Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring cleaning. Part 1

It's that itchy time of year again.

And before you ask, NO, we do not have bugs in this house.

The itchiness I'm speaking of is that feeling I get every year, when spring is technically here (and by technically, I mean it's STILL FREEZING where I live, and trying to turn over the earth in the garden results in a bent-up spade), but for a variety of reasons, this fresh, new season seems to be just beyond my grasp. In order to soothe the itchiness and quell the urge to just bust right on out of my skin, screaming for mercy from all the cold and grit and SALT that's caked all over EVERYTHING around here... I have decided to undertake some clean-up projects, instead.

I'm not just talking about household-domestic projects... I'm talking about some general lifestyle changes and emotional clean-ups, too.

1. I let you in on some of my personal knitting shame in my last post. Although I've been steadily working away to finish a bunch of the projects-- I actually completed three projects in two days last week-- I have decided to release myself from some knitterly guilt. I actually FROGGED (as in RIP-IT, RIP-IT... OUT!!!) three other projects, as well. And do you know what??? Because I was really not enjoying those projects, the process of ripping out all those thousands of stitches was actually therapeutic. It felt GOOD!! That hideous tam, the blue pull-over, and the pale green summer sweater are HISTORY, people. Now, I can concentrate on a few things that will give me good feelings. FYI: My mother's sweater? Was not one of those frogged. Hell, no one's THAT good at conquering guilt.

2. I purged my facebook friends. Yes, I admit it-- I'm on facebook. At first, I signed up in order to keep an eye on my teenager, who was also dipping her big toe into the pool of cyberspace... And, a good thing, too-- there have been more than a few occasions upon which the Big Bad Mother has had to step in and curtail a few inappropriate comments from Child Number One's "circle" (needless to say, those kids have been notified and duly "blocked"). However, when I went back to school last year, I discovered that facebook was THE most convenient way in which to communicate with my colleagues, most of whom averaged about twenty-two years of age. We were able to instant-message one another, and the ability to share information quickly and conveniently was hugely beneficial. However. Now that I am actively seeking employment, I do worry about having too much of a "presence" on the world-wide web. Besides, what twenty-two year old do YOU know really cares that a 40-something-year-old woman is spending the day doing laundry, car-pooling the kids, and scheduling endless trips to the orthodontist?? Not very many, I can tell you that. Most of my former classmates can do without me-- and if they need me, they have my email address. Only my nearest and dearest need to see my facebook status: because YES, I AM THAT BORING.

3. I finished the final assignments for my university course. I am NOT taking any more courses this spring. Therefore, I NEED TO PURGE PAPER IN MY OFFICE. The shredder isn't going to know what hit it. Neither are my burly recycling guys.

4. In a vain effort to conquer the last of the crapola in this heap we call home, I have decided to redecorate the basement. Have I mentioned that we have a lower floor?? Probably not-- because it resembles the closest thing to Armageddon that I ever wish to see. It is a combination of late 1980's testosterone (think the dark-panelled bar in the tv show "Cheers") and the main play-area of "Romper Room". The resulting chaos makes me feel physically ill, whenever I have to venture down there. My laundry room is right off of the furnace area, and is chock-a-block with a higgledy-piggledy of random discarded articles that are too "precious" to actually throw away. I have decided that I can no longer stand it. SO. Out come the paint cans and overalls!! I am going to strip wallpaper, sand surfaces, and paint out the grime. Purging is always easier when you actually empty the room for a reason such as this: by the time I'm done with it, the place will look too damn good to shove all the crap back in there. It's going to take awhile, and it's going to get much, much worse before it gets better... but, this mammoth project should last me until the ground outside thaws, at least.

4. I used to sew. A lot. And, because of this, I have an enormous fabric stash that was carefully parcelled into large packing boxes, when my sewing room was dismantled upon the birth of Child Number Three. At the moment, I am working to create the costumes for a musical being put on by the public school that hosted me for my first teaching practicum (I'm so happy to be able to "give something back" to them!!), and the pleasure I'm discovering from sewing again has got me riled up to do MORE. Once the basement is done, I'm going to set up a proper station for myself upstairs, and get back to doing more of the needlework I enjoy. Of course, the main challenge will be establishing an organization system, so the whole thing doesn't get out-of-hand... That's one of the reasons why I packed it all up, years ago-- you can't have babies crawling around amongst the pins, getting tangled in thread and fabric scraps... Well, you CAN, but the results aren't pretty.

There will be more. And, as I get going, there will be photographs... Nothing is quite so satisfying as "before-during-and-after" posts!! Especially the AFTER.

What are YOU doing to stay sane this spring?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Post of shame.

Knitters-with-a-capital-K often confess to having a "problem" with knitterly fidelity.

Those of us who have a real obsession with yarn are seldom monogamous to one piece of stitchery. Like so many people with obsessive-compulsive challenges, we like to spread ourselves around a little. (Ok, a LOT.) We tend to have a few things on the go at once. You know, just in case we get a little bored with one thing... we can always trade projects for something different, until the interest in the first item is piqued again.

Ahem. Do I sound a little too much like Tiger Woods?


'Tis true, dear readers.

My name is Candygirlflies, and I have A Problem.

I? Am a Knitwit.

My friend Lynn and I were chatting today, as I browsed around her beautiful yarn store, exploring all the new arrivals, and laying my hands on all of the softest, most enticing fibres.

"You looking for anything in particular?" asked my dear friend (who, as it turns out, actually qualifies as a Pusher, as well as my Supplier).

"Nope," I freely replied, "I'm just here to make myself feel good."

Okay. So, feeling up yarn makes me feel better about myself. So what? Is that such a crime??

I was beginning to feel slightly less ecstatic, as the realization sank in.

I spend a LOT of time in the yarn shop these days. Hell, I've got the stash to prove it. And, it was Lynn-- not I-- who took a trip to sunny Florida this year.

However, I've also got the warm, handmade GARMENTS to prove it. So do many of my friends and relatives, for that matter. It can't be ALL naughtiness, can it?? Even my husband sports a wide, woolly scarf, as he huddles in the wind-tunnel every morning, awaiting his train to work. And, as a child of the sixties who was forced to wear MACRAME, he still wrestles with a personal demon who opposes draping oneself in handicrafts. (This winter was particularly bleak. Warmth won out for a few brief and shining moments. BUT. He still refuses to sport the hat.)

"What's on YOUR needles these days?" I quizzed my friend, not-so-innocently.

"I just cast on a cardigan this morning," replied Lynn, with a humourously guilty look in her eyes. The snort of laughter that followed this statement confirmed what I had hoped: Lynn was not a one-project-woman, either. How could she possibly be, with such a heavenly, wall-to-wall assortment of constant temptation??

So. I decided, then and there, that we would make a pact: no more yarn, until the stuff that's on the needles is DONE.

Okay, MOSTLY done.

(Hell, I'm human, after all. And, I've got the legal documents to prove it.)

Here's the plan: I'm going to confess my "sins" publicly, here... "air out my stash baskets". The big ones, anyway. Okay. The WINTER-SPRING baskets. The ones I keep at my bedside, and by the arm of the livingroom sofa. (The basement stash is still too embarrassing.)

Here's what I'm currently working on:

-a beautiful, soft merino hat for my dear old dad. I found this pattern on the Yarn Harlot's website (oh, Stephanie, how I love thee!!), and I've been whipping up quite a few of them. They're quick, they're a "no-brainer" that can be completed accurately during even the most exciting and engrossing movie, and they're portable. Great for the car, whilst waiting outside of schools for children to emerge. Dad's off to Scotland in a few days, so I'd better get cracking, and put this in the mail.

-a lovely, wavy ribbon-scarf for my mum. It's a birthday present, so SSSSSHHHH. Her birthday's this weekend, so it's a good thing this one is only 6 stitches long, and goes quickly. She's going to look fantastic in it.

-a tam-style hat. I hate this hat. I started it in November, and I just can't get past this point. Argh. Child Number One has expressed an interest in wearing it, but on the condition that it's done before June.

-an entrelac scarf. This was a good idea at the time: I was feeling fleetingly frugal, and decided that this would be an excellent way to use up all my lovely ends of Noro Silk Garden. Unfortunately, in order to knit entrelac, you have to count. Accurately. Turns out, when I'm in the middle of writing an enormous academic paper, the last damn thing I want to do before I pass out at night is COUNT. And, accuracy isn't my strong-point, either.

-a Debbie Bliss swing coat. This? Will be fantastic for Spring. It will be my nouveau-poncho. I have too many ponchos, and I wore them hunkered down in front of my computer all winter. I need to free myself from the confines of the poncho, and swing outdoors in this new coat!! Hopefully, Debbie will forgive me for using my favourite Diamond merino, instead of her name brand. (Tough luck, Ms. Bliss-- Diamond's cheaper, where I come from!!) The pattern is great, but I don't usually tend to knit stuff in pieces... I wish I could have done this as a sort of neck-down project, in the round. I'm just praying that I'll have the wherewithal to actually sew the damn thing together once I'm finished the endless reams of purple garter stitching.

-another coat. This one is truly shameful. My mother bought a kit for me to do up, nearly two and a half years ago. I promised I would make it for her. I promptly and heedlessly knit the two front pieces-- in two different sizes. I have a horror of having to completely rip out the second piece, and begin all over again. This project sits at the top of my basket at all times, and I swear the enormous balls of Marble yarn TAUNT ME whenever I look at them. The prospect of attacking this sweater makes me want to scream with frustration and tear out all of my hair, as a punishment for my hubris and general stupidity. But, because I am who I am, and of guilt-ridden Scottish descent, I cannot bring myself to confess my sins to my mother. I can't even bring myself to snip it to pieces with my sharpest scissors, and then flush all evidence down the toilet. I fear that I will still be dreading this project on my death bed.

-socks. I need some. Great for pulling out of my purse and knitting while waiting in loooong grocery line-ups, traffic jams and doctors' offices. Also perfect for hiding under the table during interminable meetings at school.

-a top-down sweater for Wee Three. At Christmastime, Wee Three decided that she no longer LIKES to wear pull overs. Sigh. It's a woman's prerogative, I guess, even if she IS only six... I might just rip this one out.

-a log cabin blanket. This one's crochet. So, technically, it doesn't count. People have been sneaking around and using it, and the unfastened row of stitches has been steadily unravelling. This is a problem. The other problem is, my idea for deciding when it would be finished was when I ran out of yarn. I keep going out and buying more yarn, so this thing might not get done until I'm completely bankrupt.

-a cotton shrug. I bought this kit, and my best-knitterly-friend bought one, too. We had a race to see who would finish first. Guess who lost?

-a short-sleeved summer sweater. I must put this on a round needle and get it done before it's wintertime again.

-a long-sleeved summer cardigan. Luckily, because of the long-sleeve factor, it really doesn't matter which season it's ready for. So long as I'm still breathing by the time it gets done.

God, that was shameful. Thank you for your fortitude.

Now-- do me a favour. If any of you catch me within five blocks of a yarn store, please grab the largest metal object you can find and whack me on the back of the head with it.

At least then I won't have to rip out my mother's sweater.

Monday, March 21, 2011

March "Break".

...because Noro "Silk Garden" makes EVERYTHING better.

Well, it's Monday.

Specifically, it is the Monday AFTER March "Break".

Who on earth decided that a week off of school constituted a "break", anyway?! This person was obviously not a parent.

This morning, I dutifully dragged my (exhausted, whiny) progeny off to their respective schools, returned home to the Steaming Heap...

And flipped on the computer.

Yes, I hear you. This SHOULD have been the day upon which I was filled with sudden bursts of joyous energy, and began my spring cleaning (it being the second day of spring, and all).

Or, better yet: I should have been rendered so elated by the departure of all the dear ones from my immediate vicinity, that I skipped off to spend the day at the nearest, cheapest manicure-and-pedicure joint.


Instead, today, I accomplished what I have long thought would be impossible: I completed and submitted the final, mammoth assignment that will (hopefully!) qualify me to teach secondary school.

Yes, that means TEENAGERS. You know, those strange, lanky creatures that one sees "hanging out" around shopping malls (strangely, during school-hours), squealing excitedly in unison into cellular telephones, and who are capable of rendering their parents apoplectic with the flick of a wrist and the exclamation, "What-EVERRRRRR..."

I (hope to) specialize in Shakespeare.

(oh my god... what have I done....)

We shall now proceed on a completely different tack, while I attempt to regain my sanity:

During much of the March "Break", my children and I were glued to the television set, watching events unfold in Japan. Several years ago, Child Number Two's grade two class undertook an extensive study of this incredible country, its culture and history. I was fortunate enough to be a volunteer in the classroom, and we all had the most wonderful time: we visited an open house at the Japanese Cultural Centre in Toronto, we learned the art of origami, and developed a love of cooking traditional cuisine (who would have thought that little people would eagerly snorfle down RAW SUSHI??! Not me, that's for sure).

We have all taken the earthquake and tsunami disaster victims into our hearts, and struggled for several days to determine how we could possibly reach out to them. With the help of Facebook, we contacted our friends, neighbours and relatives, who contributed anything they could, in the form of small change. People emptied their pockets, small bowls, junk drawers, piggy banks and tupperware containers for us... And for a solid weekend, my sister and I and the four littlest cousins sat around the kitchen table counting and counting... rolling and rolling coins (mostly PENNIES), until we had piled up nearly $150.

The four children, who ranged from ages 5 to 10, were quite a sight, struggling through the doorway of the nearest TD-Canada Trust bank, dragging cloth bags FULL of rolled coins behind them. The tellers were endlessly patient, and quite delighted to help us make the donation to the Red Cross Japanese Relief Fund.

How about it, dear readers?? This was one of the simplest and most informal fundraisers that I've ever organized. Why not set out a big coffee can in the middle of your office or school hallway? Just have everyone drop in the coins that would otherwise have been left jangling in their pockets after lunch... Or, better yet, search around your house for lost treasure! Dive under those couch cushions, double check the junk drawer, and mooch through old purses and pockets.

Facebook works, too! Put an "all-call" out on your profile, and tell everyone YOU'LL do the work!! If you roll them, THEY WILL COME. Little tin cans will mysteriously appear on your doorstep, zip-loc bags will materialize in your mailbox, and heck-- people will toss pennies at you AS YOU WALK BY.

It's the only experience I've ever had, where I've had money thrown at me.


But... it's the GIVING BACK that's the best part.

(You can trust me on that one, too.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


A Japanese Self-Defense Forces officer smiles as he holds a four-month-old baby girl who was rescued along with her family members from their home in Ishimaki City...

This beautiful image of hope among the ruins is so touching, and yet, I can't help fearing for the future of this tiny girl. Radioactive gases are spreading, and this incredible civilization of people are suffering so terribly.

Please join me in donating any amount that you can possibly afford, to The Red Cross, and to Doctors Without Borders. These two groups are currently "on-the-ground" in Japan (AND New Zealand!! We have not forgotten you!!), doing everything they can to provide practical, immediate assistance to all those in need.

Even those of us who are, by the grace of God, far enough away from the disaster to be safe and well, can reach out and help people who are not as fortunate.

Please remember that "non-specific" donations are able to reach disaster victims most quickly, as they require less "processing time".

Thank you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

There are lots of ways of being miserable, but there's only one way of being comfortable, and that is to stop running round after happiness. If you make up your mind not to be happy there's no reason why you shouldn't have a fairly good time.

- Edith Wharton

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When It Hits the Fan...

...the plumber is the man who saves 'em all!!

It turns out that what we had was a sort of "embolism" in our water pipes. When an embolism reaches the heart of a human being, death occurs.

As it turns out, when lethal air bubbles such as these reach the heart of a plumbing system, there is the same sort of result. With a lot of noisy drama, to boot. That huge water heater was rocking on its foundations, and we were terrified that not only the water pipes, but the gas line would erupt.

Many, many thanks to our plumber and his wife, who took our frantic calls at six o'clock in the morning. Many more thanks to the employee from Direct Energy, who came in out of the cold, accepted a large cup of tea, and then charged me nothing at all for re-connecting the gas and lighting the pilot for us.

There will be long, hot baths for us all this evening... how nice to be reminded of one of the great blessings, during a cold Canadian winter.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tell me about it...

We were awakened this morning by every water pipe in the house vibrating and banging so violently that the floors and walls shook... Managed to turn off the water main and gas line before anything burst or blew up, and here we sit, waiting for a plumber and a representative from Direct Energy.

Yes, indeed. It is a typical Monday in March for this "mild-mannered" housewife...

I need a Superwoman costume.

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