Monday, December 26, 2005

Conversations with Scott

Songs of Our Youth
While sitting with parents and great aunt&uncle, who were singing along with some of the old Scottish songs from their youth:
K: Imagine what songs we'll dredge up as the emotional, heart-tugging songs of our youth. We won't have Scotland the Brave, and Nobody's Child. We'll have the Eurythmics, and songs like Thriller.
S: Yeah, I can see us now, sitting in the nursing home, crooning along with someone belting out Billie Jean is not my lover!
K: Or Sweet dreams are made of these...
S: Or Take on me by Aha
K: Video Killed the Radio Star
S: It's just not gonna be the same
K: Us sitting there with our cardigans and mashed peas, crowded round the piano, singing In a big coun-try, dreams stay with you...

World Domination (starting with Windsor)
S: I hate having the casino in Windsor.
K: Yeah, it's like the city has no incentive to do anything other than build more parking lots and repair all the roads leading to the casino - no other improvements will be coming this way.
S: I think we'd have to blow up the casino to get them to consider making city improvements.
K: We could do that, I think. One big bomb, blow the whole thing.
S: I think that would work. Or lots of little ones. And don't let them rebuild unless they agree it won't be a casino. It has to be something cultural, but that will attract a lot of downtown business and visitors.
K: So we're becoming terrorists now, basically?
S: Yeah, looks like. But we won't kill anyone - just blow up the casino. Maybe with a small nuclear charge. Then they couldn't build anything there for a long time.
K: Wait, wait, wait - we want to revitalize the city, not create nuclear winter throughout the downtown area.
S: That's true. So standard stuff, then.
K: Agreed.

Parental Confusion
S: I think Mum liked it better when we hated each other and never got along.
K: Yeah, cause now we gang up on her.
S: And I don't think she understands what we're talking about half the time.
K: Heh heh heh.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Home for Christmas always means certain things:
- Uncomfortable and kind of aimless Christmas Eve
- Lots of food and snacks just about all the time (think cheese)
- Euchre
- Conversations with family we rarely see
- Waking up earlier than I want to (7 am this year)
- Good coffee (with Bailey's Irish Cream, of course)
- crowding round the Christmas tree, the dining room table pushed to one side
- The dog trying to get everyone's attention by repeatedly dropping her slobbery ball in the middle of the pile of discarded paper
- The cats hiding under the tree, trying to steal ribbons and bows and chase balls of paper
- Strangely awkward phone calls to relatives overseas, mainly involving insults thrown back and forth concerning the relative merits and shortfalls of Edinburgh and Glasgow
- More presents than any of us could afford to give
- Still being really happy about getting those presents
- Trying to figure out where to store all the opened presents, while trying to understand how they fit there before they were opened and now wouldn't fit even if you employed a crowbar and a lubricant of some sort
- Moving all the furniture around to fit the two tables neccessary to fit us all in for Christmas eats
- Mum standing at the end of one table, one hand on hip, the other on the back of a chair, counting place settings and chairs, then repeatedly listing all of the guests out loud as though presenting an incantation to create the appropriate space
- Opening Christmas crackers and hearing really bad jokes, then trying to deteremine how best to dispose of the cruddy little useless pieces of plastic that the manufacturer considers a 'prize', and finally being forced to wear the silly paper crowns through the meal, or at the very least until mum (who by this point has had a couple of glasses of wine during dinner preparation) is distracted by one of the shiny toy prizes and looks away from the dinner table long enough for you to remove the hat and tear it into teeny tiny little pieces
- watching lots of movies

So, overall, it's really good and really pretty bad. But it's Christmas at home, and I'm glad I'm here. I can't imagine it any other way. And here's my Christmas present to anyone here today:

It's a perfect euchre hand, as dealt to my brother.

Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Present List

I'm going to start keeping a list of the presents I receive this Christmas. I'm not doing this to keep track, or to make sure I feel I've gotten 'enough', but because so often I find that I've forgotten some things that people have given me, and I want to know that I am aware of and grateful for everything that I've received. So here goes:

From Joanne - a chenille blanket. A lovely, creamy, woven blanket.
From Michelle (my Secret Santa) - a ceramic, Christmas pillar candle holder and a blue scented pillar candle.
From Winston - a cute little 'robotic pen' and a box of evil Godiva chocolates
From our cured prod friends - a gift bag filled with evil goodies, including three different kinds of hot chocolate mix, chocolates, and a huge white chocolate snowman that is so fun and so yummy looking that I'm torn between keeping him forever to look at or tearing into him right now.
From Darren and Angie - a bottle of very nice red wine (I know it's nice because they gave me the same bottle a few years ago, and I just drank it last month - yum!)
From Jennifer in Calgary - a novel: Our Lady of the Lost and Found. A book that's been on my wishlist for over a year, and now it's in my grubby little paws. Yay Jen!
From Deena - a funky red beaded clutch and an interesting looking icy minty chocolate bar
From Santa (Mum and Dad) - DVD player (with DIVX player!), measuring cups and spoons, kitchen utensil set, PJs, a one million candle power flashlight, hand mixer, manicure set, mixing bowls, digital photography starter set with rechargeable double As
From Scott - Firefly DVD set
From Ken and Jodi - a book of craft ideas, a knitting tote (yay!), a Simpsons Trivia game

I'm going to try to keep updating this list throughout the holidays, and I may also add a list of what I've given - but that rings of a tally, or record keeping that I'm not sure how I feel about quite yet. But at the same time, I take more joy in finding the perfect gift than I do in receiving things, so I'd like to preserve that feeling, too. But I also have to consider that some people on my list might be reading this right now, and no way will I spoil anything!

Okay, here are some of the things I've already given: hat and scarf double set (kid and teddy), Cranium board game, assorted goodies including bamboo chopsticks, hand cream and knitted dishcloths, and other assorted goodies featuring more dishcloths, and some funky socks.

Update: I have now added to the given list citrus slice ice cube trays, magnetic photo frames, 'snow' scented sparkly hand cream/wash set, and a red toaster.

Another update: I've now given the hand warmers, Scott's scarf, squeezy brain stress buster, Mercedes Lackey trilogy, cd holder, cold heat solder iron, mustards - no, wait - I forgot to give those - I'll have to go find them, stereo, VHS-DVD converter and I think that's it so far.

I think the last update: Two knitted cat toys (a won ton and an egg roll), a giant cold virus, a bottle of hot sauce, a mini bottle of Tabasco, and a basket

I am so blessed, and I want to keep that in mind all of the time. It makes me a bit sad that I sometimes have to strain and force the Christmas spirit as the time draws near. I'm hoping that I can just get my mood up there and keep it there for the next few days, or weeks.

Of course, the potential "situation" at work is dragging on me a bit.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - unfortunately

I am so close to being ready for Christmas I can almost taste it. (Mmm - gingerbread!) Last night, I finished the toque, and - for the first time ever - it fits! I have never made a hat that fits anyone, so this is a major accomplishment, and I plan to revel in this heretofore unfelt heady high of success.

I consider it only a minor setback that the hat fits me - and it's meant for someone else. Still! Undiminished joy of triumph! (well, a little diminished) Hopefully the recipient has the same size head as me. Considering that it's for a guy, this is extremely unlikely, but here's to hoping.

I also finished up the hand warmers for my mum. They're not quite perfect, but they turned better than I was fearing, if not as well as I hoped. I'm quite pleased, though, with the scent. I was trying to find some scented oil to include with the rice and barley before closing up the mitts, but never really found one I thought my mum would like. But once they were finished and I warmed one experimentally, I found that the grains themselves gave off quite a pleasant, light, earthy aroma.

On the other hand, I am ridiculously unprepared to make my trip down to Windsor. I have at least three loads of laundry to do before leaving, plus all the cleaning (including the ickbox) that needs to happen before leaving my aparment for a week plus. And then there's the packing, at which I suck out loud. This will present a particular problem for this trip, because of my two passengers. I'm more than glad to have company for the trip down, but how we're going to fit all our stuff in the car I have no idea. I have a feeling that I'll have to have John take it all apart and repack once he arrives - he is, afterall, the Packing Master. No joke. When I was getting ready to leave Brussels with all my luggage packed (I thought) tightly into my two suitcases, he took over, repacked, and left me with just one extremely well-packed suitcase to take home - the second case was actually packed inside the first. He's magic, I tell you.

Oh, shoot. I put all my eggs in one basket, then forgot the basket on my nightstand. Last night when I was changing from my work clothes to my grubbies (almost the exact opposite of my evening ritual when I worked at the plant, but I digress) I put the cash and my debit card that were in my pants pocket into an envelope beside my bed, meaning to pick it up and put it in my work bag immediately after hanging up my clothes. Yeah. So today it looks like I'm going to have to sing for my supper - or, more aptly, beg to borrow for my lunch.

Maybe I can knit in trade?

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Joyous Return of the Elph

This was a pretty good weekend. I actually both left the house, and accomplished things that needed to be done, proving to myself that this is possible, and opening the door to future successful weekends. There was also a whole lot of stuff that wasn’t completed, but I’ll try not to dwell on that right now.

It all started Friday afternoon. I went to Village Yarns to try to get the set of interchangeable circular needles that I’ve been coveting for a little while now. I got there just before the store closed, which was actually a very, very good thing. Wow – that is a beautiful store, with so many beautiful things that I’m sure I couldn’t have left without buying a great many things had I had the time. As it was, I knew that she wanted to close up in five minutes or so, so I only had time to ask about the needles (sold out) and then hie me out of there before money started spontaneously spurting from my wallet.

Saturday morning, I went to the market, once I finally convinced myself that I really should leave the house (not a small task). I picked up some mustards for my dad, of course being convinced to buy 4 jars (who needs 4 jars of mustard?) because it was $18 for 3, or $20 for 4. And I got another gift for someone else, who might be reading, so no details! But I always enjoy the market, so it was a nice visit. What really threw me off was the call I received while I was still sitting in the car in the parking garage, about to head into the market. A friend’s mum called me, declaring that she’d been abandoned by her own daughters, and aggressively asking whether I’d like to join her for the Cavalcade of Lights that afternoon. After finding out what that was, and where, and when, and not really having any good reason to say ‘no’ springing to mind quickly enough (other than the great wads of things yet to get done for Christmas) I agreed.

So then it was home for a bit, for more knitting (maybe I should work on the Christmas projects rather than the New Year ones, you think?) and some photoshopping. I decided that I really, really wanted to have my camera for the night of seeing pretty things, so I stopped at Best Buy to pick up a new memory card, hoping the whole time that the problem is with my card and not my camera. Then it was time to stand in line.

Is there some kind of rule that negates the idea of personal space when standing in line during the Christmas season? I was trying to be jolly and pleasant, but when people keep whacking me with their bags and attempting to bump me forward, it becomes difficult. Of course, this little stop made me late, which turned out to be irrelevant, as the Cavalcade of Lights bus tour was sold out, so we rushed off to get some dinner before hurrying back to Nathan Philips Square for the show.

And the show was great. Streams of fire and sparks and glittering confetti, and music, all reflecting off the backdrop that is city hall. But the best news of all? My camera is working! I rejoice!

I just have to stop here to say - Oh, man. I have never seen anything so cute in my life as this baby panda. Right now, he’s climbing in and out of a big tub filled with bamboo, climbing on spool, and just generally tumbling around in an unbelievably adorable way. Can’t… stop… watching… The cute barrier has been breached, my friends. Ack! He’s upside down! He’s cuddly and tumbly and roly-poly and… and… overcome, I am. Go there now. You’ll understand. Unless he’s sleeping. Maybe even then, though. Because the wonder of fur and cuteness is still there.

So, the Cavalcade of Lights – people dancing with fire, people singing with fire, fire shooting into the air. Pretty neat. And so many people crowded into the square that it wasn’t cold. Big bonus.

After the show, we shuffled through the crowd and walked over to see the Bay’s windows, all decorated for Christmas, with a Narnia theme. Very fun, and really well done.

And it was a joy to see the kids looking at the displays, pointing at the different elements of the display, the characters they recognized, and the windows all fogging up at around waist-height from their excited breathing and talking.

On the knitting front, I am making something beautiful. I have made things that are fun, things that are functional, things that are cute, and they did have their own beauty. But now I am making something that is beautiful. It's a joy to watch the stitches coming together to create a thing of beauty. It's hard to put the needles down because I just want to see the blanket get bigger, and become more beautiful.

Then there’s the sock. I am stuck. See how long it is? That’s the easy part.

The hard part is the heel thing. I made the turn, and now have the shape of the heel all set. But how to pick up from here and continue is a mystery I haven’t yet solved.

I think I’ll just watch the panda some more.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Royal Addendum

Yay! You may remember, from my entry about the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, my commenting that the sheep were dressed as secret identity superheroes to protect their loved ones from the evil supervillain goats (or to keep them clean - whatever). And, you may also remember that I had no picture of these small heroes, because my camera crapped out about then.

Well, Jodi has stepped in admirably, with these little gems. Thanks, Jodi!

To the left here, you can see a clear demonstration that yes, his fleece was white as snow.

And here you can see a rare thing on this site - a picture of me.

And, more importantly, you can see more donkeys. It's all about the donkeys.

And now for the moment we've all been waiting for - SuperSheep!

Seen here chilling a bit, because she's already vanquished crime in the Fair for the day.

Onward to Christmas! Battling crowds! Conquering traffic jams! Sending out my Chrsitmas cards for me!


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

How do you solve a problem like Sebastian?

My cat is electric. (Electric Cat - band name?)

My apartment is fiercely dry now that winter has officially claimed the country. I'm cutting my hands on the tamest of materials - I'm waiting for the day when I run the yarn through my fingers and have it come away with part of my skin.

Work is also very dry. You might think that great amounts of baking happening daily would help - all that steam and whatnot rising into the air (and maybe it does) but the fact remains that the whole building sucks the moisture out of every living thing therein. I sometimes think it would be easier to just dip my hands in vat of moisturizer after every time I wash them. (Or -ooh - a bath in moisturizer would be so nice!)

The dryness is bad enough, but what's been really aggravating is the static. Every time I walk down the hall to the bathroom or the kitchen, I apparently build up enough static electricity to power a small radio, because the 'zap' when I touch that doorknob is loud and always, always painful. I've developed a type of defense where I will try to remember to touch my ring (in a kind of WonderTwin Powers - Activate! way) to the doorknob before allowing my skin to make contact, but I don't always remember, and it still hurts most of the time anyway. I'm scared that I'm going to kill my laptop one day when I forget to discharge against the doorjam when I walk back into my office.

But I really feel for my kitty. He could power a fair sized stereo, complete with subwoofer. When I pet him, his fur continues to crackle for up to a minute after I've taken my hand away. If I pet him in the dark, I can see the sparks shooting off his guard hairs. But worst - when he goes to touch his nose to my hand, he gets a really big skin-to-skin shock that really has to hurt. It's like I'm giving him shock therapy to learn to stay away from me.

I may end up wiping him down regularly with a Bounce sheet if I can't come up with a better solution.

Ah, me. For my most pressing problem to be static? I'm not (really) complaining.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Lazy Hazy Days, but no summer

It's Friday afternoon and I had a big lunch and I'm tired and I can't focus on anything. So let's blab on the blog, shall we?

So, the promised tale of chocolate. It's the story of Sunday, really, so it's not as exciting as it might be. So I had my fit of knitting Sunday morning, and then got the times mixed up. My friend was coming to pick me up so that we could go to a potluck an hour away. She was coming at 12:30 - the potluck started at 2. The extra half hour was scheduled in there because we are both chronically late (she's worse - she doesn't read this so I can say that without being proven wrong). So I was sitting and knitting and it was 12, and I was thinking that I still had time to shower, wrap gifts, make my fondue mix, dig out my fondue forks and kit, get dressed up, do my hair and make up, go out and get a coffee and go to the grocery store to get all the fruit and cake I needed. If there were fumes from knitting, I would blame them. Of course, at a few minutes after 12, I realised that I was apparently on crack if I thought I could get any of that done in time, let alone all of it. I jumped up and into the shower, had dressed, and was in the process of madly (choosing and) wrapping gifts - tape, scissors, ribbon, paper and presents flying all about the room (I was lucky the cat wasn't hit) when the phone mercifully rang, and my friend told me (very apologetically) that she was going to be late. I confessed that I was going to be terribly, terribly late myself, and we agreed to both just do what we could to get there as soon as we could. I did all I could in the time it took her to cross the city, but still wasn't quite ready when she arrived. But I did manage to make it out of the apartment with my:
- gift for Secret Santa
- gift for Rose
- gift for hosts
- gift for Dana (completed!)
- fondue kit and forks
- fondue ingredients (dry ingredients mixed and in a plastic container, plus others tossed into bag)
- camera and spare battery
So we were off! We stopped to buy my fruit and cake and cookies, and paper bowls for Deena's soup. (Should I make up funky nicknames for people in here? That would be fun - not 'Deena' and 'Rose' but something like 'SuperD' and 'Yertle'. Maybe another day). Then a quick stop at Timmy's, where I did NOT get my large double-double, but instead a large tea with sugar. Sadly, I did not notice this until a while later, as I'd been waiting to let it cool. An experienced coffee drinker such as myself should have known by the double-cup! I had NO coffee that day people!

Anyway, we finally got to the house at about 2:40 - and we were about the third set of people there. It was kind of annoying, actually, having people not show up until 4 and 5. Yeah, I know - what right do I have to complain, being the perpetually Late Person? But, really - to plan to come several hours later than everyone else? Is this just me? Maybe this is how people do things, and I'm just someone who doesn't know. Probably - just a social nuance I never picked up on. That and small talk.

So I go to make my fondue, only to discover that my dry ingredients have entirely disappeared. Luckily, our hostess had what I needed, but where did the chocolate and sugar mix go? And my tupperware? I thought I'd maybe forgotten it at home, but it wasn't there, either. Must remember to tell Deena to check her trunk. Or maybe it fell out of the bag as we got out of the car, and there's some hyped-up, jittery little squirrel who had a really weird day somewhere in Caledonia.

The party was okay, but the real killer was the food. Somehow, we ended up with an overabundance of desserts - and very little real food. I've never seen a potluck fail, but I'd have to say this one did.

My highlight, though, was in presenting my gifts. When my recipient saw that I was her Santa, she said, "You're my Secret Santa? Sweet!" Warm fuzzies. I have a good gift-giving reputation, apparently, which makes me very happy. I try hard to get the right gifts for people, and I'm not always sure that I do it well, so this was very good to hear.

Then it was time to give the little one her gift. She made me laugh. First, she didn't want to just pull the tissues out of the gift bag and throw them on the floor - they were solemnly and sternly given to me to take care of. At first, the hat and scarf were unceremoniously pulled out and set aside. But then the bear came out. First, the hat and scarf were removed and dropped, but then the bear was cold and had to be redressed, and so did Dana. This continued for quite a while, which made me very happy. Then we realised that the hat for Dana was WAY too big. But THEN Dana figured out that that made it a perfect hat for peek-a-boo, so it was all good. I never thought I'd miss spending time with a kid, but I really, really do sometimes. I was glad we got to spend a bit of time with her and her parents after everyone left, even if I did feel a bit guilty keeping Deena there later than she really wanted to be.

My overwhelming sadness for the day, though, was again my camera. I got some really good shots of Dana, with the hat, the bear, and just sitting and reading on her own and with her dad. And the evil camera demons took them away. I think it's time to invest in a new camera. I'll let that be its own story. (gotta stretch for them, here)

So that's today's Boring Entry. I told you you'd need caffeine - my life isn't even interesting to me, most days.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Needles and bodies and chocolate, oh my!

Yeah, so ... no updates lately, huh? I am a slacker.

I've been unusually busy (not so much with work) and yet still have nothing to say, it seems. Today I am struggling with crankiness, which is really hindering my making any kind of real progress.

On Thursday I decided that I wanted to make part of my present for Darren and Angie's little girl, Dana, who I kind of fell in love with while I was staying with them over part of the summer. I bought a wonderful, soft, and cuddly brown plushy teddy bear, and decided to make a hat and scarf for Dana, with a matching hat and scarf for the bear. This I decided on Thursday night. Yeah.

So Thursday night was knitting half-size scarf. Friday lunch and breaks were knitting bigger version, finishing up Friday night, and then beginning a full size hat. Saturday morning was a bit of hat knitting, then out to the Science Centre. Saturday night was knitting the rest of the full size hat, beginning the smaller hat, and then deciding that a kid's scarf and hat set needed a fringe, so that involved learning how to do that (then figuring out a better way to do that using a rug latch hook tool (pack rats do prosper sometimes)) and staying up late to make some progress on both. Then Sunday morning was a ridiculous amount of knitting, made easier by a super movie line-up on the superstation. First was the last half of As Good As It Gets (finish fringing large scarf), followed by Serendipity (finish smaller hat, begin fringing smaller scarf), and then by the first half of Stepmom (learn how to make pom poms, find better way, make two pom poms, attach to both large hat and small hat). It was at this point that I realised that I was still in my jammies and had to leave in 20 minutes. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

So non-knitting activities this weekend were also interesting. (Or just 'were interesting, if you think knitting is Dullsville). On Saturday was the company Christmas party, which was a family thing (yeah) at the Ontario Science Centre (yeah!). Rose came with me, and we saw the BodyWorlds 2 exhibit first. It's a very interesting and thought-provoking exhibit, I have to admit. I also have to admit that it affected me in ways I hadn't anticipated. I was very blase about the whole thing, "Yeah, dead bodies. Freaky cool. Nothing unusual here." But when you're standing next to an exhibit that used to be a person, looking at every part of their body, it's different. It's harder to forget that these were really moving, living, breathing people when they're posed as if they are still dancing, or walking, or swinging a baseball bat. And they're so vulnerable - you're seeing parts of these people that they never even saw themselves.

One display that I found to be fascinating was a man who had been separated into two figures. The first showed all of his outer layers - his nerves and some blood vessels, some skin, and most of the outer muscles. The second was just his skeleton. It boggled my mind a bit. Which part could be said to actually be this guy? Were both? Were neither? Is what makes a person inherently tied to the physical portions of our bodies, or is identity entirely separate from the physical? And if it's a combination of the two, then what does that say about this man's identity? Has it been split? Doubled? Halved? Changed in any way, or in none? The same questions can be asked of the figure who is seated, and has before him on a table all of the blood vessels that fuel his own brain, still in the shape and structure they had during his life.

I recommend the exhibit. Even if you just go to gawk and giggle. And yes, you do giggle, if only on the inside. The first time you see that, yes, most of the figures are male, and, oddly, although they have no skin or hair, they for some reason still have their genitals.

It was funny watching people notice it. You're looking at a leg inside a case (this is before you enter the open display areas). You can see the muscles, and the tendons, the footbones, the ankle bones, the lower leg, the kneecap, the tibia, and then - yikes! You can actually see people jump a bit, or try to suppress any kind of reaction, instead suddenly developing a very studious, disciplined expression. "Hmm. Yes, yes, I see." And then you're left with the decision (for the rest of the exhibit actually). Do you look? Do you not look? And if you don't look, does the very fact that you're looking everywhere except the crotch area make it even more obvious that you're aware of it?

The best line was from a friend of a coworker. She looked at the pole-vaulter, who was suspended upside down, as if in the middle of a pole vault, and declared, "That's not gravitationally accurate."

Moving on.

After the exhibit, we wandered geekily about the Science Centre, playing with the different exhibits and toys and just being nerds, which was fun. But I don't know if we were both very high strung that day, or if there was some kind of conspiracy of fear involved. In so many exhibits, we were frightened. Several times, we'd push a button, wait for a moment for something to happen, then when nothing did, we'd assume the exhibit just wasn't working (which was the case with some). But for a few of them, we would have just shrugged it off, turning our attention to something else, when a loud voice would boom out through the speakers, or a bright flash of light would unexpectedly blind us, and we'd both jump and then laugh a bit at ourselves. The final was the worst, though. We spent several minutes putting together a little puzzle about genetic codes that involved putting little plastic cards on a strip on the tabletop in the right order, then punching in the corresponding code. We'd just succeeded, and opened the little door that unlocked, when the little strip suddenly popped up, flinging the cards upwards and scattering them like a game of Frustration. Of course, we both jumped and yelled, and right then, the lights turned out.

We are Ubergeeks - we closed the Science Centre, and they had to turn off the lights to get us to leave.

Then we went to Swiss Chalet for dinner, where I tried mightily not to think about BodyWorlds while I ate my chicken.

As for the chocolate, that'll have to wait, because the end of the day is nearing and I have to finish up some work.