Monthly Archives: July 2014

Random List of Updatey Stuff

Last week, we traded our beloved Saturn Vue in for a Chevy Cruze. We were almost convinced (the gas economy on the Vue was worse than abysmal, even taking into account the size of the engine and the age of the vehicle), pending my test drive and agreement, when the Vue’s transmission decided to stop functioning on our trip to southern Ontario. Six hundred kilometers from home is not where you want these things to happen. Fortunately, when we’d taken the loan out on the Vue we’d bought an extra insurance for it via the dealer that covered exactly this kind of thing, so HRH called them, they sent him across Toronto to the garage they dealt with, and they handled it beautifully. We paid the $83 dollar deductible plus the cost of the diagnostic test; the insurer paid absolutely everything else, no fuss, no arguing. We’re so impressed that once the manufacturer’s warranty runs out on the Cruze, we’ll be buying this package again. But the whole experience made us very cranky at the Vue, and also at the timing. It was kind of the final straw; we felt a bit betrayed.

So yes, we have a new car. It is red, which is not among my favourite colours for cars, but of all the reds it could be it is the most acceptable. We have had it for six days and the fuel economy is so awesome that I swear little angels sing to me every time I check the tank gauge. It is lovely to drive, but I miss my Vue terribly.

This is Owlet’s last week of daycare. She will be home through all of August. I can’t help but feel that I should be doing something very productive with my time as it ticks away before this Friday afternoon, but instead I am sort of stumbling around, recovering from my month and a half of going at full speed. I handled two intense work projects back to back, and then I turned around a ten-day project in four days just before we left on our trip. (Possibly insane, but I did it.) My allergies are really, really bad this summer for some reason, too, so bad that they’ve triggered my asthma, which hasn’t happened in years. That’s sucking a lot of my energy. This morning I finally found an old inhaler and used it. Now I can breathe again, but I’d forgotten that Ventolin gives me the shakes. So after coming back from dropping Owlet off and doing half the back-to-school shopping with Sparky, I had to lie down on the chesterfield with a blanket because I couldn’t do much else. Fibro backlash plus a not-so-great reaction to medication; charming.

I am trying not to worry about August, when both kids will be home full time. It’s hard enough to get Sparky to stop whining that he doesn’t know what to do, and to keep my temper when he shoots down every suggestion I have for him. I’m trying to gear up for having them both here, and for the fact that I will have to work nights and weekends if I get a contract. We can go grocery shopping every couple of days, go for walks, find a local playground, and play in the backyard (maybe fill the pools if the temperature gets warm enough again for water play). The age gap makes it problematic at times. Owlet’s idea of a walk is to the end of the street and back, stopping to crouch and examine leaves, bugs, and flowers, or stomp in puddles if it has rained; Sparky gets frustrated because we’re not getting anywhere. She’s not old enough to play Lego with him; he’s not young enough to let her direct the play if they bring out the Thomas trains or the cars or whatever, getting upset if she deviates from the complicated game he sets up. The age difference between nine and three is really big.

Craft stuff is going to be what I turn to a lot of the time, I think. I’d like to have a defined craft time every day. I’ll pick up pads at the dollar store for Owlet, and some canvases for Sparky. I think he may find working with acrylics on canvas interesting. We can do some plasticine, and maybe some homemade air-dry clay that can be painted on a subsequent day. I’ll get a bucket of chalk to draw on the top part of the driveway. Owlet is old enough for bigger beads, as well; we can make necklaces, bracelets, and maybe ornaments for trees. And I’ll certainly make a calendar that we can use to count down the days till school starts again. I know she’ll miss her friends and her educators terribly. Unfortunately, most of them planned to go on vacation for the first half of August, so we can’t even plan playdates till they’re back; but once they are, then that will help, too.

Twenty Years of Cello

In July of 1994, I found a cello teacher, met with her, started working on rhythm and reading music, and with her help bought a secondhand cello from one of her other students who had just upgraded. There’s a loose note on the inside cover of my notebook that reads 30 July 1994: C major scale *pivot and thumb, Schröder pp. 4+5, Suzuki #2+3, which would have been my very first bit of cello homework.

On the sixth of August, I had my first actual lesson entry in my notebook. It looks like my homework was practicing a C major scale both up and down, being careful about the position of my first finger on the A string, remembering to pivot the arm and keep the thumb loose but in place behind the neck, and to cut my nails. It’s telling that these are all still things I have to think about, even after twenty years. Plus ça change…

Aww, Schröder etudes nos. 5 and 6, and Suzuki 4 and 5 (AKA Song of the Wind and Go Tell Aunt Rhody) — and all in pizzicato, because we didn’t start with the bow until November of that year.

This is what I just finished playing in Suzuki:

As you can see from my numerous notations, there’s a lot more to be thinking about, mostly to do with interpretation. A lot of these notes are more holistic than prescriptive, like “visualise leaves,” and would be useless to anyone else trying to decipher them, like “wahm wahm” and “poof poof poof poof.” Others are actually scribbles by Owlet, with bonus tiny owl stickers because she loves me. My teacher asked me if I wanted a clean copy to play from at the recital, and I said no; I like this one just fine, messy scribbles, stickers, and all.

The chickadee sticker at the top of the left page was placed there by Sparky, actually, carefully chosen from our teacher’s extensive sticker collection. We always get a sticker on our recital piece, in celebration. I may be in my forties, but a sticker on my recital piece still makes me very happy.

Twenty years. So much has evolved. I have had to revisit certain pieces of technique over and over again — the left elbow, the right wrist — because as something else is modified, the changes cascade and you have to relearn how the muscles and movement interact again. Right now I’m struggling to figure out how to get my left fingers just right for thumb position. I have really long fingers, and while this is great in general for playing, thumb position requires fingers to bend and pronate to be just right, and I have a lot of length to bend. It’s uncomfortable. But then, just about every bit of technique is when you start trying it. I’ll get there.

Tour de Fleece 2014

The Tour de Fleece is a fun spinning thing that takes place concurrently with the Tour de France. The goal is to challenge yourself as a spinner.

While we have a cosy little spinning thread within my online mums group, I’m most active in the Kromski TdF team on Ravelry, as my wheel is a Kromski Symphony. And I (possibly foolishly) volunteered to co-captain this year, which consisted mostly of cheerleading, helping keep track of members, and prizes. We had over a hundred spinners on this team, and the photos being posted of in-progress work were so inspiring!

This year, my main goal was to try beaded yarn. My secondary goal was to try a 60/40 wool/flax blend, as I’d never spun flax in any form before. (This ended up being on a spindle, so it was even more of a challenge than I’d originally set for myself.)

I’d intended to finish the ‘Maid in Bedlam’ merino/silk before the TdF to free up my bobbins, but two back-to-back crazy projects for work meant I wasn’t even through the first half of it when the Tour began. (Worsted tends to be a more time-consuming technique; just for comparison, I spun the last two ounces of my merino/bamboo yarn below in less than a day.) So that became my first project, and I joined the very cheerful Daybreak Dyeworks team as well (the fibre had come from Daybreak Dyeworks, as part of their one-off Sip’n’Spin tea and fibre event). There’s no limit to the number of teams you can join, but each team might have different rules. For example, a dyer-hosted group may stipulate that only fibre produced by that dyer qualifies for a Tour project within their group. Team Kromski stipulates that your primary equipment for the Tour must be your Kromski wheel and that you must have fun, but other than that anything goes. So my Maid in Bedlam yarn qualified for both the Daybreak Dyeworks group and Team Kromski.

I finished the Maid in Bedlam fibre a week into the Tour. It felt like it was going to take forever, and with good reason: plied, it was about 20 WPI, or laceweight, and winding it off took a couple of evenings because it was about 680 yards long!

I know it looks like a gradient, but it isn’t! It just worked out that way. I separated the fiber halfway down and just spun each half across the top as it came. The plying did the rest. My friend Stephanie suggested that I knit the Bella Botanica shawl with it, and that sounds like a good idea. The pattern is charted, which is slightly eek-inducing for me, but the first part of the shawl is both written and charted to ease a first-timer into it.

In theory, up next was my attempt at beaded yarn, but I couldn’t face a second silky laceweight yarn; I needed a palate cleanser. So I brought out a braid of my friend Jenn’s alpaca and decided to do a fluffy three-ply yarn.

This was her ‘Nebula’ colourway (how could I pass that up?) and rather than being three solid strands of fibre braided together, each strand was actually made up of smaller pencil roving. The brown strand was all brown, the blue strand had minor variegation, and the multicolour strand was blues and purples and greens and creams and oranges. I ended up doing a bit of each separate colour at a time so there were a lot of colour changes instead of one long strip of yellow, one long strip of lavender, and so forth. I think how Jenn assembled it is really cool; it’s something I never would have thought of doing, and it challenged my colour sense. I decided to spin each one as its own single then ply them together for a three-ply yarn, because I really liked the effect in the braid and I wanted to preserve it. While plying, I ran out of brown single, quickly spun up some more from a brown alpaca sample I had buried in my stash from somewhere else, then ran out of it *again*. I chain-plied the last bit of blue then the multicolour single.

I ended up with 204 yards of three-ply yarn, plus 12 yards of chain-plied leftovers. All so soft! I want fingerless gloves made out of this.

Just before the Tour began I dyed some merino/bamboo fibre in a pretty pewter/pearly silver colour:

I also picked up some beads from Michael’s, and a beading needle. I wanted to actually spin the beads into the singles, not string them on a thread and ply the beads on. (That sounds a bit like cheating to me.) In the mornings before taking Owlet to daycare I’d make little tufts of merino/bamboo and thread tiny clear beads onto them. I wanted a pile at hand so I could grab one, lay it over the single I was spinning, and spin the tuft and the bead right into the single. I also made fauxlags (rolags made from commercial top instead of hand cards), because I wanted as lofty a yarn as possible. I am aiming for about a DK weight or slightly lighter, with an eye to having the yarn for Swinging Triangles shawl.

It all went splendidly for the first bobbin, which is where I had to stop before our trip to Ontario. The tiny beads are clear and don’t show up in photos very well, which is a bit disappointing. But it’s also good, because I wanted to overall effect to be subtle in the final yarn and the shawl it will be knit from.

I’m a little cross that you can’t see the beads, but as I chose clear ones to be really subtle in the final yarn, and ultimately in the shawl when it’s knitted, well… I guess this means it worked?

As a challenge, I took my Kundert spindle and two ounces of 60/40 wool/flax blend on our trip. I’m rather meh about the blend. I couldn’t quite get a handle on it, which is probably the flax, but is very possibly my paucity of spindle experience. When I got home I plied what I had on the spindle and ended up with 22 yards of yarn. It improved considerably the more I handled it, which is in line (heh, see what I did there? no? never mind) with what I know of flax.

I also got to spin the second half of the merino/bamboo with beads, then ply the two bobbins together. Ta-da! 501 yards of beautifully soft and silky beaded yarn! I am short about 150 yards for the shawl I want to knit with it, but the beauty of dyeing my own is that I can just make more.

I am very, very happy with my performance this Tour.

Sparky: Nine Years Old!

These birthday photo posts are getting very long. I think that makes them all the more special.

Nine years ago, during a humid heatwave, we unexpectedly found ourselves with someone who wasn’t scheduled to arrive for another nine weeks. In those nine weeks, I had to correct the galleys of one book, deliver the first draft of another, unpack from the move, create a nursery, and perform in a rock concert. All that was rearranged, rescheduled, or cancelled (for me, anyway): the galleys were corrected in the hospital (yeah, I’m hardcore that way; HRH FedExed them to the publisher for me as soon as they were done), t! took my place onstage with Random Colour (I dictated basslines to him over the phone from my hospital bed), the delivery deadline for the first draft of the other book was moved (bless my editor at the time!), the nursery was hastily finished while Sparky was in the neonatal unit, and unpacking happened when it happened.










Nine years ago he was born nine weeks early, and we’ve been trying to keep up with him ever since.

He’s still crazy for Lego sets and three-dimensional building, although we’re trying to steer him in another direction because he flash-builds an expensive Lego kit in no time, then demolishes it the next day to build something else with the bricks. He has tonnes of bricks in containers all over the house, and needs to focus on using those to scratch-build instead of buying new sets. He has developed a passion for aircraft of every kind, but particularly military aircraft of all eras. He has also become interested in making videos, usually with crazy storylines enacted by Lego figurines and Lego planes. (He recently broke our digital camera making one such video, and now has to save up to pay for half a new one. He is very injured by this, but hey, responsibility.)

He reads anything and everything, and in both English and French. He’s gone through the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and the Captain Underpants series like wildfire this past year, and we’ve been reading the Wings of Fire series together at night. (I’ve caught him reading later chapters when I’ve come in to read to him, and he’s already managed to spoil the end of the series for himself. At least he’s excited about what it means.) He’s recently begun the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell, and has been rereading his Tintin books a lot.

He’s wearing size 8-12 or large youth shirts, and size 7 or 8 pants for length (but his size 6 shorts are fitting him just fine in the waist). He’s wearing youth size 1 shoes, and I suspect we’ll need to buy him size 2 winter boots this fall. Both my socks and some of my more fitted t-shirts are mistakenly ending up in his drawers when the laundry gets put away, which is somewhat alarming.

School this past year was both easier and harder than the last. He’s very bilingual now, but that doesn’t necessarily demonstrate itself, as he’s very shy about speaking in French outside of class. His final report card was spectacular (major issues with division and times tables at the end of the year aside), and we turned figurative somersaults when we read it. He’s worked hard at cello, too, but he thinks it might be time to stop. The discussion about that will happen later this summer. We can’t afford even two weeks of day camp this year, so he’ll be trying to keep himself busy at home.

He is thoughtful, anxious, sensitive, wacky, and enjoys enthusiastically sharing what he loves with other people. It continues to be a privilege to watch him grow and learn.


It’s the fourth of the month, which means there would be an Owlet post, yet there is not. There hasn’t even been a post for Sparky’s ninth birthday yet. The Tour de Fleece launches tomorrow, and if haven’t done a post on what I have lined up as my project(s) for that.

I am swamped by work. My last project took a lot out of me, and this one, which the publisher lined up ahead of time to start on the very day the other one was due, is 450 pages of single-spaced text with equations and tonnes of reference material. I’m 250 pages through it, and my pace has really picked up as I solve certain issues and can look for more of the same going forward. It’s due next Wednesday night, and I will be glad when it’s over, because it’s thoroughly draining me mentally, apart from making me work evenings as well as days.

I will catch up next week.