Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shine a little light....

I build a lightbox last weekend. Part of it came from a genuine need for a proper photographic space and part of it came from a true desire to watch light bouncing around. The light around here has been overly October-y. Being of the almost transparent variety of skin tones, I am somewhat fond of overcast and cloudier skies. However, the skies have achieved a truly Dickensian level of "bleak". (Not great for photos but fabulously evocative in a vocabulary sense - when was the last time you pulled out the word "Dickensian"? Do it. Do it today. It's delicious.)

I have high hopes that the lightbox will help improve my photography (of objects smaller than 14inches). I have a willingness to experiment as soon as I can locate enough lamps! The interesting thing is how the artificially generated light reflects most often the truer colours of things in photographs than in those taken under natural light. Some colours have been trickier to nail down....
Purple is one of the most deceptive hue-beasts to photograph. Purple is the colour equivalent of a photoshopped celebrity when they would've looked better untouched. Purple usually defies natural light as well. Purple needs to be seen in person.

The lightbox helps the item to look it's best. Ironically, the box itself is not particularly attractive. It is, though, collapsible. So while I can revel in the resulting pictures, I do not need to suffer the ugly lightbox's company. Strangely enough, it spends most of its time in the dark. And I find that amusing, if not illuminating. :-) (Sorry.)

Lightbox was build by using an amalgam of tutorials: Cardboard box and Foamcore.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Martha, More Carving...

We had a Soaps show on Friday night and as part of the theme, I was asked to resurrect my decade-old impersonation of Martha Stewart. (For the record, I don't think it's very good. But it was necessary. And it comes with a terrible [abominable? ridiculous? polyester?] wig. )

My friend J (Soapster and local newsperson) asked me that night to come carve pumpkins on the news as Martha..... (For some reason, he thinks it's funny...) Sigh. Sure, J. Whatever you need.

So tomorrow on the news, I will be massacring more members of the squash family. If you live in Saskatoon and watch CTV News at Noon, I'm sorry. :-)

I was supposed to use my werewolf as the "after" pumpkin but after ten days, it's not looking "show-worthy." It may even be growing legs, or things that will quickly evolve into other things having legs. So I carved another one. I've been eating sweet'n'spicy roasted seeds since...

Odd. For a person who's not-so-hallowe'eny, I've not only carved a pumpkin, I'll have carved three this year. Which is more than I've carved since I first did the Martha. That year... I carved an acorn squash.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pulling the Rabbit - Giveaway Winner!!

There are technological devices designed to do pick a winner. I prefer the old-fashioned way...
Scribe a little number for each comment.
Throw them in a hat. (Secretly wish you had a top hat for such occasions but as it is, a newsboy cap works just as well and is far more flattering to my face...)
Pull out a rabbit, a jug of milk, or a mitten-loving winner!
Congratulations to Whitney of WhiskerGraphics! It seems fitting that the first giveaway would be won by the first commenter on the post... There's a delightful harmony to it, don't you think?

Thank you to everyone who entered! There were some great comments and guesses... and I appreciate them all.

My Pumpkin was the Werewolf. (Mother did the Punk Princess - yeah, I know....??, Father did Senor Mustache - we all agreed it resembled him, Sister did Obama - she laughed when she discovered it was an option and then just couldn't get it out of her head, and Brother carved the Zombie - he's our resident expert on all things zombie.)

He's sad. He didn't win.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Beach Weather

This is NOT what it looks like outside. But it is prettier.

There's an old saying in Saskatchewan (and probably most everywhere else) that if you aren't happy with the weather, wait fifteen minutes. Today, it's warm. The sun is shining, the grass is green and the trees.... well, they're confused. I'd take a picture but I wouldn't want to embarrass them. It's like someone cut the water while they were in the shower rinsing out their leaf dye - can't find a towel, burnt sienna is running in their eyes, and Sunshine Courier is trying to deliver a package....

Part of me is hoping autumn resumes its somewhat early schedule. The other part is wishing it stays warm just long enough for the neighbourhood kids to get some sugar! Hallowe'en costumes when I was a kid were designed to fit over a snowsuit. Or you were strongly encouraged to be something warm or insulated. You don't feel much like a princess with a tent of a dress pulled over your ski-pants and a toque underneath your tiara.

Oooh, pretty.

There was a magical year when I was ten that we packed a sweater in our pillowcases "just in case" it got cold. We walked freely without the fun-encroaching accoutrement of winter with our costumes displayed with all the glory they had in school that day. Eventually, we put on the sweaters - not due to cold, but to make more room in the pillowcases for candy. It was a bumper crop! My arms hurt the next day from hauling pounds of high-fructose corn syrup confections and not from trying to keep circulation in my extremities. Good times!

Well, I think I will grab a walk before the game (Go RIDERS!!) and wait for the change.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is there such a thing as adult-onset attention deficit?

I can be easily distracted.

I discovered (realized) that I began several projects this week without really noticing. The good news is: I actually finished some.
This hat was for my brother (IL), adapted from this pattern from HelloYarn. I reduced the amount of skulls (which likely reduced the warmth a little) just to keep it subtle.
Fabulous project for learning new things - there was some fair-isle which led to continental knitting so I could keep my strands straight, a provisional cast-on which should not be done in anything fuzzy, and the belief that circular needles were invented by a demon who should be stabbed with my double-points. Repeatedly. :-)

I can remember the most bizarre and useless snippets of information that were gleaned during my formative years. Stephanie S's birthday is May 6th. I haven't seen her since high school. We weren't close. Emma Thompson guest-starred on Cheers and her character's phone number was 555-6792. And the names of obscure tv movies and the actors who starred in them. (That last one did actually prove useful when one of those actors walked into a restaurant where I worked. But nobody else knew him. They looked at me with does-elvis-talk-to-you eyebrow. So not THAT useful..) And YET, I spend hours looking for my car keys and need to read addresses and directions several times before they stick.

There was a focus that came with childhood that I wish I had retained to this day. OR that I'd had the interests I have now, then. The retention-ability bestowed on children but aimed at astrophysics or multiple languages.... ! (Insert audible sigh here) It almost seems like a waste.

What was I talking about?

I like candy. Wanna ride bikes?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pumpkin Mayhem.... and Free Mittens (giveaway)!!

My brother (in-law) had a birthday yesterday. Family lunch took place today and we were told that there would be "mandatory activites." If you just raised an eyebrow, you did the same as I.

They showed up with these....
Brother is big into Hallowe'en. In fact, I gave him a book on creative carving last year. But he does do some research on his own which led him to this site. We each had to pick a stencil and go to town.
And, oh sweet lord, did we ever have fun! Waxing nostalgic, cracking every kind of joke, visiting away and sharing secrets, tools and techniques... Guts and pumpkin shavings were flying through the air! Sister had some in her hair but asked that the photo not appear here.... :-)
Every few seconds, she'd stop, raise her head and try to figure out where a particular piece of pumpkin flesh had landed... I got beaned in the eye a couple times (My enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of me...) There were also some interesting turns of phrase to express one's frustration when a pumpkin failed to cooperate. :-)

My niece-dog - quite accustomed to getting the bulk of attention - wanted to know exactly what about a pumpkin was more special than she, the giant puppy (31" high at the shoulder. Yeah. Don't let the picture fool you - she's HUGE!)
Hours later...
Here's how they turned out:
That's Barack, a Werewolf, A Punk Princess Skull, Senor Mustache, and a Zombie.

And here's where the free mittens come in: Leave me a comment letting me know which jack-o-lantern you believe to be mine by midnight PST on Saturday the 24th and I'll do a random draw next Sunday, the 25th. The winner will receive a hand-knit pair of mittens made by yours truly!

Hint: It's not the one you think it is. :-{

UPDATE: Giveaway is now closed - thank you to all who entered!

Next post - toque for the birthday brat.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Brought to you by borrowed batteries

Sometimes, batteries die. It can happen at an inopportune moment - like right before you wish to upload some photographs taken with your digital camera.

Sometime, you forget to buy batteries. It can happen on a day where you're not feeling all that well and don't go out on errands like you planned.

Sometimes, you buy batteries and then leave them on the counter. Apparently, my subconscious doesn't think I'm over the loss of the original batteries and won't allow me to move on.

Sometimes, it seems really silly to write about batteries that have passed into the great beyond (or the little jar on the utility shelf waiting for toxic recyclables day). Especially when the photo is not really important. It's just socks. I had one photo I needed to upload and it was just socks.

Here they are:

I have finished them and they are cozy, perfect for the season. Came from the same magazine as the last pair. Far fewer troubles with these ones and I plan to knit them again, now that I have the kinks worked out.

And perhaps, the next pair will be less anti-climactic.

My first camera didn't take batteries. It was a hand-me-down 110mm cartridge camera. It was taupe, about twice the length of my digital but the same thickness and had huge flash cubes more blinding than oncoming trains at midnight. You need a new flash cube after every four shots so you had to be very choosy about which pictures you decided to take and where you wanted to take them. Then you had to wait two or three weeks to see how they turned out.

Sometimes, realizing that you have the freedom to take as many pictures as you want, when you want, is worth forgetting two stupid little batteries on the counter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and The Oven ( the good is a recipe, sort of..)

If you're Canadian, then yesterday was Thanksgiving. If you're American, it was Columbus Day. If you're neither, it was probably just Monday.

I, like most Canadians, ate turkey on Sunday surrounded by friends and family, and laid about Monday eating turkey buns and doing very little, save coming within rows (rows!) of finishing a pair of socks before my hands revolted and refused to knit another stitch! Sigh.

The Good: My favourite appetizer - ridiculously easy

Sweet and Spicy Baked Brie - original recipe can be found here (Their granola is also awesome!)
You take 1 tbsp chili paste and 3 tbsp brown sugar and smoosh them up.
Score your brie and slather it on top. Bake at 350 for 20-30, or if you are me the other day at 400 (turkey temp) for 15 minutes or so. I have a brie baker
to speed the process but you can use a small casserole or even an uncovered pie plate - it is not even remotely associated with rocket science.

Serve it with crackers or bread rounds. I imagine you could use almost any chili paste - I just really like this one. DO NOT use a brie with a "blooming rind". Trust me.

The Bad: Supper tonight was boxed macaroni and cheese made in the microwave.


The Oven: My mother decided Monday would be a good day to try the self-cleaning feature on her relatively new oven. I'd cleaned it once for her months ago using the overnight baking soda and water method (so slick!) and offered to do that again. But she wanted to do the self-clean. Three hours later, it won't stop beeping. It shows an error message but when you press cancel, it just starts up again. And again. And again. We tried throwing the breaker to reset it. Nope. So she tried turning off the breaker and letting it cool. Nope. And we're locked out of it. An online search reveals little and the manual directs us to call for service after we locate the serial number. INSIDE the door. Sigh. We did eventually get a hold of service people (who managed to track down the serial number using just a phone number - scary) but they aren't available until Friday.

Thank goodness we're creative people around here. :-) I'm also very thankful that this minor kitchen glitch is the worst thing with which we have to deal. We're lucky for health and family and a roof and the luxury of a new oven to break down...

Especially since mum also said, just before turning on the self-clean:

"Your father's outside, on a ladder, with a chain saw..."

Very thankful!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Words that Start with Snow

And by that I mean the words that begin to swirl in my mind when I see the first flakes... Especially the fat luscious tongue-catchers that clump up and turn you into an Austrian governess as they stay on your nose and eyelashes... Or clean, clear icicles that cause Lara's Theme to swell up in my head with visions of the ice palace. What can I say? Winter makes me giddy...


and many wonderful images and memories that come with them.

I am feeling much better today (thank you for the well-wishes...) and was treated to the beauty of wet clusters of snowflakes (the upside of a headache for me) and an inability to see too terribly far... I know it's a little cold out and a little too soon for most people but I feel awfully cozy in a world that's pulled its snow blanket over its head.

And since it appears that natural light is not in the forecast, I took pictures of my finished quilt anyway.

I expect sunshine to appear almost as soon as I hit "publish". :-)

I call it "Happy Hour, Drunken Stitches". I thought with a Happy Hour pattern that straight stitches might be inappropriate somehow. It's also huge - queen - and straight quilting might have been beyond my capabilities last week. :-)

I plan to curl up under it immediately with a cup of peppermint tea and fresh inspiration. The only decision left is whether to choose notebook (as in laptop) or notebook (as in spiral bound and pencil) to record it.

Hope the weather is to your liking wher'er ye be...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Just Get Over Yourself

Day seven of cloud and rain. Don't get me wrong - I love the rain and the majority of the last week has been lovely. However, as a person who is afflicted with climate migraines, the fluctuations in air pressure have been somewhat interesting...

After being held hostage in the house this morning (waiting to let people in who don't arrive when they say they will), I was anxious to get out even for few minutes, enjoy a breath of fresh air before the latest wave of the ebbing, flowing skull-crusher arrived in my brain. So ipod attached, I donned my favourite beat-up jacket and strolled to the corner store. (Stocking up on caffeine - the only medication I trust or that remotely works :)

Coming out of the shop, I was struck by a particularly jovial beat and almost broke out into an arm-swinging skip and a shake of the behind. In the middle of raising my arm, I caught a memory of myself in a large bookstore, browsing the shelves and grooving much like I was about to do now, when my eyes alit on a very confused clerk who had been watching me. I became instantly aware that I was wearing my iPod then, too, and no one was sharing in the same soundtrack... And so I suppressed my inner dance instinct lest the neighbourhood get a glimpse of crazy.

Not half a block from the store, I heard these lyrics:

"Just get over yourself. This ain't no good for your health. So just get over yourself."

I laughed. Out loud.

And boogied all the way home. After all, what did it matter what the neighbours thought? And if they did see, it would either be strange to them or put a smile on their face. It certainly wouldn't ruin their day and if they smiled, all the better. And dancing, happiness, fresh air - these all lead to the good endorphins which could not be a bad thing for me at the time and might even stave off the impending migraine...

I remembered Dancing Dan - a guy in Edmonton who travels by foot to where he needs to go. And busts out at every traffic stop. Lip-syncing, fully-choreographed and not at all self-conscious. He's known throughout the city. Seeing him on my way to work was a good omen for the day. And a reminder to Just Get Over Yourself.

Alas, I did not prevent the railroad spike currently driving itself through my temple. But I didn't sit around all afternoon being held hostage by it, waiting to let it in. Instead, I enjoyed the afternoon. And I re-learned something important.

So if you need to.....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's not a bird, or a plane... It's a ..???

Raindrops through the windshield. Auto-focus can be a wonderful thing. When you think you're taking a picture of one thing, you end up taking a picture of something else entirely. I can't even remember why I wanted to snap this sculpture and looking at it now... I can't remember exactly what the sculpture was. It looks a little odd now - what is going on in bronze? Is it a two-man shimmy song and dance routine? An arrest of a drunken cowboy by the upright Mountie? What is that?

Reminds me.... I need to clean my glasses.

My over-all point is that is still raining here. The sky has been this exotic non-colour since I returned from Beaver Creek last Tuesday. It drizzles off and on with the rain swelling and subsiding like a prairie tide but the non-colour of the sky remains. It's not unlike the dingy sweat sock laid out next to the bright white sock in the old bleach commercials. We have a dingy sweat sock sky.

Smells considerably fresher, however.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Coffee and Raindrops

The last few days have been the kind where a steady drizzle sets the mood. You could spend all day just staring out the window, glad to be inside, with a ramekin full of creamy, silky, creme brulee and a cup of hot black coffee.
I meant to take a photo of the creme brulee when it arrived but the picture speaks the truth: it was just too good not to dig in right away. ( In Saskatoon, Calories on Broadway is one of the best places in town....)

These are good days for baking banana bread, fuzzy sweaters, cat naps, and stacks of DVDs to keep you company while you hand-stitch the binding on your new quilt. I've finished it but, obviously, we are sadly lacking in natural light this week and I haven't been able to photograph it, either. Gives me time to wash the cat hair out of it. (I meant the part about cat naps literally.)

I'm just waiting for more leaves to turn. Things are still pretty green around here and it's only enhanced by the rain. Greens are always more green when it's raining. I have a theory that rain is the reason Ireland sparkles like an emerald. But I'm waiting for the oranges, reds, and buttery yellows to keep me warm. Until then, I'll just have to snuggle up under the quilt with the Nap King.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Badger, The Timbits, and The Runaround

Someone asked me about the badger in my note from yesterday. "That thing that time" is the following story as I related it to my family shortly after it happened.

Words and abbreviations you may need if you're not from my neck of the woods:
CFB - Canadian Forces Base; the British Army have a training unit at CFB Suffield in southern Alberta, near Medicine Hat
BFBS - British Forces Broadcasting System
SGI - Saskatchewan Government Insurance (everyone gets their plates from them)
Timbit - a doughnut hole from Tim Horton's

The Badger, The Timbits and The Runaround

Aug 13, 2005

Apparently I have one of those faces. The kind that says "Tell me your life story - I'm interested. Oh, and don't forget to ask me a heap of questions about my life." I don't ask. It's all just volunteered. So naturally, I know a bunch about my new friend Ernie the tow-truck driver.

I'd just cleaned out my car. I love it when it's freshly vacuumed and not dusty from many a road trip to the wilderness of Medicine Hat. It's a drive I've done often since I've met my Englishman. So I'm familiar with the trek and driving at night is not a worry to me. You get some Tim's and some water and you drive. It's relaxing and theraputic for thought. Mentally cleansing. Like a clean car. I've composed many a line for my play and various other things while driving. But I also pay attention to the road. After all, I'd seen deer and a fox or two by the time I'd passed Burstall and into Alberta. You can see where this is going...

About 4:15 am. I'm forty klicks out of Med Hat and due at CFB Suffield around 5. I'm already tuned into the BFBS and appalled at the "music" the Brits are playing at this hour. Who wants electric pop this early in the morning? It's uncomfortable but tolerable agony. Like waiting for SGI to phone you back.

Just ahead in the road, and I mean -just- ahead, is a large pavement-coloured object trotting along down AB41 headed south. Two feet high, two feet wide, solid fur. Badger, living brick, whatever. Maybe it was a porcupine. Didn't really have time to ask it. And the poor defenseless tank of an animal wanders into my lane just as I'm swerving to avoid it.

Hit it with the front tire. Pretty sure I nailed it with the back tire, too, but now I have to swerve to keep on the road. Not easy with a flat. So naturally I end up in a 360 and down the fifteen foot bank into the ditch. I 360 down there, too, and end up facing west at the bank I've just roller-coastered down. Engine shuts itself off. Hunh.

First things first, I'm fine. Completely uninjured, completely calm, and thinking "How'm I going to get the car up this bank?"

I get out to assess the damage. Driver's side is perfectly fine. I walk around the back and as I suspected the front tire is flat. Okay, I have a spare and though I've never done it, in theory I can change a tire. Then I look at the back wheel. Actually, I'm looking at the back axle where the wheel suspiciously isn't. I swear to God my first thought was "I don't think I can fix that with the spare." The wheel and the rest of the axle is about fifty feet from me and, in the glow of sunrise, it's easy to spot. I trudge it back to the car and, in denial, wish I had some duct tape.

Cellular coverage is analog in a fifteen foot ditch but you can get CAA on the phone easy enough. Then they call Ernie. Then I call C* and tell him I'm going to be a little late getting to the base.

"What happened?"

"Well, I'm fine but I'm not sure the badger's going to make it." I just hope I killed it. It was so large I can't be sure but a tiny little person like me is not going to be stupid enough to check. I'm not about to provoke a mortally wounded badger by checking to see if it's dead. Plus,...gross.

So twenty minutes later, I'm sitting in what's left of my car and gathering the contents of my purse which had been in the front seat but was somewhere under it and dusting the timbit sugar off the dash. It HAD been clean. There's Timbits under the rear window, too. Hell, it looks like Tim Horton's exploded in my car. Picture donuts reacting like popcorn in the event of an emergency. And C* calls. He's showered and dressed, he'll grab the car and meet me wherever the hell the truck driver takes me, and am I sure I'm okay? He's a gem, my C*.

Ernie tells me about all sorts of accidents he's seen involving badgers and jeez, they're huge and boy, you're lucky you didn't roll it and this really isn't all that bad, but hell, you could've been killed. I must be a helluva driver, and boy, you're lucky you didn't roll it. So...where were you headed?

It's a half hour to the city sooo Ernie and I have plenty to talk about. Who he used to work for, the army base, my sweetheart the corporal who'll meet me at the autobody shop, Ted's Autobody, because Ernie knows Ted from way back.... The lot's littered with trashed steel and Ernie rattles off the former cars for me. "Deer, deer, moose I think, deer..." He reaffirms that I'm lucky. I just smile. He's probably right.

C* picks me up, six in the morning and takes me for breakfast. And then begins the runaround. Trying to get a hold of the autobody shop. Trying to get an estimate. Trying to get a hold of car rental agents. Trying to get a hold of SGI, the RCMP, the police and everyone telling me I have to call somebody else until the last person tells me I have to phone the first. Sigh. I try and stop myself from thinking about the nearly full tank of gas still left in my now totalled Cavalier. The bright spot in the dark side is, now that C* has to spend time overseas, I won't need a car for the drive to Suffield for five months. (insert bitter and ironic smile slash sigh here)

Taking a cab to work means meeting more people who tell you all about how slow the summer is and how happy they are you're taking the cab because they sat in the heat waiting for a call for an hour. Little immigrant ladies with a dozen pine trees, a rainbow forest, hanging from the rear view with Jesus and his tree, telling you how it's a miracle you called, a miracle that you happened to need a lift that day. "Oh, thank you, thank you" as the radio beeps with another fare, "See what you started?" She smiles big at me and "miracle" escapes her lips again. To her, I'm lucky.

And I am. Sure, I've owned four cars and sold four cars to SGI. (No fault of my own) Sure, my boyfriend may be posted to Iraq at any moment, but he's a good man and I'm very lucky he's mine. And yes, random strangers tell me tons of stuff not necessarily relevant to my life but I'm lucky.

I just must have one of those faces.

Since then, I've sold another car to SGI, realized my geometry above is impossible (and should be 270 and 450), C* has been many places, and I've managed to avoid coming in range of any badgers - and I still feel bad about it.

Yesterday, I saw all kinds of birds, a giant dragonfly, prairie dogs, chipmunks, and two snakes. I heard a number of living things scruffling (it's a new word - you won't find it in the dictionary yet...) about in the brush. I imagine they were bunnies and squirrels until I saw the snakes. Then they all became gnash-y teeth monsters and retaliatory badgers. But I wholeheartedly believe that an overactive imagination is better than none at all.