Tuesday, August 28, 2007


When I think of good gifts, I often think of the story of Trudy's best gift.

Part of the reason the story of Trudy's gift has stayed with me for so long, and why it's always waiting in the front of my memory, is the pure loveliness, and thoughtfulness of the gift. And part of the reason is, as so often happens, due to the circumstances of my hearing the story.

It was the summer I spent in Scotland. In many ways, and for many reasons, that was not a good summer. It was the summer when I learned the hard lesson that family may be obligated to love you, but that doesn't mean that they will like you. Or you, them. It was a very lonely, isolating summer, and so very far from home. I don't regret that summer - life lessons, part of me and all that - but it was hard. Even the weather was the worst anyone could remember (yes, even for Scotland). It was dreich and dreary, and wet and cold and miserable, and the gloom took the place of the sunshine deep inside, making the white nights longer, and the lonely evenings that much more grim.

Victoria Falls

There were some exceptions - wonderful exceptions - to the gloom. And I came away with stories to laugh about, and to remember some sunshine. One of the brightest spots of that summer was the week I spent on a Haggis Backpackers tour. It was only a few days - the five day tour, I think it was, and many of the places we went, I'd been before. But never like that - with a driver and guide who was so full of enthusiasm and humour, and a group of people who were genuinely there only to have a good time. It was a diverse group.

It's funny the things you remember. We were in a little yellow bus whose name was Daphne. There were 23 people in my group. I was the only Canadian. There were 4 or 5 Kiwis, a few English people, 5 or 6 people from Singapore, one American (Tristan, from Hawaii) and Trudy, who was from Zimbabwe. We became friends on the trip, sitting together on the bus most days, and sharing toothpaste and teaspoons. We had a similar sense of humour, and she helped me to be more open and willing to be silly in the name of fun.

It was alongside Trudy and Tristan that I held my head in the Sligachen River for ten seconds in hopes of gaining the prolonged youth and beauty promised in a fairy tale of long ago. And it was with them that I wandered among the bleak hillocks and markers of Culloden. Trudy told stories of her manservant and her glass collection, and I shared the wonder that is Home for a Rest by Spirit of the West. I educated Trudy in Canadian beverages, too, when she argued that Canada Dry wasn't a ginger ale (it's the champagne of ginger ales!). She scoffed when we saw "Victoria Falls" and we all laughed together when one of the Kiwis was scolded by his girlfriend for 'staying up late with the sheilas' one night in a hostel in Drumnadrochit. We all climbed over the barrier into the grounds of Urquhart castle late one night, and wandered the eerily lit ruins on the shore of Loch Ness, serenaded by a mysterious, disappearing stranger playing a flute in the shadows.

And all twenty three of us crowded down into one tiny, dark stone dungeon that was quite literally no more than a hole in the stony ground of the Isle of Skye, and heard the story of Hugh the pirate, who was locked in that small space and left to die, with a plate of salted beef and an empty water pitcher.

It was just the kind of friendship and camaraderie that develops only on a five day backpacking trip through Scotland. No one stayed in touch, but I know that we all remember.

Sligachen River

And one day we were talking about gifts. And Trudy told her story about her best gift. She had a copy of Jane Eyre that she had treasured for as long as she could remember. It was a well-loved book, with tattered pages covered with small notes and thoughts, and was very dear to her. And one day, her friend (a boy-friend, and I often wonder whether that hyphen disappeared later) snuck the book out of her room.

Urquhart Castle

She didn't notice, and knew nothing of the pilfering, until her birthday some days or weeks later, when she was presented with a copy of Jane Eyre. It was in a lovely binding, and her name was embossed in gold in the corner of the leather cover. She was pleased to get the book, but it would never replace her beloved old friend. And then she opened it, and saw the same old, tattered and worn pages, and her little notes and dreams.

What a wonderful gift - for someone to know your heart well enough to take your thoughts and dreams and hopes and have them carefully bound and restored, so that you can continue to carry them through life without fear of losing a single page.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Jitterbug Monkeys

Finished Monkeys, originally uploaded by Vaedri1.

My latest socks are done!

These were a lot of fun to knit up. Monkeys have been one of the most popular patterns on Ravelry for a while now, and I've been itching to jump on this particular bandwagon. Once I started, I found it hard to put these down. I finished them in about a week and a half, which, for me, is pretty darn quick.

The yarn was an impulsive guilt-purchase. I have trouble leaving a yarn store without buying something. (Of course, now that I've become completely enamored of sock knitting, this won't be such a problem.) It's Colinette Jitterbug in the Velvet Plum colourway. It was just a joy to knit with - not a completely solid colour, but with very little variation, which I thought suited the chevron pattern well, and allowed it to be seen clearly.

I've heard several times about the tendency of Jitterbug to be a bit short on the yardage, so these were done using Cara's modifications to make them into mini-Monkeys.

I have to say that one of my favourite things about knitting is just getting to learn something new on almost every project. This time around, it was the picot edging, which was a lot of fun, and gives these such a cute finish.

I'm coming to understand the common love of sock knitting. For one thing, they're a small project, meaning no great delay in gratification; and they're super easy to toss in a bag and come along for the ride wherever you're going. They are objects that you can never have too many of. I mean, there are really only so many hats and scarves that I'll use over a winter. There are so, so many fun, funky, wacky and beautiful patterns available out there for socks that you will always be able to find something new to try. The same thing goes for the yarns.

My only challenge now is keeping these from my friend at work, who not-so-casually mentioned that she really likes this colour. Of course, this means Christmas knitting will be pretty darn easy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fall Cleanout

The past couple of days have been unseasonably cool round these parts. Mid-August should not require a coat, or warm socks of an evening. But I have to admit that I’m kind of happy to see the seasons change. And then I feel guilty for feeling that way, because summer in this city is so fleeting, and I should be grateful for every hot, sunny day. I’m so conflicted!

But I can’t help but feel a little thrill when I catch the scent of autumn in the air – that earthy, almost smoky tang of leaf litter and cool air.

It might be partly due to the changing of the seasons, and it’s definitely partly due to the purging happening at Erika’s place (“up” at Erika’s? let me check the map – yes, I believe “up” is probably correct) but I've been inspired to do a bit of stuff-purging.

First on the list was my pile of textbooks. When I graduated from Biological Engineering seven years ago, I didn't even entertain the notion of selling my texts. I might NEED them! You never know when someone might ask me to calculate the unit operations required to prepare a dried potato product, or to determine the type of pump best suited to pump a slurry of biomass across a production plant at a 15 degree incline while maintaining a steady laminar flow to feed a continuous bioreactor.

It never came up after all.

So the time has come to say goodbye to this little group of steadfast friends.


Some are easier to trash than others - I shall shed no tears to see the Diff-E-Qs text hit the book sale table at the Scouts fundraiser, and circuit analysis only narrowly avoided ritual sacrifice. But I can't bring myself to get rid of my Microbiology text quite yet (loved that course), and the Food Science text might somehow find its way off that pile before the whole shebang is hauled off.

Next up is the 'stuff'. And knitting content!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Knitting at the Dome

Last night, my friend Jen and I ventured down to join in with a few hundred knitters in watching a Jays game.

Jen at Stitch and Pitch

It was what I think was Toronto's first Stitch and Pitch, and it was a great turnout.

Knitting at the ball game

We bought our tickets at the last minute, so we missed out on the tote bags, because they ran out. I hear they weren't all that impressive, so I'm not heartbroken.

Like any event full of needles and yarn and the people who use them, it was a lot of fun. I think our section was just about the most tightly packed area in the Skydome (I know that's not the 'real' name anymore, but it's the better name). It was a lovely evening, and the dome was open, letting us occasionally get a breath of the night breeze. We chatted with the people around us, and spent most of the game untangling an unfortunate jumble of TLC cotton plus.

Stitch and Pitch TO Knitters

We even had a celebrity sighting. We were sitting beside Stephanie's family, though I was too chicken to say 'hi' to her or Juno. I also thought it might seem a bit stalkerish.

(Oh, the Jays won - I asked.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mystery and Socks

This past weekend was a strange combination of almost complete laziness and astounding progress. The laziness is captured by the fact that I rarely left the couch, and somehow got through a complete rewatch of the first season of Doctor Who (Sigh. As much as I love David Tennant, I still miss Nine.)

But the couch sitting and the tv watching (well, laptop-watching, to be more accurate) on Saturday did enable me to make a great deal of progress on... something I can't tell you about. Sorry. Stealth knitting is just so, so bad for blogging. But if you're on Ravelry, you can look me up and see it in my WIPs, if you're dying of curiosity. Sunday's couch-sitting was due to a serious inability to estimate the time required to finish that same project. But the end is in sight, if I can just stick to it a little longer. This is what I get for venturing outside the realms of knitting.

For a break from the massive project that doesn't seem to have an end, I worked on and finished my first pair of Jaywalkers.

Finished Jaywalkers

The fit's not perfect, and I didn't get the pattern repeat in the yarn quite right. But I still like them.

Jaywalker Close-Up

I vacillated throughout the entire process of knitting these up between the opinion that the yarn is fun and funky, and the other opinion that it's just gawdawful. Now that they're done, I'm going with funky. It was fun to knit with, with the frequent changes in colour and pattern.

Overall, not bad for a second pair of socks. I can't wait to cast on the third. Sock yarn is so fun!

Update: The Neverending Project is ended! Pictures will be on Ravelry as soon as I can get some decent light, and here in the blog as soon as it's gifted.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Cottage

I am back. Back at work, back in my own bed, on my own couch. And, as promised, (and to prevent further 'boo'-ing - geez, you'd think I had some kind of history of blogging reliability or something. heh.) ready to present a few pictures so that we can all make believe that we are all there, lounging on the Muskoka chairs.

John and I drove up from Toronto, and Charlotte drove down from North Bay, and we somehow managed to meet up at the McDonalds in Gravenhurst at just about the same time, through some miracle. We continued to drive, Char following, through Gravenhurst, noting the locations of grocery store, beer store, and fruit stand as we passed.

Cherrywood Lane

We arrived at the cottage, and got the lay of the land from the owners as they downed their wine and ran out the door. (Our kind of people)
(This is Charlotte's picture - I somehow managed to take no shots from the non-lake side of the cottage. )

After choosing our rooms and doing a quick tour of the cottage, we changed into bathing suits and headed down to the dock. Now, I am very physically uncoordinated, and so it should come as no surprise to learn that I am not a swimmer. So it seemed just serendipitous when we were told that the bay - our bay for the next week - was shallow. Shallow enough to walk all the way across. The chances of me dying on this vacation dropped greatly.

Saturday Muskoka Chairs at Sunset

The week unfolded without fanfare, and with much nerdiness.

We had no schedule, no tasks. We woke up when we were rested, read so many books we could have stocked a small library. We ate when we were hungry, jumped into the shallow bay when we were too warm.

We spent copious amounts of time reading, moving, sloth-like, from deck chair to couch to muskoka chair. In the early afternoon, when the sun was high in the sky, we'd jump into the bay to cool off, then lay in the sun to dry, then move to lounge in the shade. Meals were prepared by whoever was feeling energetic, and we ate well. Our week started with healthy snacks like veggies and fruit, but had degenerated to chips and dip by the end.

Saturday dinner

There may have also been some drinking.
Margarita Bucket
Drinks on the Rocks

Thursday, we designated as 'Town Day', and we ventured into Gravenhurst and Bracebridge, somehow stumbling into used book stores in both towns.

Antique Shop Books

There was some knitting, but no finishing. I have joined in on the Mystery Stole project, but it hasn't really taken off for me, as I'm more used to knitting that I can do while watching tv or talking. The laceweight wool and teeny little beads were particularly poorly suited to knitting by the bay in the Muskoka chairs, so I am still on Chart A. (Fifth time's the charm, right? Cause that's how many times I've restarted. So far.) There was Trivial Pursuit, and some cribbage, and some watching of Torchwood on a laptop. (Stick to Doctor Who. Really.)

The cottage was wonderful, amazing, peaceful, calming, fulfilling, enlightening, rejuvenating, invigorating. I didn't know how much I needed this time to refocus and recharge.

Now I have to go to bed. I didn't have my midafternoon nap on the dock today, and I'm beat. More pics soon - I have to stretch every bit of blog fodder I've got!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Blogs... They are too much!

I had an initial goal of getting my unread items in Google Reader down to below "100+", so that an actual number would show up there, making me feel like I am making progress, rather than participating in a ridiculous, trivial, Sisyphean task. But it has now been literally hours, both yesterday and today, and I have yet to reach that magical point that will make me feel less like some kind of laptop barnacle.

This has made me realise that I really need to prune back my feeds. What was supposed to be only an amusing and occasional diversion has now become a time-sucking chore in many ways, and that's just not fun. Nor is it fair to not only myself, but also to the people whose blogs I read. I hate the feeling that results from skimming past stories of people's lives, full of triumphs and tragedies, and pictures of their worlds because I just want to get through it.

Cottage update and pictures tomorrow, when the lassitude brought on by warm air and late mornings has started to dissipate. And when I get that number down a bit.