Monthly Archives: September 2010

What I Read In September 2010

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (reread)
Memoirs of a Master Forger by William Heaney (aka Graham Joyce)
A Star Shall Fall by Marie Brennan
Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

This was a top-notch month. The only thing I had a problem with out of the new books I read was The Night Watch, which felt a bit distant and never really grabbed me. I kept comparing it (quite unfairly) to Connie Willis’ Blackout, the last WWII London book I read. (And this has just reminded me, oh frabjous day, that part two, All Clear is, is due out in three weeks!) Under Heaven was a very nice surprise since the last two or three Kays have left me wanting something a bit more, and also because Asian history (or alternate riffs thereon) usually aren’t my thing. The language was lovely. The Hunger Games lived up to the piles of excellent reviews that made me avoid it as being overly popular since it was published. And Enchanted Glass was just perfect in that particular Diana Wynne Jones sort of way.

The boy and I finished The Guardians of Ga’Hoole: The Capture and are two-thirds of the way through The Journey now.

Doctor And Otherwise General Update

The boy and I made our annual pilgrimage to the doctor yesterday. And it is a pilgrimage indeed, because it’s now a 100-km round trip. Find a new family doctor in our new area, you say? Ha. There is a severe GP shortage in our province, our new neighbourhood is reputedly particularly bad for GP waitlists, and I intend to keep our awesome family doctor until she retires, thank you. Besides, so long as I combine the doctor trip with other errands out west like visiting or shopping or a cello lesson, it’s fine.

The boy now weighs 42 lbs and is 110 cm tall (oh, Canada, how we love you, operating with one foot firmly in Imperial and one in Metric). I enjoyed his appointment because he could answer the doctor’s questions himself: Does he wear a helmet when he rides his bicycle? (Yes, and now he rides a two-wheeler, and the first day he almost fell off this side, and then that side, but then he did it, and he and Dada had a race, and he can ride without balancing on training wheels, right Mama?) Does he drink a lot of milk? (Yes, and Mama found milk boxes at the supermarket, so he can take milk to school! [Mama bought a small Rubbermaid straw bottle to pack milk in instead, because the milk boxes are stupidly expensive. Mama is also seriously considering investing in the dairy trade, or failing that, buying a cow.]) Does he always wear a seatbelt in the car? (Yes, of course, but there are no seatbelts on the school bus, they just have to sit in the seats and not move.)

I am not dead. I am, however, back on my fibro meds, and have a couple of tests to schedule. Back on the meds means I will be loopy for a couple of weeks before it all settles again, but hey, I am loopy without them, kind of stumbling around and unable to focus on much, so at least this upcoming loopy will be working towards something better.

I’m drawing up a proposed table of contents and a sample chapter for a new book that my editor suggested to me. I’m really interested in the idea and concept as it was presented to me, so we shall see what happens. More as that evolves.

I finished spinning the three one-ounce batts of gloriously soft black Shetland that Bonnie gave me. Some of it is overspun because I lost track of how quickly I was treadling, and I might have done better if I’d gotten to know Lady Jane with a fibre and preparation I’m more familiar with, like my standby Corriedale combed top. The Shetland was lovely to work with regardless. I might ply the resulting light fingering weight single with black silk thread to make it go farther, then knit lace fingerless gloves or something. Chain-plying it seems a waste. Whatever I do with it, I might run it from one bobbin to another to even out the twist first.

The boy helped me choose what to spin next. I’ll do the four ounces of hand-dyed BFL top from Ariadne Knits in purple and green like wood violets, and spin it finely enough to knit a light wrap for myself. I may think of doing a single plied with a silk thread binder on purpose this time, although my original plan was to spin it super-finely and chain-ply it to preserve the colour changes. We’ll see.

It’s the day of the boy’s first Terry Fox run, so we talked to him about who Terry Fox was and why we honour his memory by having a run to raise money for cancer research every year. Today also happens to be the semi-annual blood drive at HRH’s college, where he encourages as many of the kids as possible to accompany him to the collection area. Talking about these things segued into a discussion about what a hero is, a very interesting conversation to have with a five year old. I wonder how many other families plan to take their kid to the local blood bank offices on their seventeenth birthday to get their blood donor cards. The boy is very impressed by Terry Fox, and drew a picture of a fire-fighting plane for him this morning before he headed off to school.

Okay, back to work. I’ve got a document open for notes about this new book as they occur to me, and I’m about to open the repurposing project. It should be interesting, as I took an allergy/sinus pill this morning and have been in that wonky state that pseudoephedrine always sets me in ever since. Thankfully, the gastro/nausea has faded. I’ll set up a plate of crackers and the rest of the duck pâté that we didn’t finish on Sunday, put the bread in the oven, and bury myself in work as best I can till I have to meet the boy.

Five Things

1. The boy and I have library cards. I am a tiny bit disappointed in our local library’s offerings. Of course, I do have to keep reminding myself that the megacity’s libraries are split up into a dozen places, and I can borrow books from any of them. Still, our initial impression was somewhat lacklustre. In other book news, I have finally read The Hunger Games and it was brilliant. So brilliant that I fully intend to abuse the Scholastic book club at the boy’s school and order the next two books at prices much lower than retail prices. My editor sent me a couple of books as belated housewarming presents, both of them fun: one’s a Star Wars memoir, and the other is an unofficial Harry Potter cookbook, which has lots of really good British-themed food in it. I made breaded pork chops from it for supper last night, and while they were not absolutely identical to the delicious ones that t!’s Ukrainian Babas used to make at Easter, they were much closer to them than I’d ever managed before. I’m looking forward to trying the multitude of individual meat pie recipes in it throughout the fall.

2. The weekend saw us sharing a huge Harvest feast with other local like-minded individuals. There was so much food; the courses just kept coming out! I was particularly fond of the mushroom soup, the leek-artichoke dip, and the tomato pesto, all of which I must remember to get the recipes for. The seven different kinds of homemade bread were spectacular. The company was likewise wonderful. However, just as I suspected, it totally killed me energy-wise, not that I had a lot to begin with.

3. I am now officially babysitting Bonnie’s gorgeous 30″ Schacht-Reeves Saxony wheel for a month. ‘Lady Jane’ is a true lady, being very patient with me and working beautifully right off the bat (batt? heh heh heh, a little spinning humour, there). Bonnie also gave me three batts of beautiful black Shetland wool she’d processed herself, and they’re deliciously soft and fluffy. My initial impression of working with double treadle is that I have to treadle very gently. Part of this is due to the fact that the drive wheel is almost double the size of my Louet wheel, so I have to move much more slowly to get a similar result. The other part is, of course, that one foot isn’t doing all the work any more, so I have to divide the movement between the two feet. I also have to remind myself that the heel-toe movement on the Louet treadle doesn’t work on the Schacht-Reeves. I don’t dislike the DT, and I suspect it will come in very handy when I gather up the courage to try spinning Meallanmouse’s cotton again, but it hasn’t been a lightbulb/angels singing kind of revelation yet. It’s just a different technique. The wheel moves perfectly well using only one of the two treadles, too. I have it set up in Scotch tension, and I like it. Double drive is more than my brain can handle right now. Overall, my initial reaction is that getting a larger DT wheel would be a decent idea, to open up a lot more possibilty in my spinning.

4. The stupid sinus cold I have been managing over the past week has been joined by mild gastro, which means I’m cancelling my cello lesson. It’s somewhat difficult to concentrate with this level of nausea. Unconnected to this, the boy and I have our annual checkups tomorrow. My family doctor is now 50 km away. It’s still worth every minute and every kilometre of the trip. Fibro-wise, I am in the process of realizing, internalizing, and accepting that things are going to be bad for a very long time, and my major issue is going to be with feeling useless, which always frustrates the hell out of me. Trying to stay positive has its own energy drain, which is also ragingly frustrating.

5. I’m chipping away at my current contracted project. I think I’m about halfway through the second draft. As there will be about four drafts, I can say I’m just about halfway done, which is great because I began it seriously at the beginning of this month, and as I have just over six weeks to go I’m ahead of schedule. I’m enjoying this repurposing project, where I take an existing manuscript and turn it into something else.

I think that’s all I’ve got. I have to call my cello teacher.

Out Of Step

I’m having a lot of trouble finding my rhythm these days. I’m tired, my focus is spotty, I’m panicking at to-do lists of sensible, manageable length, and oh, how I ache.

Nice things are happening, of course. The boy loves school. We have friends coming over for Settlers of Catan tonight. We have a Harvest ritual and feast on Saturday that someone else is organizing and hosting. On Sunday, we get to go see the Guardians of Ga’Hoole movie. Nothing wrong or drastic is happening. I’m just having a lot of trouble dealing with the fact that the fibro is really, really bad right now. I can’t seem to get a grip on it, and I think that’s what’s really driving me crazy. I feel like I have to pull up my socks now that the move and settling in are done, and I can’t. I’m chipping away at my current contracted project, but I haven’t signed back on to my previous freelance pool because I know it will knock me dead if I try to do both at once. Reading is difficult, because I’m having trouble sinking into the worlds in the books (except for the latest Diana Wynne Jones, Enchanted Glass, which is brilliant and just the thing I needed). And I guess it all comes down to feeling frustrated and useless, something with which I do not deal well at all.

A lot of my day is taken up figuring out what’s the most important thing on my to-do list and doing that and perhaps the second-most important. For example, despite a long to-do list today, I know that I have to go to the bank for a bank draft, to the post office to mail it out, and to buy the ingredients for tonight’s dinner and Sunday’s entertaining. Everything else, like anniversary gifts and present-shopping, can slide to tomorrow morning. In fact, now that I think about it, I may let the bank draft slide to Monday, because I have to buy two and I haven’t heard back from the second individual yet with a confirmation on the exact cost, and making two trips is a dumb idea for me. Actually, yes; that is what I will do. I feel much better, now.

Enough of that.

In brighter news, I was completely blown away yesterday by a friend’s generous offer to lend me her Schacht-Reeves Saxony wheel for a month. I was talking to her about my indecision regarding purchasing a double treadle or single treadle Saxony when the time came, and out of the blue she offered to not only lend me her double-treadle wheel to work with to help me decide, but to drive it over to me from southern Ontario this Sunday. I am continually stunned by the generosity and thoughtfulness of my friends. And I’m so incredibly thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a Schacht-Reeves for an extended period of time. They’re such high-quality, classy wheels, and I could never dream of owning one; they’re just too expensive. This will be a real treat.

All right. If I go do the groceries now, nice and slowly, I will be able to rest once I get home.

Third Update: Work & House

Let’s see, what else. I’ve been working. I started back last Monday, and have been diligently moving words around in a document, making something completely different. Most of the time I think it makes sense, but sometimes I suspect that I’ve totally lost the train of thought I’m constructing through it. Well, that’s what the next step of editing is for: checking to make sure it flows. I did that copy-editing test, so it’s on file now, and unless I really flubbed it I should be good to go. I’ve also been redoing my pro website, which is ridiculously easy with iWeb. So easy that it was almost done the day I began, except I had to run out to cello, and I haven’t been able to finish up. Well, that’s not entirely true; it’s done, I just haven’t trusted myself enough to upload them. I started on the Owldaughter site, too.

The site redesign was co-prompted by Adelina and Debra. I did an author co-appearance with Adelina for the Melange’s nineteenth birthday (nineteen! an independent bookstore turned nineteen!), which was hugely enjoyable. In catching up, we discovered that we’d bought houses within ten minutes of one another! I asked her who’d done her site, and she admitted to doing it herself with iWeb, which spurred me to sit down with it and try it out, since my site hasn’t been touched in over a year. When I went Mac my comfy CoffeeCup software no longer worked, and I didn’t have the energy or focus to teach myself a new Mac-based one, but iWeb is so ridiculously easy that it’s practically magic. Debra then contacted me for up-to-date bio info for the Yule Fair prep, since the bio on the site is woefully out of date, and that was the final kick I needed to get to work on it.

We hosted a lovely birthday dinner here yesterday for my mother-in-law. They brought steak and salad, there was wine, and I made a very delicious cake. (Note to self: Use three egg whites and two whole eggs in this white cake recipe, make a quarter of this recipe for caramel filling and add a teaspoon of vanilla and a couple of pinches of fleur de sel, then do a really creamy buttercream frosting. Simple, tasty, and just what Mom likes.) HRH and his dad ran wiring to the side door, so now we have an outdoor light there and can see to unlock the door. They also fixed the bank of pot lights in the family room that blew when the cats got into the hanging ceiling a couple of weeks ago.

Also on the house front, we have discovered that we do not, in fact, have a heat pump. We have central air conditioning, with forced air that can better distribute the electric heat. But quite aside from the forced-air-not-heat-pump issue, there was a wire disconnected in the thermostat which was why our heat wouldn’t go on even when we tried to trigger it by setting it for stupidly high levels. So that’s been fixed and clarified now, too.

It’s been such glorious weather this month. Mostly sunny days with cooler nights, with that wonderful golden-tone light, while the leaves are only just barely beginning to change colour. There have been a couple of spectacular thunderstorms, too, with glorious lightshows over the seaway that we can watch from our front porch. We’re really loving the house. We’re still trying to find our rhythm in certain ways–for example, I still haven’t figured out where to do my cooking prep efficiently in the kitchen, as we seem to lack enough continuous counterspace–but that’s minor. I’m starting to take photos of the inside to post for everyone who’s been asking to see the interior. A lot of it doesn’t photograph well, unfortunately, and I’m working with an eight-year-old camera that tends to focus on things I don’t want in focus, or doing odd things with colour or bending images.

There you are; we’re all pretty much up to date.

Second Update: Cello & Fibre Arts

Orchestra’s back in session, as are my cello lessons. The programme of the fall concert is going to be fabulous. The theme is ‘intercontinental’ and we’ve got a smashing variety of Eastern European dances, Italian overtures, and French suites. Lovely stuff, and lively. Equally lovely is the fact that it’s not as technically challenging as the last concert. I adored the last programme, and it really pushed me to work hard, but it’s nice to be able to relax a bit and focus on musicality. (Fall concert, November 20; mark your calendars!)

Lessons are going well so far, too. I was worried about an eroded skill level after a month of no practice because of the move (two days does not count), but I’m not as bad as I expected. I need to get my head back into translating squiggles on paper into finger and bow movements—it all feels kind of sludgily slow at the moment—but apart from that, my tone was very pleasant, my bow behaved, and my elbows and shoulders and wrists were doing what they were supposed to be doing (most of the time). I sounded like… a cellist. So far I’ve had two private lessons and one group lesson, in which I spent an hour and a half sight-reading Christmas carols, much to our delight (group rehearsal is all about practising group pieces for whichever upcoming recital is next). There’s a seven-part arrangement of Greensleeves that knocked our socks off; it’s glorious.

On the fibre arts front, I’ve been spinning some plain Jane undyed Corriedale for a month, but even though I’m close to finishing it I may bundle it away and start either the delicious violet, blue, and green Projekt B dyed BFL I got from Ariadne Knits when Ceri and I took Ada on her first yarn crawl, or the stunning ‘Iris’ Romney braid I got from Feeling Sheepish and have been hoarding. It was chilly at the bus stop on Friday morning and the poor boy was pulling his cuffs over his hands, so I offered to knit him a pair of fingerless mitts. He chose white (yes, such a sensible colour for little boys’ outdoor accessories) and I knit them up on Friday for him. They’re very white and a bit feminine-looking, so I told him we could dye them whatever colour he wanted. “Yes!” he said, excited. “Like… dark white!”

Well, I tried.

First Update: The Boy

Okay, here’s a series of updates. It was going to be very general, because there hasn’t really been anything of substance in almost two weeks, but I’ve broken them up into themed posts.

First up: The boy!

Kindergarten is going swimmingly for the boy. He’s settled in so well with his teacher, classroom, school bus, and new friends (because remember, everyone he meets is a new friend) that we’re a bit at a loss, because we were bracing to deal with at least one tricky bit somewhere. I forgot to put dessert in his lunch on Friday (worst mum of the year award goes to… me!) and stopped by the school on my way to do groceries with a homemade cookie. I’d intended to just drop it off but the office called him right down, and he showed up in a tumble of fun with his bestest new friend, colourful hall passes around both their necks. He looked at me oddly and said, “Um, Mama? What are you doing here?” as if he couldn’t process the fact that I was in a place where I usually wasn’t. Didn’t even get a kiss or a hug after I passed him his care package; he ran off again with his friend back to class after an “Okay, bye Mama!” Yeah, he’s fine.

Two weeks in kindergarten and he’s sounding words out on his own. I know a lot of this comes from the incredible amount of prep we did with him about sounding words out while reading, but all it took was Someone Not Mum or Dad to really get it going. I’m thrilled at how wholeheartedly he’s throwing himself into school. We didn’t doubt, but we did secretly worry; what if he didn’t like his teacher? What if kids on the bus were mean? What if, well, anything? But all is well.

All is so well, in fact, that HRH went and joined the parental governing board. You see, the parent welcoming meeting and class curriculum meetings after it were scheduled on the same night as my first orchestra rehearsal, so HRH went to the school meeting. “I promise not to join too many committees, ha ha ha,” he said on the way out. I figured it would be sensible to wait a year to get a feel for the school, and he thought the same. Except, he said apologetically when I got back, there was one position left open on the board, and no one was volunteering for it, so…

We have been reading the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series of books before the boy’s bedtime at night, and we’re loving it. We are very excited about the movie coming out next weekend. The boy has already been asking for the music, and I have had to tell him that we can’t buy it until the Tuesday before the film comes out. He told me that it wasn’t fair that I had two owls and he had none, so he tried to wheedle me into buying a dreadful one at the grocery store, but I said I knew of a much better one. We went to the bookstore that afternoon and he bought his very own lovely silky stuffed owl, whom he has, of course, named Soren, even though it is a Barred Owl and not a Barn Owl. And also on the book front, he brought home his first Scholastic book order form, and I was terribly excited until I opened it. It’s all… so young. We don’t read many 3-5 year old books any more. There is a book on the planets, and a Scaredy Squirrel book we don’t own; we may order those. But I was pretty disappointed in 99% of the flyer.