’m writing this post to cover a lot of what otherwise would be a series of “I can’t respond due to workload,” the number of which would take up more time than the post itself. Essentially, I’ve been miserable and stressed, and it’s been building for a while (this week has just been the final-straw kind of thing) to the point that I am almost 90% sure I’m going to contact my doctor and talk about going back on medication, a decision that upsets a couple of other life choices, which in turn stresses me. (No, there is no winning in this situation, and it sucks. And no, I’m not convinced it should be the fibro meds, either.)

I may go back and do a proper weekend roundup (I’d like to, as there were a couple of things I’d like to write out for posterity) but in brief, it was lovely Victoria Day weekend with my parents in which the boy learned how to climb a tree (with help; he got out on his own quite handily, though, and no, that does not mean he fell). I picked up a refurbished Airport wireless card for the iBook I have on semi-permanent loan, so now I have a laptop that can access wifi, for which I am truly thankful. I was testing t!’s Asus eee, and while it’s okay, it’s a tad too small for me (scrolling back and forth to see a full display of a browser or word processing window is Not On) and runs so hot that it hurts my lap. If I were to get a netbook I’d go for one that has a 10″ screen instead of the smaller 7.5″. If this iBook ever gets recalled to its rightful owner, then I’ll just pull the $20 card and there’s no great loss.

We hit the ground running at home on Tuesday. I had a freelance thing I needed to have done by Thursday at noon, which looks great on paper, but Wednesday was a complete write-off due to errands, travel time, and house hunting. And even with Wednesday struck off the workday list, I would have been able to finish it by noon on Thursday if I hadn’t found a tumour-like object on Nixie’s stomach that was large enough and sudden enough to merit an emergency trip to the vet Thursday morning. (Thanks for cranking that stress up some more, there, universe.) That vet visit turned out to be a great relief, as the vet has pronounced it a non-infected mammary cyst that needs removal, but is fairly certain it isn’t cancerous. We’ll schedule surgery for her next week.

I got a few hours of extension for the assignment thanks to the emergency vet visit, and I had just as much trouble with this one as I’ve had with others recently. I think part of that has to do with how I’m second-guessing everything I write in the evaluation thanks to criticism, and while I know I’ve got great support for my recommendations I’m worried it will come back to me for major rewrites as the others have done, for tone if nothing else, even though I did what I could. I have other pro bono freelance things on my plate; there’s two pages of questions I need to answer for an interview with an e-zine, due May 31, and they’re insane. Each question is actually four jammed together. I’m going to have to pick and choose what to reply to, because otherwise it’s going to take about three solid days of work that I didn’t have time for before, and I certainly don’t now. Last week it was decided to do programme notes for the Canada Day concert, too, a decision I fully support because we’re playing an original piece composed by our conductor and artistic director that deserves notes (thank goodness they already exist), but that means I need to fit writing those in somewhere, too. The original due date was June 1, but the manager told me that I could have an extension, bless her.

This weekend is cello-intensive. I have a lesson tonight, a group rehearsal tomorrow afternoon, and a piano rehearsal with my accompanist tomorrow afternoon. This weekend we also really need to fit in a grocery order, buying new sandals for the boy (whose toes are peeking out last season’s, and half his shorts are too small with the other half being too big so I should buy a couple of pairs of those, too), and Pointe-Claire is having their twice-yearly Cultural Rendezvous where the weaving guild is hosting an open house type of thing, and I promised I’d stop by at some point to meet them and tour the guild room. That may be what falls off the schedule, alas, because we have house visits scheduled on Sunday late morning/early afternoon, which also means the boy will be missing his monthly pagan playgroup meeting.

We had our first round of house viewing on Wednesday, and it was… interesting. We love our agent. What I do not love is the fact that you have to go into every house looking for the bad stuff. The third and final house we saw Wednesday afternoon was very close to a Yes, except for the fact that it was close to the Louis-Hippolyte bridge, and I am so very tired of living near bridges and highways; I want something more quiet. That and the fact that the company next door built too close to their property line and as a result has annexed a chunk of the middle of the house’s back yard in order to have their code-required-15-foot-clearance around their emergency exit meant we crossed it off our list, which saddened us, because otherwise it was brilliant: solid construction, fabulous new kitchen, excellent-sized rooms with new windows, new roof, good layout, huge yard (except for that annex) and a full-height unfinished basement. Properties are cycling fast, so good ones will continue to pop up, though.

I tried to install the secondhand Airport Express last night, which failed miserably because neither it nor my computer sense one another as wireless devices, even though my computer is firmly under the impression that it has a wireless network set up. I picked it up with the intention of streaming my computer music to the living room stereo, but I gave up on it after an hour of trying to get it to work before I broke something, and installed the printer instead. That, thank goodness, worked. Yes, I ditched my failing-and-not-fully-functional HP Photosmart that lost the ability to scan when I switched to Mac a year ago, and whose ability to do straight printing degraded so badly that I banished it. (No great loss; I found the bill for it and I paid $50 for it on sale three years ago, so it had a decent run for the money.) We bought a new Canon MP560, which works like a dreamy charm with no hissy fits. HP and Apple had a weird sort of ‘nyah-nyah-can’t-hear-you’ thing with the all-in-one printers, where each claimed the other was responsible for creating new drivers so the all-in-ones would work properly with Macs. Every single HP product I have had has failed in some way, so I am more than happy to ditch them and start dating Canon. HP, we are breaking up for good and I will never, ever buy another one of your products. Go cry into your beer with Sony over there. In researching a new printer I discovered that Canons have a really good reputation for being Mac-compatible; in fact, Apple sells them in their online Apple store, which says a lot to me. So we picked one up last week on mega-special, and after testing it this morning I am very, very pleased indeed. I even love the bundled software, which is wildly unusual for me.

We had a ridiculous mini-heatwave this week that killed my appetite and energy levels. My sleep has been broken, which hasn’t helped the general state of things. I am, however, astonished at what I’ve been able to pull off so far this week. I will probably pay for it in spades next week.

I haven’t had time or energy to write, or warp the loom. I got half an hour of cello done Wednesday morning, but that’s it.

Today’s schedule:

– I am currently baking bread and muffins for tonight’s preschool potluck picnic
– get at least one load of laundry in (I have no idea when we’ll get the rest done)
– take bus+metro to the south shore to meet HRH (11:00), and to pick up my laptop that he took into work (I can’t carry that plus all the baked goods)
– head over to preschool to pick the boy up after his lunch, drop off baked goods (12:45)
– kindergarten orientation (1:00-2:30)
– take boy back to preschool (2:45)
– drop HRH back at work; go to office supply shop, then a Second Cup with the laptop to work on those interview questions (3:00-4:30)
– pick HRH up from work :94:45)
– go to preschool for the boy’s play (5:00)
– potluck picnic with kids and parents (5:30-6:30)
– take HRH and boy home, pick up cello
– cello lesson (8:00)

I should probably schedule in “pass out,” but I suspect that will happen regardless. Either that or I’ll lie awake for hours, like I did earlier this week.

Home Again

We’re back from spending the queen’s birthday weekend with my parents. It was a lovely visit; we are all tired but happy. The weekend roundup will happen tomorrow.

The boys are currently building a space shuttle in the living room.

We go to see our first slate of houses on Wednesday!

Treading Water

I’ve been having trouble recently trying to keep up with things and not sink under a general miasma of depression. There’s great stuff happening — the pre-approved mortgage which now allows us to act on the listings we’ve been researching for the past year, I’m writing again (baby steps, baby steps), great weather — but I’m struggling with the good old self-worth issue again. I’m dealing with a lot of general pain and achyness, my back is screwed up again, sleep is back to the waking-up-a-lot-and-not-hitting-deep-enough-cycles, and I seem to be saying, “Is [insert goal or activity here] worth it?” a lot more than usual.

Cello is currently freaking me out. Not only is there a lot of pressure at orchestra with new music that’s pushing us past our comfort zone again, but my teacher’s studio year-end recital is coming up and I’m uncomfortable with the lack of prep on the ensemble pieces. This isn’t necessarily me; a lot of people have missed the group classes for various reasons, and so our group pieces are all over the place. There’s that whole obstacle of the opening two notes of my solo piece which isn’t helping. Overall, it’s the pile of work that’s making me freeze like a deer in the headlights. It doesn’t help that when I do work on stuff, especially for orchestra, it doesn’t seem to matter or make a difference.

Most of my freelance assignments are coming back with requests for tweaks or rewrites, which isn’t helping my self-confidence at all. Monday I was ready to chuck it all and just spin yarn to sell on Etsy or something, because I obviously couldn’t handle my job, as light as it is. Rather surprisingly for me, I was proactive and wrote an e-mail to the coordinator I’ve been working with the longest and pointed out that I was getting a lot of revisions, and what could I be doing better? Her response was reassuring: I had been really strong for a couple of years, but had lately been developing a weirdness concerning one particular part of the manuscript evaluations I do, and she pinpointed it for me. I’d successfully addressed the not-positive-enough problem that had popped up in my work earlier, which was good to hear, but part of what had made me ready to give it all up on Monday was a criticism that I was being too positive now. (This has happened before; I’ve been corrected on a couple of things and applied them to the next few assignments, only to have my corrections pointed out as incorrect for a different reason. Frustrating, but all valid.) We talked about the new problematic issue and it was somewhat of a relief to hear that she didn’t know how to fix it either. A solution would have been nice, but both of us brainstormed a bit, and we’re trying a couple of different techniques to see if we can adjust things. I came away from it feeling a lot better, or at least I wasn’t writing up a resignation letter in my head any more, convinced that they were about to fire me.

I got two inches cut off my hair last week, which helped somewhat. Now when I look in the mirror I’m not cranky. I went to the salon around the corner that I’d tried just after the boy had been born; I’d felt neutral about it then, and still do, but it’s thirty dollars less than the salon that the stylist I’d been seeing for the past three or four years moved to. What she was charging at her last salon was pushing my budget; the new place made it impossible for me.

I spun two ounces of BFL in a pretty purply colourway; it’s one of the Fleece Artist braids that I picked up in Mahone Bay last summer, and reminds me very much of the colours inside a mussel shell, a couple of cooler purple shades with touches of pinky-browns and a bit of old rose-silver. It’s not quite long enough for what I’m aiming for, so I weighed out two ounces of tussah silk and started spinning that to ply with it. A handful in, I realised that the natural honey color of the tussah was lovely but was going to ruin the colour effect, so I messed about in the kitchen with my dyes and ended up with a truly gorgeous one of a kind colourway that will complement the BFL nicely:

It looks a bit muddy in the photo (silk doesn’t seem to photograph very well) but it’s got the same colours the BFL has, only sort of in reverse weight: mostly warm pinky-browns and blueish silver with the cool purple tone. I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to look like spun up and plied with the BFL, but I know it’s going to look beautiful:

I wrote 1200 words the other night, and five hundred yesterday before the boys came home and there was no hope of focusing. I think I’m going to have to draw up a schedule so I can check things like a half-hour of cello off, an hour of writing, some spinning or dyeing work, and block off time for whatever assignments come my way. Crossing things off a list make me feel much more secure regarding my time management. Last week I was attacked by naps pretty much every day, which didn’t help my productivity (but obviously rather important). So far this week I’ve avoided that, but I don’t know how long I’ll be able to continue avoiding them if I’m not sleeping at night.

Weekend Roundup

It was a lovely weekend. It felt like it went on forever, such a nice change from wondering where the weekend went. The weather was spectacular, which helped a lot. Our windows were open all the time, and the scent of the lilacs from over the back fence is just heavenly. I’m enjoying it, even though I know it’s all two weeks early. Normally we’d be gardening in weather like this, but as we now have our official pre-approved mortgage and are looking for a house on the south shore this summer (yay!), we’re not planting annuals or doing the vegetable garden this year. The extent of our planting was scattering wildflower seed in the front and side gardens, and trimming the deadheads off the tulips.

First thing Saturday morning HRH and I went to get our passport photos taken. And wow, in this day and age of digital cameras, it’s five minutes and done. They even showed us the digital pictures and asked if they were okay. Then we went to the library for our new library cards, and the boy got his photo taken because it’s been two years since the last one, which is almost half a lifetime ago for him. (I got to keep mine, because I don’t change as rapidly as he does.) It’s been about six weeks since I’ve managed to get to the library, so I paid my lingering fine and grabbed a couple of new releases.

Saturday morning I had one of those cello lessons where I almost reached the point of tears because I couldn’t play an open D followed by an open A. Yes, you read that right. I hate the opening bar to pretty much any solo piece, and the Lully gavotte is no different. I’m too forceful, I’m lifting the bow, I’m not articulating properly, where’s the contact between bow and string at the tip of the bow… I could go on. Two stupidly easy notes, open strings. And yet I can’t do it properly.

While I was celloing HRH took the boy to the toy store so he could buy a Playmobil airplane with the sixty (!) dollars he’d saved up in his piggy bank. They picked me up from my lesson and we stopped over at Ceri and Scott’s place so they could sign our passport applications as guarantors and references. Back home we had a light lunch and then everyone kind of rested, the boy on purpose and HRH and I somewhat unintentionally. I started measuring the warp for a new project on my warping board and managed to completely overestimate the finished length, so I measured two feet more of warp than I needed, which meant I ran out of yarn very quickly. In self-defence I must point out that this is the first time I’ve used a warping board for a full-length piece, and zig-zagging back and forth in a small area makes a length look much shorter than it is when you stretch it out. I redid my calculations and saw that I’d been overly generous with my calculation of loom waste, but even if I’d been measuring the two-feet-shorter version I’d have been short of yarn. I would have to buy another skein of it, which was mildly annoying because I was doing this to use up this particular yarn. Other really frustrating things happened too, like the skein tangling terribly while I wound it into two centre-pull balls, and then the centre-pull balls tangling terribly. (This last is particularly infuriating because centre-pull balls are supposed to eliminate tangling.) Coven was cancelled that night, so I had a hot bath and went to bed.

Sunday morning we were all up stupidly early, so the boy and I headed out to buy that other skein of yarn. When we got home the boy and HRH mowed the back lawn, and then we all went out to do our weekly grocery order. After lunch we were ambushed by naps, and when we got up we went out for a bike ride! The boy biked to the local schoolyard and HRH and I walked our bikes behind him, and he practised cycling on a flat surface. Next trip the training wheels come off, because he hasn’t quite figured out that he needs to go fast enough so that he won’t fall over without them. But as this is the second time he’s used his two-wheeler (rain and the busy have prevented us in the past month) he’s doing pretty well, and is understanding steering and braking and putting a foot down on the ground when he stops. There was a bit of not wanting to try because it was hard/scary/required attention, but we worked through that. And he loved that we had our bikes out with him, too.

I finished measuring the warp for the new project, and I’ll wind and sley it today so the loom will be ready for weaving when I feel like it later this week. Today is also slated for writing and transcribing for my own work, making bread, and practising those two damn notes on the cello.

Fifty-Nine Months Old!

One month till the boy turns five. Thirty-one days.

We have to remember to round his age up when people ask how old his is, now. And he’s measuring actions according to his age. He will sometimes politely refuse to try a new food. “No, Mama,” he’ll say, “that’s food for a five-year-old. I’m only four. But when I’m five I’ll like it.” He’ll do the same thing with toys or activities; he’s saving some of them for when he turns five. Mind you, the reverse is also operative: some things he tells me are okay for four-year-olds, but when he’s five he’ll stop.

One of the funniest things about this past month was his discovery of baked potatoes. That sounds odd, but it’s so much fun to see him get excited when I tell him that we’re having baked potatoes with dinner. He saw an illustration of one in a picture book and asked what it was. HRH explained it to him, and he said they sounded delicious. So I baked potatoes the next night to go with dinner, sliced it open, put a curl of butter on top, and he was thrilled. He asks for them all the time, now. It’s like he’s discovered the most exciting food ever. Baked potatoes. Really. I mean, there are other cool things associated with dinner, such as how he clears the table and puts the dishes in the dishwasher and such, and usually asks to be excused (every time he got up from the picnic at Tristan’s naming ceremony, for example, he asked to be excused, which amused me; he must be the only little boy in existence who asks to be excused from a picnic blanket, not once, but three times), but the baked potato thing is just so wacky.

He is fearless and so very confident in his inability to get hurt. He throws himself from a standing position off the top of the slide, and swings from the top bar of the swingset. He doesn’t watch where he’s going when he runs, hurls himself enthusiastically around corners, slips, bounces off walls. We are mostly sanguine about this now. We are less sanguine about his ability to selectively hear warnings and instructions, and listening actively is something we’re working on. So is following instruction immediately instead of saying “I’m just going to do this one thing first.”

His preschool is working on a play. He came home with a little script, very excited. They’re basing it on Leslie McGuire’s picture book This Farm is a Mess. The kids are all the different animals, and the educators are the narrator, the farmer, and the mama chicken (the baby chicks are being played by the three babies of the daycare). The boy has been cast as the goat, and said he needed a costume. So I, with my years of experience creating costumes out of nothing, pulled out a pair of black socks with holes in them, and cut off the toes. “What are you doing?” he asked. I slid them over his forearms and said, “These are your hooves and legs,” and I thought he was going to pop from excitement. I then pulled out an old grey t-shirt and cut out a tail and two floppy ears, tipping each with black marker. I sewed the ears to a black headband, put a big safety pin through the tail, gave him one of his grey shirts to wear, and voila, we had one little black and grey kid goat. He has been practising his “meh-eh-eh-eh” sound, and we sit down every day or so and go over his lines. The day he brought home the script he arranged HRH and I, and said, “We will do my play. Dada, you can be the farmer, and Mama, you can be the narrator; that means the person who tells the story,” he explained, patting my hand. I just about exploded with that indescribable feeling of pride mixed with joy and triumph. My son knows what a narrator is. I, of course, desperately want to be there to see this play be performed, but parents are almost certainly going to distract them (the average age here is two or three years, after all), so I think they’re planning on doing it in front of a video camera to make a movie instead, which we will all get on DVD. If they do this, I am praying that they do credits, because that will absolutely blow the boy’s mind.

Perhaps most poignant of all this month, however, was the morning that he asked for us to practise our cellos together before he went to school, and he played lovely open double stops while I played Twinkle over them. And we discovered that his own little cello, which is in truth a full-size viola, is now too small for him; he has undeniably outgrown it. If he’s going to play (and we mean seriously, not messing around with it as he’s been doing) then he’s going to need an actual 1/8 or 1/4 size cello, rented from the luthier. My teacher has a new student who is three years old, the younger sister of a seven or eight-year-old student, and so if he decides that this is something he really does want to pursue, then he has a classmate. We’ll talk about it seriously over the summer. I’ve already proposed the Suzuki week-long junior music daycamp for six-year-olds and under to him, and he’s responded enthusiastically to the idea, so we shall see. The last time he asked for music lessons I told him that if he really wanted to he could start once he was established in kindergarten, and that’s rapidly drawing nigh. The icon image is of a photo taken when he was two months shy of two years old. He is, to say the least, much larger than that now…

Weekend Roundup, Mother’s Day Edition

At my cello lesson on Saturday morning I shared my concerns about the Bach Gavotte with my teacher. A month working on it alone did me no favours. I recorded it a day or so before the lesson and hated what I heard. It just wasn’t smooth enough at this point in the game. And with so much work to do for orchestra and the ensemble recital pieces… well, I said I thought the Lully would be a better choice, and she fully supported me. So we proceeded to work on different bits of it, including a full ten minutes just playing the first two notes trying to get the articulation just right. She switched me to something else just in time before I lost it.

I know I can play the Bach at the Christmas recital. But it was my goal for this recital, and we mangled the timing. I feel better about the decision, but I’m still really disappointed.

I came home through the rain, picked up the boy, and we went to get my new reeds for the rigid heddle loom. The lady was wonderful. She reps Ashford, Majacraft, and Schacht out of her home, so if I need pretty much anything in the way of spinning or weaving equipment from any of the major companies (other than Kromski, who of course makes the next wheel I want, sigh) I’m covered by her and my LYS. I was there for about twenty minutes talking to her about things, and admiring the cherrywood Baby Wolf loom set up in the corner of her living room, warped for tea towels. She’s pretty much got me convinced to do the guild thing, even if I can’t make regular meetings. It’s amazing how meeting one kind, open person can change my mind. She told us about the upcoming cultural rendez-vous at the end of the month at Stewart Hall, one of the two cultural demonstrations/festivals they host per year, so I’ll go over with the boys and check it out. The guild is going to have things set up for demonstrations and an open house, and she said she’d show me their looms and projects.

Then we stopped by Ceri and Scott’s house, and the boy played with their new Prince of Persia Lego set while Ceri scrutinized the baby blanket and told me that it was wonderful and perfectly acceptable for gifting, which made me very happy. She also sent me away with a bottle of red wine, bless her. The boy and I shared soup and a sandwich at Tim Hortons, and then went to Pointe-Claire village to pick up chocolates for the various mums and mum-figures. After that we went to the little toy store after lunch so he could buy something with his twenty dollars, and he chose a Playmobil policeman on a motorcycle. He had enough money left over for a single figure, so he walked up and down the aisles looking for something, and then finally stopped, frustrated. “What are you looking for?” I said. “Mama, I need a girl police to go with this,” he said. The only policewoman figure they had was in a two-pack with a robber, so I paid the extra so he could have his “girl police.” Also, bonus bad guy for them to apprehend!

We got back home mid-afternoon and HRH went off in the car to run his errands, and the boy has a rest. He’s fighting a cold, and needed it despite the late naptime. I woke him up an hour later, and made dinner for him. While he napped I started weaving on the warp I’d done on the rigid heddle loom earlier in the week; I had new reeds to experiment with, after all, and so I needed to use up what I had on the loom! I’d played with combining warp threads of two different grists and an empty slot, and for weft I used the coloured Lion Homespun yarn I’d first tested the loom with in April. It wove up brilliantly, the warp threads making a lovely variation in texture, and the Homespun behaved perfectly as weft. I finished weaving it that night, but didn’t cut it off the loom till Sunday morning. (I think it’s a table runner, and I think it’s a wedding present for someone. I’m going to have to start making two of everything, because I want to keep this, too!)

We received or tax refunds in the mail on Thursday (yay!), so on Saturday night after the boy went to bed we treated ourselves to a sushi dinner while curled up in front of the TV, watching episodes of Castle that Karine had taped for us. (Yes, HRH found an operational VCR languishing in a storeroom at work, so he liberated it; now we can watch tapes again!)

Sunday morning we woke up to snow. I was pretty wiped, so HRH did the groceries. Before he left I got my Mother’s Day presents. The boy had made a card and “nests” at school, a stupidly delicious chocolate-peanut butter-Rice Krispie thing pushed into tiny foil tart shells, with peanut M&M “eggs” in the nests, and HRH gave me a card and a gift certificate to Ariadne Knits. The boy had an early lunch and a rest, and while he was napping our friend John came by and dropped off a big storage bucket of Lego, including some truly awesome specialised pieces, a robot, and a tonne of figures and horses. The boy was thrilled when he got up (which he did moments after John left, as if he has some kind of new-Lego radar). We let him dig gleefully through it for about half an hour, then we went over to HRH’s parents’ house. I stayed for half an hour and then had to leave for our monthly group cello lesson, which went relatively well for me up till the last ten minutes. I hate it when that happens, because those final minutes colour the whole thing. I went back to the south shore to rejoin the family, and we had a lovely Mother’s Day dinner, with a really nice red wine and a lovely cake for dessert, before coming home and collapsing in bed.