Friday, February 28, 2014

My love affair with books and discovering Jane Eyre: Fiction Friday

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.
                                                    Arnold Lobel

My family has always had a thing about books.  Our home was a veritable library.  Each room had a collection larger than the room before it.  Books were accumulated, treated as collectibles, acquired as trophies.  Books were revered, respected, and amassed in large quantities.

Growing up before computers were common in every home and before every answer was just a Google search away, we had a library of knowledge at our fingertips.  Assignments were not completed at the school library, they were completed by standing in front of the living room bookshelves.  Each bookshelf had lines of history books, art books, biographies, and the occasional Pierre Berton thrown in.

Each one of us developed our own personal library early on.  Small shelves were erected and quickly filled with treasured copies of Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and old westerns.  There were books to be handled carefully and then there were books to be devoured.  Favourite books were dog eared, spine bent, and tattered.  They showed physical memories of each read - tear splotched obscured words, book jackets curved with handling, pages soft with the oils of many hands.

Books have remained a staple for each of us.  Walls are lined with copies of everything from early edition classic novels to crisp new books ready to be perused.  Each sibling has created a collection speaking to their own individuality --some books are present in each collection, while others are miles apart in kind, topic, and intellect.  All are dearly loved and rarely parted with.  Those of us with spouses have heard the lament of too many books (as if there were a such thing!) and fought for space and exhibition.
via Amazon

When I was about 10 years old, a friend gave me a beautiful, gilded copy of Jane Eyre.  The friend was well above the normal intellect and most of us in her circle read books well beyond our assigned grades.  This book was special.  It was hardcover bound in leather, with a beautiful picture of a girl (presumably Jane) on it's cover.  The pages were edged with gold and were made of a thin material that felt as though it would tear with any touch.

I placed the book reverently on a shelf and left it there.  I would often take it in my hands, feel the raised leather with my fingertips, and gaze at the picture.  I would then place it back on the shelf.  I never read it.  The book was too pretty to treat as I did the other books I loved.  Books that are now coming apart at the seams having been read at least a hundred times.  This book has sat on my shelf in one room or another, moved from house to house and never been read.

Finally, as an adult, I decided to read it.  I tend to be hesitant to read anything labelled "a classic piece of literature".  It stems from both laziness and refusal to do what others tell me to do.  However, each time I have read a classic they quickly become one of my favourites.  I looked at the beautiful book on my shelf and hesitated.  It was then I went out and purchased a second copy - soft cover with no elaborate picture or decoration.   I am well into the book now and love it.  I'm a little put off by the Bronte love of run on sentences, however, the characters and the story make me wish I had read it years ago.

Someday, I will pass on my beautiful copy of Jane Eyre.  I will help some little girl put it on her shelf.  And then, I will take her to the store to get a copy she can read.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thursday thankful: struggling to find 5 today

  1. I'm still very pleased with our choices for the kitchen and bathroom. The bill for the upgrades came in for the bathroom fixtures and The Guy didn't even freak out. Now to wait on the bill for the quartz countertops...

    counters and cupboards
    Cupboards and countertops
  2. I took a trip to a local thrift store with my friend and got a bunch of great deals for Twoonie Tuesday. Yay for accessible thrifting!!
  3. I spent the day with my favourite little E-bug. We went to the museum so her mother could work on her dissertation.  E was completely in awe. Her favourite part was the constant sound of birds. E loves her birds.

    Kids are like cats. Give'em a box and they are entertained. #100happydays Day 40
    Kid in a box
  4. We had one day of bearable weather so Monty and I could go for a walk. It will be another week before that happens again.  Anyone else tired of winter?
    Winter face
  5. Winter will be over one day. I am holding on to this. Mind you, I think that's what the dinosaurs said before they went extinct.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Scaring the JWs away: Post from the Past

This is my friend Lindsay's favourite story. It originally appeared on Buggering Crap Monkies in April of 2011.  I have since wiped it from my memory and only remember it when she brings it up and laughs and laughs.


For some reason, every house I've lived in has come with its own set of Jehovah's Witnesses. They come around every few months to drop off literature and see if I'm willing to join them on the dark side at their church.

When I moved into my first apartment, a mid-twenties girl arrived.  She asked if she could come in and talk, so -- being that I was lonely and completely naive -- I let her in. It took me about 20 minutes to realize she was a JW, but I liked her and she wasn't very pushy so we chatted quite some time. She visited me about 3 times before being horribly injured in a skiing accident.

Two stern middle-aged women replaced her and it took me ages to figure out how to kick them out of my apartment. In the end, I just stopped answering the door. I would listen to them shuffle outside my apartment and hope they couldn't hear me breathing.

I felt like I was in a terribly lame movie about a girl being chased to her death by women in long flowered dresses and heavy shoes.

When I moved back to my home city, a pair of JWs arrived on my doorstep within days of moving in. I felt like I had been sold out by the Welcome Wagon who had arrived first with baskets of goodies and coupons only to pass my name on as someone willing to open her door to strangers.

This pair of JWs was not as sweet as my first visitor, but not as off putting as her replacements. They continued to come back to the house though I assured them I was happy with my own church and that I did know about Jesus - thank you very much.

Finally, I decided to turn their tactics against them. I had a handout from one of our church functions, so made a point of trying to make them take it and read it and get back to me on what they thought. They never came back.

When I finally bought my own home, a new group came by. Despite me frightening them with bad hair, they continued to return to the house. For my 30th birthday, I allowed myself to ask the most determined of the group to stop coming by. It worked.

Until I moved again.

Now, in our new place, we've had a couple of drive by JWs. They come, ring the bell, and by the time I get there they hand me some paperwork and carry on. None seem to want to make conversation. It could be that every one of them have come before 10am.

Anyone who knows me know I am not awake before 10am very often. And certainly never willingly.

This particular morning, I stumbled from bed with the dog barking madly because the door bell had rung. I threw a zip up sweater on over my tank top and tripped over the dog getting to the door.

Two men stood there. They mumbled something, thrust a paper into my hand and almost ran down the steps. I was glad it didn't take long, but was confused by their reaction.

That is, until I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. One boob was not fully covered by the tank top.

I may be put on the "do not contact" list after this.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Little pieces of paper: Why scissors were banned in our house

For my Dad: today I made a lot of little pieces of paper. #100happydays Day 35
For my Dad: today I made a lot of little pieces of paper.

On Thursday night, I posted this picture as my Day 35 of #100happydays.  Since only my siblings understood why it was funny and would make my Dad crazy, I thought I would provide a backstory.

My dad hates little pieces of paper.

It began innocently enough: we were children and my mother was trying to keep us occupied and out of trouble by giving us crafts to do. Being that until I was a teen I was in a LOT of trouble ALL the time, this was no small feat.

Mom's version of keeping us busy involved handing us the Sears catalogue, a handful of blank paper, Lepage's glue (with the awesome rubber tip), and the largest scissors in the house.

Sears catalogue delivery was my favourite day. We rifled through the thick pages looking at all the pretty things we would never have and ooh-ing and aah-ing over the stylish models.

Did I mention we were poor and sheltered? Stylish models, indeed.

Once we had thoroughly scoured all the things we wanted, the catalogue would go to the side to wait for craft day. I feel like craft day was a lot of the time, but it's possible my memory has expanded the experience as I cannot believe we really had that many catalogues.  We did deliver them to the neighbourhood though, so it's possible we snagged extras.

Mom sat each of us around the table and set us to work. Heads down, elbows up, silence and concentration the words.

Armed with my dangerous scissors and a dream, I scoured the catalogue for people and things. I chose beautiful women and cut them out. I picked the perfect bedroom suite (with ruffled edged pillows) and couches with plaid.  I glued the furniture onto a piece of paper and then used the cut-out woman to enact glorious scenes of utmost importance.

I also had one entire page of toys I wanted.  You know, just in case it happened someone was interested in what I liked.

By the end of the day, my Dad would come home from his magical world of the office where he went to escape the children. We were content in our creations and, I am sure, anxious to share this with him.

He would take one look around, shake his head, and jokingly ask "What? Were we out of little pieces of paper?"

The floor beneath us was covered with the (slightly sticky) bits of paper we had discarded in our artistic process. Even cleaning them up, we would find them days later stuck to the bottom of our socks or in the living room carpet.

It became a life long joke in our family. Each of us continue to be crafty (well, maybe less so my brother. He does MANLY things) so there is always a chance someone will come home and ask if we had run out.

Now it's The Guy's turn.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

House update: Kitchen and bathroom details

On Friday, we met with our builder to pick out kitchen and bathroom basics.  This was one of the few things I had not fully researched before showing up, so I relied on the professionals to guide me. I was glad both our sales people at the different stores were women so they could help me out vote The Guy if need be.

Though we stopped at the plumbing store first, I am more excited about the kitchen details than the faucets. They are great faucets, but still.

The Guy and I brought in all the samples of our choices thus far. It looked silly lugging in huge chunks of tile and large colour swatches, but the lady was very patient.  We went over to the cupboard door choices and agreed on a style and stain almost immediately. It was a little too easy!!

kitchen collage
A collage of our choices.
Top row: Our colours and flooring and the quartz countertop
Bottom row: the pattern for our cupboard doors and the stain choice

bar pull for cupboards
The pulls on all the cupboards

At the last minute, The Guy and I decided we were going to upgrade the counters in our area of the house. (Sorry renters!)  The sales woman (the most stylish and chic redhead I've ever met -- sorry, Sabbie!) led me over to the quartz and helped me pick what would 1) match all the rooms in the house, 2) be easy to maintain, 3) be tough to damage, and 4) hide all the crumbs.

I was super happy with our choice -- especially because I got to choose it while The Guy and The Builder were watching the hockey game.  However, once she tidied all the samples up, I couldn't pick it out from all the others.  Apparently, they all look the same to me!

kitchen faucet
The kitchen faucet

The kitchen faucet was pretty easy to pick too. I explained my fear of the pull out sprayer dangling like a old man into the sink once the pull wore out and they explained there is now a fancy magnet in there to keep it from doing so. After that, I was sold.

The pièce de résistance was when The Builder asked me about pot drawers. "Pot what?" I asked.  Pot drawers. Fantastic, huge, deep, pull out drawers with dividers so I can easily store, organize, and find pots without banging and clanging them all to get to the one I need which is in the back of the cupboard underneath things I haven't used in 5 years. When I saw the drawer, I could have hugged him.

I believe I did squeal with glee and clap my hands.

Come to think of it, I did that a lot during our shopping.

Now, on to the bathroom.  Here is a picture of what the counters and cupboards will look like with the bathroom colours.  Of course, remember the stain is darker than it appears in this picture. I have no idea why it looks so bright here.

bathroom collage
The bathroom palette

I did not realize the ordeal that picking out bathroom fixtures would be. There were a lot of choices and a lot of them ugly or entirely (and creepily) phallic.  The sales lady, Cheryl (I got her card) showed me what was standard and what their salesman had chosen. She asked if I liked it.

No. No, was the answer.  So, we moved on.  I picked another package that was the same price, but SO MUCH BETTER.  Moen Rizon shower and bath accessories.

bathroom fixtures
Top row: the shower faucets for each bathroom with the Delta In2ition head
Bottom row: the master bath faucet
with ($250 upgrade) sprayer! (I'm going to need another job)
and the bathroom sink faucet
I could not be happier. However, this shopping spree will be dang expensive when they send the upgrade bill to me (not to The Guy... I didn't want his head to explode) and it all came with the news that the move in date will be May 1 now.  Only 6 months later than we planned... no big.

Oh well, until then I get to decorate in my head.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Memory short story: Chapter 2

Chapter 1: Meet the woman who came to consciousness and remembers nothing of her life.

Photo by Ky
Chapter 2:

The doctors say I'm fine. No head injury, no trauma -- except for that of not remember who I am, of course -- and no physical reason for my lack of memory. It's been 2 days now with no change.  This is what they know. It does not help me.

My husband, as he assures me he is, seems relieved. I'm not, so I don't know how it has calmed him so well. He thinks I will quickly come around if he tells me stories of our lives together. They are lovely stories, but are much like listening to someone talk about a complete stranger. Just anecdotal.

The little girl bothers me the most. She stares up at me with the most stunning green eyes -- the same ones I see when I look in a mirror -- and waits for me to remember her. To love her. Those eyes haunt me. The eyes of the little girl, hurt beyond words, who only wants her mother to know her.

I have no idea who I am. I know certain facts about myself now -- my name is "Karen", my husband is "Steve", and I've been married for 7 years.  Apparently, I'm 35 and a Gemini.

Again, this does not help me.

None of this information helps to quell the panic I am working so hard to hide from everyone. I want to scream, "Yes, I'm right handed and know the words to the national anthem, but WHO am I?"

The man... sorry, Steven, my husband, says I went out to run errands early that morning. We both had the day off so he and the little girl "Julianna" were having a father/daughter fun day while I got groceries. I returned hours later with no groceries and no memory.

All I can think of is: Which came first? Forgetting the groceries or myself?

I have no doubt what they are telling me is true.  The girl's eyes alone could convince me of that. However, I don't know what to do with this information.  I don't know how to fix this. I don't know how.  How to look at the man -- Steven -- and see his hope and longing. How to look at that little girl who breaks my heart.

I thought when people lost their memories they retained their feelings. Like I would instinctively know I was a mother and be able to pick my child out based solely on the love I could feel for that child alone.  This isn't the case, apparently. I cannot do that. I cannot pull the memories of my daughter from the depths of my heart. This is the most agonizing.

I didn't know I could forget love.

Next up:
Chapter 3:
Karen struggles to adapt to "normal" life while the rest of the world goes on.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Science, safety, and seat covers: Thankful Thursday

Things I am thankful for this week.
  1. I had a wonderful day at the Science Centre with Sarah, Skylar, and Laura. It was just the fun I needed. I learned all sorts of stuff about butterflies and saw animated fake maggots.  It was a full day. The only disappointment was the picture I took of a dead mouse and her babies didn't work out. I was really looking forward to making my sister hurl.

    Floating planet of swirls

  2. Though he was in Maiden the day of the trouble, my Dad, my step-Mom, and her family are all safe. Ukraine is in turmoil and it is hard to know how close people I love are to the chaos.

    Abandoned Sickle
    No matter how long it's been since USSR,
    Ukraine still has the memories ever present.

  3. I had time to sit down and write yesterday. It was wonderful. I flew through an essay (is that the right word?) on what I think about aging, and finished another excerpt in my Memory short story. (That's coming tomorrow!!)
  4. I finished a great car seat cover/ poncho for a friend who commissioned me. It turned out so well, I think I will have to add it to my regular rotation and gift basket!

    Chocolate and pink poncho/car seat cover
  5. The sun and warm has been beautiful this week - even though it did lead to more snow. At least the dog's booties fit well and he only puts up minimal passive-agressive fuss when I put them on him.
What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The wonderful roller coaster that is aging

I'm not afraid of growing older. I don't know if I have ever been, but for that 3 month period before I turned 30 when I realized I'd be a grown up.

My mom used to say I'd been 42 since I was 6, so I guess my body has just been catching up with my soul. I'm okay with that.

I don't fear death, so I gather that is why I don't worry about getting closer to it. I'm not itching to get there, by any means, but I approach it with the curiosity of an anthropologist in another culture. "Oh, that's what it's like!"

Babushka 01

My mother was afraid of getting older. She had good reason - she had watched her father spiral into Alzheimer's and become someone none of us recognized.  It's difficult to watch the person you knew die before your eyes and be replaced with a confused, angry, helpless old man. Mom dreaded becoming that -- losing herself.

I wonder, had she known she would never age beyond 55 years, would she have been able to relax? Knowing my mother? No. Relaxing wasn't in her nature.

I've now watched the life cycles of two important women in my life come to an end or near the end in two totally different times of their lives. My mother at 55 and my grandmother in her 90s. Grandma is still going relatively strong, but it's been interesting to see how she has forayed into this end of her life.

Aging isn't graceful. However, the person going into aging can be. My mother transformed at 50. She blossomed and became the woman who she had always meant to be but was hidden under a surface of insecurity and worry.
Mom and Dad (2)
Mom and Dad circa 2000

Mom turned 50, said "Eff it!" and exploded into herself. Sure, she had sagging skin, chin hairs, and hot flashes, but what physically was occurring in her aging process was completely overshadowed by her self discovery.

I think Grandma has always been herself. Or, she has always been who she knew she needed to be.  Grandma is so much "Acts of Service" she would temper herself to be what we all needed.  That being said, her sense of humour and rebellious nature that lay just below the surface would peek its head out, say something outrageous, and pop back in like nothing was out of place.

photo by Ky

Physically, though Grandma was wee, she was mighty. Walking up and down 20 stairs to and from her apartment numerous times a day kept her strong. Even today, she can out lift, out run, and out work anyone I've ever met.  Mentally, she has slipped bit by bit into forgetfulness. (Or, as we call it - 5 second memory reset.)  Grandma is still who she ever was (unlike her husband at the end) but forgets people, places and things for brief or extended periods of time.

I don't worry that memory lost or physical deterioration will get me. Each - if they occur - will be an adventure. Sure, I might not remember the adventure, but it still will be! I'm not looking forward to wetting my pants regularly or forgetting where I live, but that's how life goes and I plan to enjoy all of it.

I figure, if I make it past 55, I'm good until I'm 90.  Ride on.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dinosaurs, butterflies, and exploration: our day at the Science Centre

This morning, my friend Laura, her daughter Sarah, and our friend Skylar decided to go to the Science Centre. I hadn't been in years, so I was interested to see how it had changed. I was also excited to take some awesome pictures. I wasn't disappointed.

Our greeter this morning 
We entered through a large caterpillar over the entrance because of the butterfly exhibit. We went through a maze of butterfly facts, getting stamps on our butterfly sheet, and doing various activities.

Sarah learns about butterflies
From there we moved on from exhibit to exhibit as Sarah squealed with excitement and led us to something new.

Sky and Sarah raise a hot air balloon

Flying the information helicopter
Sarah playing in the air
Sarah gets her hair did.
We tried the hot air balloon, played in the bubble exhibit, watched the gyro demonstration, and visited all the animals we could find.

Automated bear
This (fake) bear turns on automatically to scare the tar out of you!

Science Centre owl
We visited with a (real) horned owl 
At one point, I crashed on a pile of bean bag squares and told Sarah to come get me when she was done. Instead, we had a selfie moment and I rallied enough to go on. Sarah has unlimited energy, but I do not!

Spent the morning at the Science Centre with Sarah, Laura, and Skylar. #100happydays Day 33
After an exhausting and exciting day, we decided to go for lunch to top off the day.  We ate and laughed and Sarah provided us all with tidbits of wisdom. It was a hoot.

Laura and Sarah at lunch

Want more Science Centre pictures? Check out the full album

House update: Interior colours are chosen!

Since the new year, the house build has been moving much quicker than it did from October - January. After waiting months for shingles to go from sitting on the roof to actually being installed on the roof, we were thinking the house would never be finished.

While we're still a bit from moving in, it's getting closer.

house - shingled w foam wrap
Our house now. 

In fact, it's getting so much closer that we are starting to get to the planning decor stage. This is my favourite part and I will admit I have spent many hours scouring the internets for the best colours and what might be the perfect colour that looks only marginally different than the other.

It might drive The Guy batty, but it's my happy place.

We finally decided on a range of beige for the main colour, a chocolate brown for the living room accent wall, and a wine red colour for the kitchen accent wall.  The bedroom would be a blue like the room we'd had in our other house.

I did a lot of tests on The Guy to figure out which ranges the colours could fall under. I made numerous collages of 4 different reds or browns or blues -- all I liked -- to see if we would find something we could agree on.

We narrowed it down. And then we went to the store to finalize.

There is a problem with looking on the internet for colours. They are usually not what is in the store. So even though I was on the Benjamin Moore site, the colours I had chosen no longer existed. Awesome.

I told the girl what we were looking for - she told me it didn't exist - and in less than 5 minutes she had covered the desk in sample chips and we had our colours.

The bedroom was easy and here is the final colour choice with the tile and flooring we chose for the master bath. It's going to look like a spa. I cannot wait. I may spend a month in that bathroom.

Finalized our colour/tile design for the Master bedroom and bath!  #100happydays Day 29
I could not be happier with our choice

Then we moved on to the main colour. They didn't have a single red we liked, so I brought along a sample from Home Depot. Martha Stewart in Claret. We would have to colour match, but that's okay. We found the perfect harmonizing colours to that colour and both of us are happy.

Believe me when I say this is rare. The Guy and I think the only good taste the other has shown is who we married.  And it took The Guy two tries on that one.

Our colours for the main floor.

We go on Friday to pick out our kitchen details and the plumbing fixtures. The move in date is likely mid-April, but I'm preparing myself for May 1 so I won't be homicidal disappointed.

Until then, I will entertain myself with colour choices, rug options, and plans for making a thousand throw pillows. The Guy will keep busy checking on the house, ordering lights and blinds, and planning for his shed builds.

Someday, we will move in.

And it's going to be awesome.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love languages for all: Communicating love

I thought being that it was Valentine's Day, I would write something about love. I didn't want to do a sappy, mushy, make-my-sisters-hurl post. Well, I did - just to punish them - but I thought this would be a better way to talk about The Guy, relationships, love, and interpersonal interactions between anyone (couple or not).

It's about how to show someone you love them in a way they understand.

You mean not all people "love" the same way? Yeah, that's what I mean. The book 5 Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman explains that not all of us give priority to the same things that others do when it comes to love. And it gives encouragement on how to show love even if you don't express it the same way.

The book indicates there are 5 main ways people show love: Quality Time, Acts of Service, Gifts, Touch, and Words of Affirmation.

Know someone who just wants to hang out, even if you don't do anything? Quality time.  Know someone who does little things for you without asking - like surprising you with shovelling your walk? Acts of service.  That little kid who brings you little gifts of rocks, paper, weeds, a shoelace, a drawing? Someone who loves anything you give them just because it came from you?  Gifts. Ever seen a couple who have to have their hand on their partner at all times? Or someone who constantly touches your arm while having a conversation? Touch.  Someone who needs to hear that they've done a good job or look good or are appreciated? Words of affirmation.

It's likely you identify with one easily more than the others. When you do, you will show people love by that concept. The question is: what if you love someone who does not put priority on the same style as you do?

This book encourages us to pay attention to how others express love and to adapt our own showing of love to incorporate that style into how we interact with them. The Guy and I are lucky. Our top two styles are the same, just inverted. We still have to work to show love in those ways, but it's not as tough as it would be if we were more different.  Others aren't quite so lucky.

My parents were more opposite. My mother was all acts of service where my dad was touch. Mom wanted people to DO things to show love. It's how she did it. Dad wanted contact. Just a hug or pat or even a bump with your shoulder. Since Mom's lowest priority was touch, she really struggled with showing him as much affection as he needed. She loved him, there was no doubt in that, but she really had to pay attention to how she showed that.

Now, my dad is married to a wonderful lady who is also a touch. They love to be in the same room, and will always wander over to each other to give a squeeze or pat. It's adorable. Now that's not to say that's all that is important. Tanya is also a quality time. Dad is not as much. They work on showing love to each other in ways that matter most.

Since reading this book, I'm more cognizant when interacting with friends, family, and others. I want them to know I love them even if showing them in the way they appreciate isn't quite as comfortable and easy for me. I love. Sometimes, I just suck at showing it.

How do you feel love?  How do you express it?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Most thankfullest of days: Organization, acts of kindness, and colours

I am so busy these days I can hardly keep up, but I haven't been this happy and fulfilled in a long time.  There are still things to work on, but on the whole, life is good. REALLY GOOD.  And, I want to share it with you.

Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario (pic circa 2012)

  1. I am loving my new position at work. I have organized, shredded, written, re-written, and cleaned. I'm in 7th heaven. I'm excited to go to work and have trouble leaving at the end of the night. 
  2. This weekend The Guy and I are going to finalize all our paint choices for the house. The basement is framed, electrical is done, plumbing is started, and choice time is coming! It's like Christmas for my inner-interior decorator. Check back for updates on colours next week!!!

  3. KB and kids from long ago

  4. My good friend, Chris, has started a wonderful project in the name of his late wife and my dear friend, KB.  KB was the kindest person I knew and often went out of her way to be kind for no reason. He has harnessed that in the website: Kindness by KB where he writes of her kindness and encourages all of us to be kind to ourselves, to our people, and to complete strangers. He also started a Facebook page where he (and myself and Wynn Anne) will have daily kindness challenges and reminders. I'm proud of how he is using his love of all things KB to make the world a better place.
  5. I finally finished the shawl I started in November. Now on to gloves for The Guy and a hat I promised a co-worker in Dec! (If only I had time to knit!!)
  6. I did a silly quiz on about which HIMYM character I was. I got Lily. This tickled me pink because The Guy got Marshall. I knew we were great together, but being a sitcom couple only solidified it! Over the head high five!!
  7. This week (and last weekend) has been wrought with visits of good friends. Here's to more coffees, lunches, and Skype calls!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The poor cannot afford to shop here: Rant about Value Village

Despite Macklemore's song, thrift shops are not new ideas. For years, people have been taking their gently used clothes to places that will redistribute them to people in need for a reasonable price.

In college, I often spent many hours wandering the aisles of the local thrift store, Value Village. I could get lost in the texture of a good leather coat and could spend hours daring friends to try on hideous cast-offs someone once thought stylish.

I found a style of my own in the racks of other people's clothing. Old man trousers, busy polyester shirts, warm hand-knit sweaters, and bright outerwear came home with me for a new life. I felt like each piece had a history and it would help me shape my future.

I was pretentious at 23.

More importantly, I could find a deal. I was living on $700 a month -- including rent, utilities, groceries, and my car. It was enough at the time - not much extra, but I didn't need much. I lived with 3 room mates, I could raid my parents fridge if need be, and I loved "retro" before it was cool.

I might still be pretentious.


This last time I wandered the hallowed lanes of The Double V Boutique, I was underwhelmed at what I found and a more than a bit appalled.

The front of the store was new items for sale. New, cheap (though more so in make than cost), and gaudy. The store was less of a treasure trove and more of an aging woman trying desperately to pretend she's 21. Too much lipstick, not enough substance.

However, the worst part was the prices. Any item that was quality was so expensive you could almost afford to buy it new. If the item was worn down and not really that great, it was still a low price. But anything that could be used to augment a poorer persons wardrobe was out of range.

It dawned on me that the thrift shop was not a place for lower income people to purchase things they needed at a price they could afford. Instead, it was a place for higher income people to find prices they thought were inexpensive.

I'm sure there are still deals to be had. Maybe, if one searches they will find a piece here and there that is both affordable and of quality. Maybe the memory of what Value Village was for me as a college student was not quite the reality even at that time.  But what I felt, as a woman with 15 years more experience than that doe-eyed girl, was that it was not accessible to everyone in our village.

Then it dawned on me -- I hadn't been poor. I had been a student. If I wanted to, I could have saved up money and bought things at their full price elsewhere. It was the influx of college students scoring the racks looking for their own voice that may have raised the prices out of the reach of the people it was meant for.

On the other hand, I got a really cute skirt.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Conversations with Grandma: lamp shades, spinsters, and fat aunts

I had a great post almost ready to go, but I got called in to work an extra shift. All good intentions? Out the window!  Instead, I put together a compilation of Grandma stories. Everyone loves Grandma stories.

2003 08 14 - See no evil ladies
Grandma, Auntie Jeanne, and Aunt Margarette
Speaking about a woman who died one winter. "You remember that woman? She wasn't quite right. But everyone was nice to her. Even if she was a little off."

When I told her I didn't mind whatever she wears to the wedding. Even if it's a lamp shade. "Well, it's decided then. That's what I will wear. You can introduce me to all your friends."

"You shouldn't eat so much cereal. You'll get rickets."

Talking about bonds she gave to me to hold for myself and my sisters. "When the others got married, I realized I might die before you and your sisters got married. So, I put the money I would have given you as a gift into bonds. Then you could have the money when you got married or turned 30. It's a good thing you waited to cash yours!"

For years, my grandmother has had a saying we've heard with a fair amount of regularity. "Fat as Aunt Annie" became something we took for granted as a saying said all over the world.

One day, Ky asked her directly "Grandma, where did the saying 'Fat as Aunt Annie' come from?"

Grandma looked at her kind of puzzled like and said, "I had an aunt named Anne. She was really fat."

The other night, we heard Grandma talking on the phone to one of our aunts. She was talking about how grateful she was that Ky and I were able to come visit her. She then noted that I had taken her grocery shopping earlier and she had bought some treats. She closed the conversation with a typical Grandma-ism.

"I shouldn't have bought all those snacks. These girls don't need to gain any more weight".

Monday, February 10, 2014

Keeping me warm: Winter Solstice Wrap

I began knitting 4 years ago this weekend. I flew out to Victoria to visit my sister and was determined I was going to learn to knit. I needed a craft I could do in front of the TV while I spent time with The Guy. We love to spend time together, but I often need something to do with my hands and it's difficult to hear a movie over the whir of the sewing machine.

I went from a simple scarf to a dog sweater and beyond. I sampled different kinds of yarn and needles and acted like a kid in a candy store around anything knitted. 

I'm still like that.

For my birthday that year, my friend KB bought me 3 large skeins of the most wonderful yarn imaginable. It was llama wool from a local farm outside the city. She had been in the area, thought llamas were cool, and went out of her way to get me that yarn.

I fell in love with it and knew it had to be something special.

Close up of the pattern detail

I'm sure she thought I hated it because 4 years went by and I made nothing.  Bupkis.

I searched patterns high and low. I knew I wanted to keep whatever I made, so it had to be right. I'm always thinking I will keep something and then end up hating it and never wearing it.

Fast forward to this November. I had a tough fall of career stress and disappointment after disappointment. I needed a project to work on that was challenging and beautiful. I stumbled upon this Winter Solstice Wrap pattern off Ravelry.

It was just what I wanted. 

I started knitting, but had to set it aside in order to finish Christmas presents. I meant to tell KB I had started using the yarn and why I had waited so dang long.

The night she was dying, I was knitting that shawl and thinking about her.

I worked on the shawl that week of her funeral. 

Today, I finished it. It is exactly what I wanted. It's perfect. I only notice the two rows I missed of them pattern if I look really close. It's warm and unique and smells oddly like livestock. 

The finished product 

I think KB would like that most of all.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: Futuristic badass Sirantha Jax -- Fiction Friday

It's not often I pick up a futurist sic-fi book. Unless it's a young adult distopian novel, I have passed right by them. However, this series took me for a journey into the mind of Ann Aguirre and deep space the likes of which I had only seen in shows like Battlestar Galactica and Firefly.

In fact, that's what this series reminded me of.  The premise is that space can be navigated quicker through the minds of a special few who can "jump" ships through portals. But that isn't what caught me. It was the character, Sirantha.

via Amazon

Few female characters are strong enough to make me really wish I was them. Few grow in the course of a series so that you wouldn't even recognize them from the first book except that you were there. That is Sirantha Jax. She is funny, irreverent, sassy, sexy, and too much fun.

Until she and her longterm boyfriend pilot a ship that wrecks carrying all the dignitaries of the known worlds. One that kills everyone on board but for her.  She is being charged for the "crime" and kept in solitary. She changes after that and continues to do so.

A band of misfit renegades rescue her and the fun begins. She's met her match in a damaged man of few words and they go on adventures worthy of The Enterprise.

There are 6 books in this series and it wasn't until I finished the last one that I realized I had no more to read. I was heartbroken. I needed to prepare myself there would no longer be this amazing world of multiple planets, aliens shaped like praying mantii (that would be oddly attractive by the end) and a camaraderie only found in war between soldiers.

By the end, Sirantha is a new woman and so was I. I felt I had been in every flight, every battle, every amazingly lush scene of new worlds.

I still miss it.

Check it out at

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Volkswagens, bossiness, and two-by-fours: Thankful Thursday

A beautiful winter day to drive. (And yes, I was pulled over) #100happydays Day 14
The view from my drive home one winter morning
  1. My first week as temp team lead has gone well. I like it and I feel I am making a difference again. For the first time in a long time, I was too excited to go to work to sleep.

  2. The house build is getting back on track. Basement floor is poured and the basement is in the process of being framed. It's going to be a real house soon.

  3. This video by Walk Off the Earth -- they use a VW Beetle to make all the percussion sounds. Unreal cool!!

  4. Even though I got stood up on a coffee date with a friend's son, I ended up stumbling on a knitting group I will be joining in the future. Yay knitting friends!

  5. I started back on Weight Watchers after a year absence. I'm not dieting, but I find I need a way to remain accountable for what I'm eating and this is the best way for me to do it. Love their mobile app!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Jealousy as a road map for change

The task for the Artist Way in week 7 was to create a jealousy map. By identifying who we are jealous of and why we can then look at how to amend that. Rather than looking at jealousy as a terrible, horrible personality flaw, and feeling down about ourselves for having it, the author encourages us to use it as a catalyst to direct us.
"My jealousy had been a mask for my fear of doing something I really wanted to do but was not yet brave enough to take action toward." Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way
So, in the spirit of growth and sharing, here is my jealousy map.

Who: Wynn Anne        
Why: Her fiction writing is so great. Seriously. You need to check it out.
Action/ Antidote: Practice writing fiction until I get better and pick her brain about things more often!

Who: my roving family and friends
Why: They have travelled so many places. My siblings have been to England, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Romania, and Eastern Canada. My friends have been to Austria, Australia, Brazil, and so many other places. My father goes to weird places so I am not jealous of that. Sheep brains for lunch? No thanks.
Action/ Antidote: To make travelling a priority. Put aside a portion of my "fun money" for solo travel and aside some of our home money for travelling as a couple. And/or, rob a bank.

This one may be a bit odd for you, but here it is.

Who: KB (my good friend who passed away suddenly)
Why: Her life was a true testament of how a person should be. The things people said about her joyous nature, her generosity, her love were not just accolades -- they were absolute truth. I would like to live my life in a way that inspires such prose and esteem.
Action/ Antidote: Live my life in a way where people can say things about me that I would be proud to hear. Live with honesty, kindness, humour, and compassion. Remember who I want to be and make every decision with that person in mind.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How I won super awesome Blundstone boots

I don't feel like I win a lot of things, but when I do, it's a doozy.

Once, when I was 11, I won a colouring contest and got a basket of Easter chocolate. It included a giant chocolate bunny.

When I was 27, I won a trip to Mexico and took my sisters. It was only available in August, but it was still pretty cool.

Now, I won a pair of the greatest boots!

I entered a giveaway on my friend, Elan's blog for an awesome pair of Blundstone boots. I have entered for them before, but never expected to win them. Elan is kind of a big deal and has a lot of followers (and thus entries). Also, I know her personally which means I will not win because that is just the way life is.

Imagine my surprise when I actually won!

I have heard people talk about the boots for ages, but I'm cheap and lazy, so I never got a pair. I was pretty pumped to know they were finally going to be mine!

I was contacted by a rep from Tin Shack and made arrangements to go down to a local shoe store, Iannones Footwear, to pick up my boots.

Wearing my new boots I won from @schmutziemorgan #blundstone #100happydays Day 16
My fancy boots!

Dudes, if you are in my city and need some shoes -- that is the place to go!! They sized me up, hooked me with the perfect Blundstone, and then were very patient with me when I also fell in love with another pair of boots I can't afford.

I settled on a gorgeous pair of Blundstone's and plan to come back for the other pair later.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Not a toilet seat cover! -- Post from the past

This story of my knitting adventure was posted Jan 17, 2011 when I had my site Buggering Knit Monkies. 

Since I was on a roll with other hats, as soon as I completed the last rainbow hat, I started on a green uber slouchy hat I had seen a pattern for.  I thought it was cute and something I hadn't done before, so I'd give it a whirl.

By the end of the meeting the second day, I had a fair amount done.  It was rapidly growing into something.  And growing.  And growing.  It was the hat that just kept getting BIGGER.

When I pulled out the hat in progress in front of The Guy he jumped back in surprise because it took up THE ENTIRE ROOM.  Not really, but it was quite large considering what I normally work on.  He laughed when I stretched it out the full length and said, "It could be a toilet seat cover!"

It stuck.  Every time I looked at it, I started laughing as I imagined our house covered in knitted doily type things including toilet seat covers of the 70s (but hand made so it's cool!)

Once I neared the end of the project though, it started looking like a real hat.  I'm happy with the end results, but will not be keeping it.  It belongs with someone else!

Side shot.  Ignore me.

Back shot.
This was difficult considering I had my camera over my head.
But look at how small my bum looks!
And it shows my back cleavage.  HOT.

Update: 2014
I sold it to someone who loved it. I'm glad they did. Their toilet must be very warm.