Saturday, February 28, 2009

knitting, knittting and knitting.

yesterday's post was written in a respite between torrential nosebleeds. those nosebleeds led to me spending most of today in a clinic waiting room, knitting. eventually the doctor cauterized my nose, (!!!!!) but not before i got a good lot of sock knitting done. i hope daffodylic likes them.

three of my friends are pregnant. i'm surrounded by fetally attractive women. i only have a handful of friends, so this is practically a mathematical impossibility, but there you have it. so i have some planning to do. these friends tend towards yarn snobbishness, but i think when the baby is puking on everything and my friends haven't slept, showered or eaten in days, they'll be ok with machine washable baby clothes.
i have a baby sweater made in moda dea's tweedle dee, and it's soft and pretty. you can't tell by looking that it's not natural fibres, and only a true yarn snob could tell by touching.
i'm also looking at sirdar's snuggly dk. it's soft, springy and washable. not gently shorn from baby alpacas hand raised by children in the andes, but i'm hoping my friends can overlook that. if the pattern is cute enough, they might. here are the patterns i'm considering:

this raglan sweater would be easy to add a graphic to the front of. i'm thinking a skull or something. newborns never wear enough skulls, you know?

this dress is so sweet. i want to make it so i can look at it and bemoan the fact that i have no daughter. i would not sully this design with skulls or silliness. it's too nice for that.

finally, this hoodie has a cool texture that would really show off a more interesting yarn.
the miles of seed stitch might kill me, but if i survived i could embroider flowers or a little truck or something on it.

so, preggos and non-preggos, what would you like best for your progeny? are my yarn choices appalling? do you despise my project ideas? what would you like for your hypothetical or actual offspring? you have a better idea?

a confession

on our little holiday, after the babes were in bed, my partner and i gladly changed the channel from the toddler station to one with more adult content. we were chatting, joking, drinking, snacking. it was really nice.
then an image came on the screen and everything changed. i became utterly deaf to my partner. i couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen. my mouth went dry, then was flooded with juices. my guts twisted, my thighs trembled...

it was a red lobster porn deserves its name. definitley. i was shocked at my strong, instant reaction to the image of crustaceous flesh. no human, no matter how sexy, could have caused that visceral and physical of a reaction in me. these images are nice, but they aren't the ones in the red lobster ads. you know the ones. the light is yellow, warm, inviting. the steam rises from the tender, juicy flesh. a chunk is speared and dunked in a cup of garlic butter. the mind instantly recalls that the only thing better than garlic butter is seafood in garlic butter, especially lobster.
then begins the obsessing. how can i get to red lobster? can i afford it? does it matter? what if i just went for one of their (relatively) cheap-o lunch specials? but those, looking at the online menu, don't include lobster. would shrimp satisfy me? probably not, it'd need to be the real thing. when could i go?

around and around these thoughts go, driving me to distraction. i need to refocus my mind on something more productive. less expensive, frivolous and fattening...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

late february lists

tomorrow my little family is going away for a one-night vacation. we'll chase the kids around outside then chase them around in a pool, and when they're too tired to stand up we'll put them to bed early, break out the booze, and watch tv. i can hardly wait. i haven't watched law & order since last summer.

today i have been packing. it used to be that packing to go away for one measly night would take three minutes, right before i breeze out the door. but things have changed.
so far i have:
  • a 5 inch high stack of books for the babes and i. this doesn't include my partner's reading stack, which will doubtless be at least a couple of inches
  • a french press, freshly ground coffee, and mugs, since the small town where we're going might not have the quality of coffee that we have come to require
  • a bag with fruit, eggs, rice, juice, soymilk, cereal, etc, etc. enough food for several days.
  • ten diapers, two baggies with wipes, two pairs of underwear, three pairs of pants, three shirts, two pairs of socks, two swimsuits, two sweaters, long underwear, a sleeper and a pair of pj's. and i haven't packed a single item of clothing for myself, yet.
  • the laptop, charger, camera, and extra batteries. should i bring the crappy old camera, just in case?
  • a 6 inch stack of cd's for the road. this will doubtless grow before we leave, and we will still bemoan the lack of selection at some point.
  • yarn, needles, and accessories, plus the pattern for the bff socks. also, all the additional help i could find for the two new stitches i'll be using, a cabled increase and a cabled decrease. all somewhat legibly written on the back of some junk mail.
  • tomorrow before we leave town we'll need to stop for groceries, booze and more books.


today my valentine's present arrived from my friend claire. lookit!

amazing, face-rubbingly soft organic cotton, my favourite! and hearts, to be all seasonally-appropriate. does it get any better than this? because i don't think it does. the really cool part is that literally a minute after opening the mail and being overwhelmed with glee i felt a little surge... time to use one of these puppies! claire, your valentine's present isn't late. it's exactly on time. thanks, lovely!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

for the love of the yarn

it all started, as these things do, on ravelry. that place makes people do silly things. 'ravelry made me do it' is probably a legitimate defense to use in court.

first, i learned that my local yarn store (lys) had some yarn that i love on sale. 3$ per big skein of soft, local, beautiful wool. then i just happened to be perusing the patterns for things that i could make with that weight of yarn, and i found this.i've never knit a sweater before, but isn't the best time to start when the yarn is on sale?

that did it. the yarn had my head in a death grip and wouldn't let go until i got some. so i made a deal with myself. if i could run all my errands and make it to the lys on one bus ticket, i could have the yarn. if anyone could make it to the five places on my list and the lys (which is far from all the other places) within the hour that a bus transfer is usable, i would say that the yarn gods must be smiling on them and they should get the fibre they seek.

so, of course, i did it. lightning-fast trips to the bank, the library, the drugstore... i did not stop to smell any roses. i had mild panic attacks every time i had to switch buses. what if i just missed it? what if the bus came late? for what was intended to be an enjoyable day off from my domestic responsibilities, it sure stressed me out. but i did it; i deserved all the yarn my backpack could hold.

my final bus dropped me off a little ways from the lys. google maps says it was about a mile. but have i mentioned the weather? it was -33 celsius that day, -27 fahrenheit. bloody cold. and the wind was crazy, blowing sheet after sheet of insidious snow into my face and into all the corners and crevices of my hat, my scarf, and my coat. it was worse than this looksand actually not that fun to walk in. that mile took me half an hour.

i got to the store and found my beautiful yarn. at the checkout i did what it took to cram the yarn into my already full backpack, telling the saleswoman that there was no way in hell that i would carry a bag, my hands needed to stay in my pockets for warmth. as i wound my scarf around my face and arranged my hat and two hoods, she jokingly said that she hoped i wasn't going out walking in that maelstrom. she was visibly shocked when i affirmed that i was. i admitted that if ever my commitment to yarn snobbery was challenged, it was today. but it's common knowledge that i have more stubbornness than smarts, so there i was, in the industrial area (read: bad bus service) in a winter storm.

my original plan was to stay at the store and wind all my yarn into balls using their equipment, saving myself heartache later. but the sun was about to set and the storm wasn't going to get better any time soon, so i figured it would be better to go for my stroll while the drivers could see me walking in the road instead of waiting for it to get dark. (the sidewalks were impassable)

i trudged, head down and shoulders hunched against the wind, through the storm. it sucked. but i happened to look up at just the right moment, and saw a bus! for a moment i thought it was just my wishful thinking taking me for a ride, but the rare and elusive bus that drives that route just happened to be going past! i sprinted and waved and yelled. (this is the place where if i were making this up i would say the bus driver didn't see me, but this here is a truthful account, yo)

the bus stopped. my transfer was long since expired, but the driver so admired my tenacity that he let me ride for free. the most wonderful part is that the bus i was on passes within a block of my house. i was home, drinking hot coffee, 15 minutes later.

but the story doesn't end here. nosirree. i may have escaped frostbite, but there were still more (less dramatic) adventures to come.

remember how i didn't wind the yarn into balls? well, i'm making socks out of that same yarn, from a skein that i bought (and wound) earlier. i'm almost at the toe of the second sock, but the yarn ran out. this evening i got to wind the skein into a ball.

oh, pshaw, you say. big deal. you probably do it all the time, just for fun. but do you remember that i have a 3 year old and a 1 year old? not so keep it all out of their reach, i had to hang the yarn from my splintery, beat-up bedroom door. as i wound, the yarn caught on the wood and caught on itself and caught on the wood again. plus yarn from the top kept slipping off the door, creating a messy tangle at the bottom of the loop. when the boys realized what i was doing, the wanted in on the action. they enjoyed swinging the door open and closed, crying when made them stop, kicking the door over and over, lying on the floor wailing when i made them stop, begging for treats, whining when i said no...

i wished i was back out in the blowing snow.

it took a couple of miserable hours, but i got it done.
it seems like a lot to go through for something so small, but this is yarn, people. 100% worth it. now i can finish up the socks and get them mailed off (they're already late for my dad's birthday. i'm a very bad daughter) and start a new, exciting project. one that uses yarn that is already neatly wound on cones.

Monday, February 23, 2009

today on etsy

this evening my babes are playing happily without me, the jelly beans are flowing freely into my mouth, and i have a headache, so the siren call of etsy lured me in. i found:

this yarn for my friend amanda. she would make amazing, hand-dyed socks with it. she's incredible, you give her a blank canvas and she makes art.
these seeds for myself, especially these: and these: (because i love growing nontraditionally-coloured things)

this for myself, because paisley reminds me of my sister and i have a thing for green
this for my bathroom, because it's beautiful and the bathroom sink would look much nicer with it.
and, finally, this for daffodylic, because it's beautiful, like her.

i might get the soap dish, but probably nothing else, thanks to my personal economy. plus my toilet is broken and i need something pretty to distract from the stench. but man, etsy is a freaking wonderland for virtual window shopping.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

urgent call to activists

your attention, please. there is a serious problem, and all of you need to contribute to rectifying it. if even one of you slacks off, this tragic occurrence will continue. that would be unacceptable.

we all need to contact the USNANA (underwear styles naming association of north america) to let them know that a major error has occurred within their profession:

boy shorts are not actually for boys.

i know what you're thinking. there's no way that such revered and admired academics as these could have made such an obvious mistake, but somehow it has happened. in spite of all the clinical studies, the peer-reviewed research, the veritable fount of information that is the JGSN, (journal of gitch style namers) in spite of investigation of the subject dating back to the greeks, or even earlier... somehow they got it wrong.

i know you're thinking 'who is that chick to question a conclusion reached by the hallowed profession of lingere labelers? does she have an advanced degree in skivvieology?' the answer, friends, is no, but i have eyes and i know what i have seen.

boy shorts are definitely not for boys.

think of a baguette in a grocery bag. think of a strand of hair escaped from a turban. the man-bits don't fit. the dainties don't fit. the name doesn't fit.

so join me in my letter writing campaign, my organisation of global protests, and my personal grief at having been so misled for so long. join me and right this terrible wrong.

i'll see you at the trillion person march on washington.

**because i'm silly like that, i propose a contest. the last one was so much fun, don't you think? whoever can come up with the best new name for boyshort undies by the end of the month gets a bunch of handmade giftcards. i'll break out the crayons, construction paper and posterpaints and send you at least ten whimsical little cards to inscribe and pass on to those you really ought to give cards to.

comment away.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


dear lover:
you are a saint. thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou for watching the kids when you got home from your (12 hour!!) night shift. when i got home (at 3 pm!) they were happy, well fed and clean. i'll find a way to repay you.

dear baby:
you can sleep now, it's ok. in fact, babies all over this time zone are sleeping at this very moment. go ahead.

dear sock:
please knit your own damned self. and be done by monday morning, ok?

dear obama:
when you started choosing your cabinet i was bummed, it looked like all the hype was going to come to nothing, based on your choices. but you've proven my pessimism wrong, so far. i definitley don't agree with you 100%, but you've gotten more right than any other politician active in my lifetime. thanks!

dear money: you should consider entering in along-term, stable relationship with me. i'm very nice, i promise.

dear daffodylic: i really wanted to talk to you last night, then again this afternoon. i wish you lived next door.

dear self: you're doing ok. things aren't perfect, but you are doing well. please take moments to be peaceful and grateful.

dear winter: enough already, get lost

dear ikea: i'll see you in april, and i can't wait.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

grossout contest winner

the contest is over, these are the entries:
  1. "Haggis - food with a heart!"
  2. "It's not a mineral, it's not a vegetable - must be an animal?"
  3. "Now with the right amount of squish!"
  4. "It comes in a can!"
  5. Haggis, The dinner to eat with a friend.
  6. Haggis, AN excuse to drink scotch
  7. Haggis the OTHER OTher white meat
  8. Haggis, Down home cooking for the down home family
  9. Haggis, the Heart of the party.
  10. Haggis: The heart of Scotland in a can
  11. A wee taste o' Scotland
  12. Haggis in a can: It don't get much better than this! (yes, the grammatical error is on purpose)
  13. Haggis, a step above roadkill
  14. Haggis, not even your mom would eat this.
  15. CANNED HAGGIS: Slightly less disgusting than a big pile of crap!
  16. Haggis: Naturally gluten free!
  17. Haggis - eat it at lunch and your mother in laws cooking will be greatly improved at dinner!
  18. Tasty, High Protein Snack!
  19. "Slow Cooked" in "Natural" grease!
  20. Also used as an industrial-strength cleaner!
  21. Won FIRST PRIZE at Milton Valley's Annual Science Fair!
i was surprised, relieved, and disappointed that no one went to the dark and strange world of offal/awful puns. it would have been so easy to say 'it's not awful, it's offal!' or something. but you all kept away from there. my readers are classy that way.

it was really hard to choose a winner. my favourites were 2,10, 19 and 21, but the people i've asked to help me choose kept saying that a different one was the best. honestly, i'd overlooked it. it's in with a bunch of them that all start the same, and my eyes skipped right over it. but the more i looked at it the more i liked it, and so i give you the winner:

Haggis, the Heart of the party.

maria, you
opted out of the actual contest, but i'm still going to send you a prize. i'll figure out what eventually. good job!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

good housekeeping

today i my friend and i were joking about our messy homes, and i realized my place looks like a dump. shamed, i decided to do something about it. sometimes shame is good, if it makes you productive. see?


Monday, February 16, 2009

guest post: daffodylic tells a tale

and now, my friends, i bring you your weekly guest blog:

One Weird Day + Easy Hummus

My weird day started in my afternoon writing class; the lesson of the day was “The Topic Sentence” so I was doing my thing up in front of the class, writing notes on the sticky old white board that smears when I try to wipe it. With Valentine's Day just behind us, I chose Love to brainstorm on the board to illustrate the process of writing that perfect topic sentence. We needed to narrow the topic, so we discussed types of love. The class discussion went haywire, so I redirected... “Family love, folks. Family love is a type of love. What's another type of love?” Friends, ah yes. Students typically come up with that one on their own. OK, last one. My brain willed the students just to come up with what my students come up with every semester: Romantic love. Come on folks... it's not that hard....

“SELF love!” Shouted a greasy, squinty-eyed boy who sits to the right. The class twittered, and I had to keep my facial expression blasé and unimpressed. I try not to over-guide my students during class discussions, but I went ahead and gave them the “Romantic Love” bit. Coming back to the family section, I asked what kinds of family love there were. I received the typical answers: Parents, siblings, kids....Mr. Self-Love tried to interject his point of view of masturbation being “family love” but we all ignored him. Friends went smoothly. However, when we got to the “Romantic Love” section, a clueless older student who sits in the back called out, “PETS!” There was a moment of painful, awkward silence before the class roared with laughter.

“Uh... romantic love, Al. We shouldn't have romantic love for our animals. Perhaps pet love could go under family...” I might have stammered through my response. It's possible. The class was rapidly getting out of control. Self-romantic-love came back up, and I guided the discussion again... the example I give every semester....

Puppy love.

The class howled. Exasperated, I tossed my almost-dried-out dry erase marker down on the desk and explained, “Puppy love, class, is infatuation.”

I tried to rein them in, I really did. I took our brainstorming and tried to relate it back to creating the topic sentence, which I had to give them because they were too obsessed with discussing masturbation and bestiality.

I broke down. I took the coward's way out: Book work and early release. Weird freaking class.

I deserved a little break. A treat. Ah yes, a peppermint latte from the campus coffee shop. I'm friendly with the girl who works there, and as soon as she sees me come in, she starts the espresso machine and pulls out the bottle of peppermint. We chatted amicably – “How are your classes going?” and “Your students behaving themselves?” Nice, normal small talk. She frothed milk and pumped peppermint into a cup.

She stopped suddenly, “That's it! I know who you remind me of! The girl on Step by Step, that old sitcom. You remind me of the tomboy, cool sister!” She looked back to an older gentleman sitting in the back of the shop. “Don't you think so?”

He stood up. He had a cane that he used lightly to walk over to the counter where I stood waiting for my perfectly normal peppermint latte.

“Hmm. First, you should make that latte a double espresso.” He winked at the attendant. She re-started the machine. “And let's see... I never watched Step by Step. I think you resemble...” He stepped close and peered into my face. My latte (er... double espresso) was ready, and I just wanted to pick it up and sit on a bench in the sun and forget my weird day for a few minutes.

“Ah yes, I know who you look like, but to be sure...” He stepped even closer and touched my cheek, turning it gently and almost caressing. “Leah Thompson. Admittedly, though ma'am, I just wanted the chance to touch your cheek.”

I laughed nervously, grabbed my coffee, said polite thank yous and goodbyes, and went to go find a park bench.

OK, first my class goes out of control talking about inappropriate topics, then some old guy caresses my cheek in a coffee shop. I think we need to chalk this one up to a weird day. So I went home and made hummus because there really is nothing else to do when discussions and conversations and encounters turn bizarre.

Daffodyllic Hummus

  • 1 cup (or so) cooked chickpeas.
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • hand-squeezed juice of one lemon
  • A few grinds of sea salt, to taste
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
Blend it all in a food processor or blender until it is the consistency you like. Put in pretty bowl and garnish with a tsp of olive oil in the center and paprika sprinkled over the top. Enjoy with freshly toasted pita triangles. And try to forget your weird day.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

my knittiversary!

on feb 13, 2008 i started knitting. i don't have pictures of several of my projects, but here's a selection of things i've worked on in the past year, in chronological order, with intermittent reminisces:
i used to knit when i was a kid. my dad taught me. he's a fantastic knitter, but his compulsion to constantly have something on the needles has worn off after more than 40 years. it's ok, i make up for his lack of knitting fanaticism.when i was 8 or 9 i read about hellen keller and became really interested in understanding how she perceived things. (i'd say i wanted to see things through her eyes, but that might be in poor taste) upon learning that she could knit, i started knitting in the dark. i remember my parents finding me sitting bolt upright on my bed (in my mind hellen keller had perfect posture) with the lights off and blinds drawn, knitting. as i recall they were childhood knitting involved starting a lot of scarves and getting bored of them. i haven't made a single scarf, so far, and i have no plans to in the near interest in knitting was reawakened by three things:
  1. some good friends of mine knit. the things they make are beautiful and interesting. i like making things, especially beautiful, interesting things.
  2. i was running low on socks and couldn't find ethical, affordable ones anywhere. my knitting friends, serendipitously, are sock knitters. it had never occurred to me before to make my own socks, but the idea was becoming appealing.
  3. finally, i was in my favourite consignment/ yarn store and saw a yarn that took my breath away. the colours and textures sang to me. it was noro kureyon sock yarn, and with it i made these:
since then knitting has really grabbed me. my list of things i'd like to do is as long as my arm, easily. i spend lots of time on ravelry, and often as i drift off to sleep at night i'm thinking about knitting.
colour and light, followed closely by texture, are important to my mental wellbeing. photography satisfies my visual needs, but without something to touch, i'm not completley satisfied. yarn has colour and texture, and turning string into fabric is food for my soul.this year i'm hoping to make one pair of socks a month. included in that is at least one pair of felted slippers and some christmas stockings. i haven't decided if i need to make one stocking or two in a month to meet mygoal. i suspect that it will depend on how ornate the stockings are.on top of all those socks i want to make a sweater or two, a shrug, two hats, and more. it will be a busy year, knit-wise, but that appeals to me.these are my january socks. i've already blogged about them lots so you're probably bored of hearing about them. this hat has me stumped. i should have used a pattern. improvising is great when it works, but when it doesn't...this is one of my february socks. i'm making thick socks for my dad. they'll be done by the end of the month but not in time for his birthday.

true love, 584 style

this year for valentine's day i gave my partner a gift with heart.
pig heart, that is.
and he let me know that he thinks i'm a bag.ok, ok, so the pig heart* was one of the random parts we got with the 1/2 pig we bought last fall.** and because i'm not that cruel, he also gets a 6 of beer. i picked the bag out for myself yesterday, and i love it. my new camera***
finally has a home!

* i also gave my partner the pig's tongue, just because. but i didn't take a picture because looking at it made me want to puke
**there's a local guy who raises pigs ethically. he grows the grain to feed them, even. organically. ethical meat! cheaper than the grocery store! and much, much tastier!
*** i recently got an exciting new camera! a million times than my shitty-ass old one. it's fan-freakin'-tabulous. yay for random gifts from wealthy relatives!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

book review: last chance saloon

marian keyes' last chance saloon is the archetypal chicklit book. stock characters (the skinny, neurotic one, the chubby, bubbly one and the gay man, plus peripheral characters, equally predictable. all of them are in their early 30's and live in london and none have any real responsibility) shop, drink, diet, obsess, and go through crises. in the end they are happy, well dressed, well partnered, and well shod. not to belabour the point or anything, but the last pararagraph is
'to life!' seven glasses clinked in the middle of the tablewhile seven chorused, 'and men with big willies!'
i'm not deriding the book, though. not at all. fluffy, silly books like this serve a purpose. today i had two small, feverish bodies draped across me and i wasn't exactly about to read dostoevsky. similarly, when i was pregnant i couldn't get enough of the girly fluff. for people who don't watch sitcoms or chick flicks, these books are fantastic escapism. last chance saloon didn't change my life or teach me anything, but it entertained me through many tedious hours.

but before i let the book and the genre off the hook completely, i have a few questions.
  • why are there never lesbians in these books? frequently a flamboyant gay man, but never a dyke.
  • why are there no people with mental illness or physical handicaps?
  • why are they all nonreligious? there's always one person who is investigating her spirituality, but she's the flaky, gullible one.
  • why is no one non-mainstream? no goths, punks, hippies, never the most distant glimpse of a metalhead...
it's the homogenized humans that bug me. maybe what this genre needs, in order for me to embrace it fully, is a book proudly featuring a one-legged hindu lesbian with down's syndrome. her best friend would be a post-op trans man who works at walmart and listens to bluegrass. can anyone point me in that direction?

guest post: daffodylic the terrific

my narcissistic friend is here again. enjoy.

Sometimes we take on more than we can handle. By "we" I mean we human beings, and by "take on more" I mean adding so much to our plates that "biting off more than we can chew" becomes an understatement. Examples of this can include parenting (come on, did we ever know that it would be this challenging?!) or deciding to glue together 500 pieces of a broken figurine made of porcelain. You know, those moments when you are in the middle of a project and you think, Oh. This is harder than I thought it was going to be. I don't feel very qualified….

Several months ago, an old friend of mine (read: ex boyfriend) sent me a text message asking me if I would be available to tutor his client's son. I sent a text back indicating that he could pass on my contact information and I would scope out the opportunity. (For what it is worth, the message did not read "lol omg txt my # 2 doc" though my friend would have found that hilarious.)

I did take the gig - partially as a favor to an old friend, partially for the money and partially shits and giggles. The boy is fifteen with muddy red hair and Coke-bottle glasses. He is skinny and acne-prone. Oh yes, and he's an Aspie. The first few tutoring session with him went surprisingly well. We had one enormous success with a baking soda and vinegar science experiment that ended with a monotone declaration of his love for me. And that's the problem with successes: We get comfortable. Confident. Pretty damn sure we can waltz in and take the challenge blindfolded with both hands tied behind our backs.
Until we are blindfolded with both hands tied behind our backs.

A couple sessions ago, I hit a brick wall with my young student. Several times during the hour, he put his head down and groaned. He ended our session by saying he had to poop, and he got up from the table never to return. I chalked it up to a bad day. I left, discouraged but still overall confident from the prior successes whispering monotone affections in my memory.

My last tutoring session began with a sleeping teenager, who rapidly morphed into a groggy, grumpy teenager. I had brought color-coded word games for him (surely he would love that). He played 30 seconds with the stack of cards and then put his head on the table. I brought out my clip-art-enhanced writing prompts with graphic organizers. He looked, groaned, and laid his head down.

I leaned close to him and said very softly, "Give me a word. Any word."


Clearly he wanted me to take a hint. Instead, I pulled out my thesaurus and looked up "leave." On my tablet, I wrote down abscond, escape, exit, travel, depart. He tried not to let me see him watching me. I flipped over to the E's. Evacuation, exodus, expiration.

"What are you doing?"

I flipped the pages purposefully and answered, almost like an after-thought, "I'm looking up words."


I smiled at him, "So I can find exactly the right one...." He picked up the tablet and looked at the list of words.

"Give me another word, and I'll show you," I said encouragingly.

"Depressed." He tossed the note pad down. Then his head went down. Uncertain, I slowly flipped toward the D's. His mother chose that moment to come in.

"You are going to FAIL your writing test tomorrow if you don't GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER and let your tutor HELP you. Do you WANT to fail? GET UP NOW AND WORK."

His eyes nervously focused and unfocused. "Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh," he groaned and breathed rapidly. His mother wasn't quite finished. "You know, she's being really patient with you, and you're being mean to her." She left the room and I flipped to the P's. Patience, forbearance, perseverance, long-suffering. He was watching again.

"Suffering, all right," he snarled at me angrily. I looked in his eyes. He hated me at that moment. He was terrified. He was frustrated. And nothing I was doing was reaching him at all. I touched his shoulder and he jumped back growling at me, peering down and over the tops of his glasses and baring his teeth.

I had one last project tucked in my bag. A list of 21 sentence starters. I pulled out the sheet, and read the first one off to him: This morning I got out of bed, and I.... He groaned. I read off two more. More groans. That's when the moment really hit me. I'm not qualified to do this kind of work. I have a measly little degree in Creative Writing, earned from a less-than-stellar university over eight years ago. Just because I work with college prep students and teach grammar in an unorthodox way obviously doesn't mean I can come into this home with no experience and reach this boy.

The hour was almost over. My head throbbed right in front, over the forehead. I was hungry. I was embarrassed that I had even pretended I could take on this project. Unqualified was an understatement.

Number 20: When I need a quiet place to think, I go...

"...To bed."

I looked at him. He looked at me. His eyes are a pretty shade of blue and I bet no one ever notices that about him.

"Write it," I said, shoving the tablet and a pen toward him. "Write 'when I need a quiet place to think, I go to bed.'"

He wrote it, and said, "Sometimes my brain wants to stay awake longer than my body."

"Write it. Write exactly what you say."

He wrote five sentences, saying them out loud and then copying his words onto the paper. Midway through the last sentence, he looked at me.
"You know, you're right - it is easier when I say it out loud first and then write it." He finished writing the fifth sentence. It was time for me to go.

"Tomorrow, on your test, talk to your paper, ok? Just talk to it. It's ok to do that. Then write what you say." I wrote in all capital letters on a blank sheet of paper: "TALK TO THE PAPER." He drew an outline of Yoda on his hand. His hand said, "Do or not do, there is no try." And he said back to it, "I will talk to the paper."

On my way out the door, his mother asked me if there was anything else he needed to do before I cam back the next time. I mumbled something about the sentence starters... five sentences for each one. She paid me a little extra.

Sometimes we take on more than we can handle. Sometimes we learn a little something about ourselves in the process. Our boundaries, our limitations, our fallibilities. Humility. Perseverance. Long-suffering.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


my partner and my baby are feverish, limp and sad. my boy is being pretty good, considering. i'm tired and bored and stressed. so instead of posting i will just say:

camping. it's in tents.

Monday, February 9, 2009


this morning i was peacefully sipping my coffee when i heard a little voice coming from under the table.
...mumble mumble bloody fuckin' mumble mumble....
he sounded just the way his mama (charmingly) does when she's frustrated with something.

my son has recently become fascinated with language. he wants to know the french words for things, the synonyms for things, and when different words are appropriate. we've been trying to teach him that there are certain words, beverages and behaviours that only grown-ups get to do. (before your mind throws itself in the gutter, by 'behaviours' i mean using the stove, telling the baby not to do things, filling the bath, and staying up late)

we've rolled our eyes when he's felt the need to run around the house yelling 'penis' over and over and over. it's perfectly acceptable when he says 'what the heck. what the heck, mama!' but we have serious talks about age-appropriate language when he tells me that he just took a shit. in fact, he recently told a guest that he wasn't allowed to say hell or ass because he's just a little boy.

i realize this arrangement isn't ideal. we've been trying for more than three years to clean up our language. what i've realised is that i love swearing, and i really resent being censored, even if it's by a baby. this is just another part of the struggle between being true to my (foul-mouthed) self and doing what's best for my kids. i'm trying to find a balance, and for now being openly hypocritical seems to be what works.

in other language-related news, the baby can say 'death star' and 'yoda', but not 'juice' or 'apple'. we teach our kids right, 'round here.

fuckin' a.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

recipe: gluten free spanikopitas

last night we hosted a stuff white people like-themed party. there was fondue, ugly sweaters, california rolls, granola cookies, science fiction references, cbc radio, and a lot of witty comments. white people like themed parties.

without fail, the day after a good party i feel mopey and antisocial. it may be my passive-aggressive way of avoiding having to do the cleanup, but i always want to be left the hell alone after a good shindig. today was no exception. i've spent the day trying to dodge human interaction, with mixed results. the day is finally over, the babies are asleep, my partner has quit with the friendly overtures, and i get to sit by myself and drink some leftover wine. bliss.


i feel bad for so rarely remembering to write down my gluten free recipes. if a person liked spending a pile of cash on hard-to-find ingredients that made so-so food, they'd find that the internet is a treasure trove. for people who want something tastier and less expensive, not so much. i've had to make things up as i go along and improvise substitutions to make my favourite recipes acceptable for little mr g. f. so here's my recipe for gluten free spanikopitas. (spanakopitas? i never know how to spell that)

really, this is just a regular spanikopita recipe, heavily canadianized, with one major modification that makes it gluten free. please go ahead and alter this to fit your preferences and fridge contents, it's a versatile enough idea that you can really do whatever you like with it.

first, take these:
feta cheese, chopped spinach, pepper, eggs, dill, and cheddar. the cheddar is my very canadian addition, if you prefer a more authentic taste, skip it. similarly, i really like dill, but people often prefer oregano and other more greek herbs. add in chopped tomatoes and sauteed onions if you like.

i like to just wing it, so the quantities pictured above are not accurate. you want the mixture to be gloppy but not runny, and nicely cohesive. i used 500 grams of spinach, half the feta, one of the chunks of cheddar, both eggs, ~1 tsp of dill and ~1 tsp of pepper. it could have used more pepper. the quantities are really up to you, so long as it isn't runny you're good.

next, get:
a package of rice paper, (also called rice wraps, available at asian groceries or the asian aisle of a big grocery store. these usually cost less than 3$ for two or three batches of spanikopita, hella cheaper than phyllo) a bowl of superhot water, and your nicely gloppy mixture. the water should be in a round bowl or pot that's big enough to hold the rice paper.

this is the tricky part. (but not trickier than using phyllo) dip one sheet of the rice paper in the water and leave it there for a few seconds while it softens. the colder the water the longer it takes to soften. then pull it out and lay it down carefully. if the paper touches itself it will stick. if the whole thing clumps up into a sticky, unusable mass, put it back in the water and try again. if all goes right, you should have a more or less flat circle of sticky, wet rice paper on your counter, like this:

as pictured, put a bit of your glop in the middle. the amount is up to you: do you want bite-sized snacks or meal-sized turnovers? then fold it up into a neat package, being careful to leave some space inside the package. if it's too tight the cooking contents have nowhere to expand and your spanikopita will spill all over the pan. it's less appetizing when that happens.

place your bundles of deliciousness on a greased cookie sheet. they don't expand when they cook so they can be really close to one another, but don't let them touch or you'll end up with siamese twins. er, um, conjoined multiples. whatever.
bake them with whatever else you're putting in the oven, checking them every so often. when the rice paper is hard and the bits of cheese that have spilled out are getting golden and tasty-looking, they're done. i've never personally cooked them on their own and i suspect that baking time depends on the amount of goop in each spanikopita, but i'd say you could probably put them in at 375 for at least 20 minutes.

i know my instructions are hard to fit on a recipe card, and i'm sorry. but this is how i cook and i have a really hard time translating my vague, guesstimation-based cooking style into something succinct. probably why i'll never write a cookbook.

anyways, they're tasty and gluten free. and if you get feta made with goat milk, they're lactose free. i hope you enjoy them. i think i'll go pull some party leftovers out of the fridge now, thinking about these tasty little bundles has made me hungry.

Friday, February 6, 2009

my seeds came!

i was just wondering what to blog about when my crazy mailman came with a yellow padded envelope of happiness for me. yay, mailman! naturally, i pulled out my seed collection (kept in the kitchen next to the vitamins, for easy access) and started obsessively shuffling through them like an 8 year old with baseball cards and a sugar rush.
i have:
  1. bull's blood beets
  2. early annie tomatoes
  3. hosta mix (loves shade, perrenial. i'm not going to plant these, so let me know if you want them)
  4. bison tomatoes
  5. purple dragon carrots (came free with this year's seed order!)
  6. golden bantam corn
  7. magic carpet snapdragon mix (i don't really plant flowers, so if you want these you can probably talk me out of them)
  8. jaune de doubs carrots
  9. arikara sundlowers (these don't count as flowers, since they make tasty food)
  10. german red strawberry tomatoes
  11. hungarian hot peppers (these don't grow well in my climate, i got one pepper from the plant last summer. granted, it was in a tomato's shadow, but still.)
  12. ring-of-fire cayenne (ditto these. one pepper per plant = not worth the space they take up)
  13. cherokee trail of tears black beans (my son calls these crying beans and they did very well. we finished the last of the beans we harvested in january. i'm not trading these since i'll need all i have to plant in the spring, but next year i'll set aside more for planting and swapping)
  14. blue pod capucijners peas (these are for guerrilla gardening. i like to plant peas all over the neighbourhood each spring. peas grow without much encouragement, climb things, look nice, and are edible. it's interesting to see which ones are left to thrive and which are uprooted right away)
  15. siberian home peppers (no picture, but these fantastic little peppers grow on a sturdy little tree in a pot, and produce year-round. i love gathering fresh hot peppers for my chili in february)
  16. sweet purple & yellow bell peppers (no pic, from a swap. i have no details aside from the name)
they're all either from a reputable seller of heirloom seeds, saved from last year's harvest, or from seed swaps. i'm up for swapping most of them, if anyone wants, and i'd happily give away the hosta and some of the snapdragons. leave me a comment with contact info and i'll get back to you.
note: i don't necessarily want more seeds if you have some other small thing to swap. try me, i'm easy. (like your mom)