December 31, 2006
another day, another Tim Hortons
It's not that I've forgotten about this little journal, it's just that I haven't felt much like talking. Everywhere I go people keep asking me when I'm heading back to Georgia when all I really want to do is live for the moment and savour my time here with Peter before I have to get back on a plane and start counting the days all over again. We've been doing a lot of not-very-much, going out to coffee shops, watching many, many episodes of Naruto, sleeping, and just quietly enjoying each other's company.
Tonight, though, we're breaking out of our little asocial bubble to serve a midnight supper to eight friends. And, because I've been far too lazy this week to write up the lace scarf pattern I was planning to post here, let me instead give you these, which I just took out of the oven:
The Only Shortbread Worth Making
1 pound butter (I think you're supposed to use unsalted butter, but last week I forgot and used salted for the xmas batch and they were wonderful)
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 cups flour
Blend the butter and sugar then add the flour in two or three stages. Dump it out on a floured board, shape into a 1/2 cm thick rectangle with your hands and cut it into 3 cm by 3 cm squares with a knife (I prefer not to tart up my cookies, but rather to let the exquisite taste make up for the rustic appearance). Bake at 325 F for 20 minutes or so, et voila! Now gorge yourself while they're hot; you can afford to, since this recipe makes about sixty cookies.
December 16, 2006
glass half full
Good morning everybody. I've not much time to write today; we're driving to Toronto to spend some time with friends we haven't seen in a while, and as it's the only day this month when we'll get the chance, we're stopping in London on the way to pay a visit to my most favourite shopping establishment in the world: the Horton Street Goodwill with the dollar a pound sale in the back room. Yeah!
I really just wanted to place a little marker here, as today marks the halfway point in two important journeys for me. I am a year and a half through my three-year separation from my beloved, halfway through my terminal degree. Just eighteen months to go until I will never have to go to sleep alone again, never have to talk to Peter over the computer night after night when all I want is to touch him. But today is only a symbolic marker of that, and really I'm celebrating that halfway point this whole month while I'm home with him. The halfway point you can check on the calendar is this one: I am thirty-five years through my life. Friends, this morning I woke up middle-aged. And even though my back hurts a lot more than it used to, I think I'm going to like it here.
December 15, 2006
Merry Chex Mix, everybody.
*edit: there was a mistake in my sock pattern: you should cast on 34 stitches instead of the 46 I tried to scam y'all with. It's fixed now; carry on.
I had big plans. Big, huge plans for little presents for my knitty readers, scattered throughout this week. Why? I'll let you in on a little secret: I hate xmas. Hate it, in all its consumptive excess and its schmaltzy sentimentality and utterly false goodwill towards humankind; hate it with a seething, grumpy fury. As an atheist child of a mostly-lapsed Christian family I'm pretty much obligated to take part in most of the secular rituals of the holiday, and truth be told I don't mind so much the visiting and the hugging people and drinking and having fun and the teeny-tiny oranges. But the colossal waste of money and the giving and getting of stuff nobody really needs and the tacky decorations and the unspeakably bad music just put me in a bad mood.
A few years ago I was at an early evening artist-run-centre board meeting and a board member came in with little picture books for everyone, saying that if she had to go to a meeting on the first night of Hanukkah then she was going to give out gifts. It was the first (and only) Hanukkah gift I'd ever received. And I got thinking: I have to take part in this holiday that I hate. Christians make a bigger deal about Hanukkah than Jews do, and elevate it to a more important holiday than it actually is, simply because it is close to xmas and shares the tradition of gift-giving. So I thought, since I'm not Jewish either, maybe this year I'll give Hanukkah presents instead of sitting back being driven mental by the pre-xmas frenzy (who said my thoughts had to run in a straight line, or make sense even?). So I was going to prepare a bunch of little patterns, fancy cable charts, all sorts of knitty goodies to give away to my internet pals.
Well. See, that's a lot of work, and working's not really been a priority for me since my return to Windsor. So my big generous plans have gone the way of so much xmas knitting: well-intentioned and full of love but ultimately not finished on time and will probably end up being forgotten about for a few months and then sheepishly finished up and finally given, with mumbled apologies, in June.
Yeah, you've all been there, right?
So there will be presents, but not eight. And not every day. And I'm not going to buy y'all the bottle of booze that I would have bought as a backup gift for you when I didn't end up finishing your xmas mittens. Instead I'll just give what I can now, and surprise you all with little presents throughout the year, to show you that I love you even without being prompted by schmaltzy advertising and false sentimentality. And in the meantime, let's all do something kind for someone else, now and throughout the year, because we want to and not simply because we're embarrassed to walk past that guy ringing the bell with all of these expensive gifts in our arms. Might I suggest, for starters, this?
I do have a wee present for you today, though. Robin asked for a pattern for the socks I made for High Energy Fetus, who surprised us all last week by suddenly upgrading his status to High Energy Baby earlier than expected. I suspected at the time that the little guy might have overheard his mom and I the week before, talking about how much she'd like to go for a bike ride, and decided to free Jenny up to ride again a little early.
I had to cobble together a memory of what I did based on the photo, since the socks are far away now, but it's a pretty basic sock so I think this will wind you up with a pair just like mine.
High Energy Baby Socks (that rock!)
Materials: just a wee bit of Socks that Rock sock yarn; make these first and you should have plenty left over to make a pair for the little one's dad or mom so they can be all cute and matchy.
One set of 2.75mm (US 2) double pointed needles; four or five, whatever's your preference. I use four, so this pattern is written for that.
Stitch holder or waste yarn
Work picot hem:
Cast on 34 sts, join to knit in the round and work 4 rounds in stockinette st.
Next round: work [yo, k2tog] to end.
Work 4 more rounds in stockinette st.
Next round: folding hem to inside along eyelet row, pick up the first st of cast on row from behind, place on left hand needle, and knit together with the first st on the left hand needle. Continue to the end of the round knitting one st from cast on round with one st from current round to create a finished hem.
Work leg pattern:
Purl 3 rounds.
Knit 3 rounds.
Next round: work [yo, k2tog] to end.
Knit 3 rounds.
Purl 3 rounds.
Continue to work in stockinette st until the leg is as long as you want it; I made mine about another 1.5 inches after the last purl round.
Knit across 17sts, place remaining 17sts on holder (for gusset) and proceed working the 17 live sts flat as follows:
Next row(WS): slip 1, purl to end.
Next row(RS): slip 1, knit to end.
Work these two rows for 1.25 inches, ending with a RS row.
Next row: p 8, p2tog, p1, turn.
Next row: k 1, ssk, k1, turn.
Next row: p2, p2tog, p1, turn.
Next row: k3, ssk, p1, turn.
Next row: p4, p2tog, p1, turn.
Next row: k5, ssk, k1, turn.
Next row: p6, p2tog, p1, turn.
Next row: k7, ssk, k1. 9 sts remain on needle.
Place held stitches back on needle and resume knitting in the round as follows: pick up and knit 9 sts along left side of heel flap; knit across 17 gusset sts, pick up and knit 9 sts along right side of heel flap, k4 heel sts. Mark this spot as the beginning of the round and arrange sts as follows: next 14 sts on first needle, 17 gusset sts on second needle, last 13 sts on third needle.
Knit one round even.
Decrease for instep:
Next round: knit to last 3 sts on first needle, k2tog, k1; knit across second needle; on third needle k1, ssk, k to end.
Knit one round even.
Repeat these last two rounds until 34 sts remain (9 on first needle, 17 on second needle, 8 on third needle).
Work even in stockinette st until foot measures 3 inches.
Decrease for toe:
Next round: k to last 3 sts on first needle, k2tog, k1; on second needle k1, ssk, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1; on third needle, k1, ssk, k to end.
Knit one round even.
Repeat these two rounds until 14 sts remain; at end of round, knit 4 sts from first needle onto last needle so that there are 7 sts on each of two needles. Break yarn, leaving a 10 inch tail, and use a darning needle to graft remaining sts with Kitchener stitch.
Now, do it all again. Then dance around the room with them on your fingers like sock puppets. Or not.
And please let me know if I've made any mistakes or typos; Pete walked in the door just as I was cut-n-pasting in the pattern, and I'm too smitten to proofread just now.
December 12, 2006
I've got holiday head. Also known as little motivation.
But I did manage to put up some eggplant in oil today, that had been marinating in vinegar and salt for the last two days:
I'm really, really excited to eat this stuff. Here's the recipe I used, which our friend Jelena had her mother-in-law write out for me:
I love that it's written with the assumption that the person reading knows how to cook, and doesn't need to jack around with little things like measuring ingredients. Intuitive cooking is my favourite kind of cooking.
The recipe calls for garlic and oregano as the only added flavours, but the first time I ever tasted this at Franco and Jelena's house it was spicy hot, so I added some red pepper seeds. When Peter and I were discussing what else to throw in there he said he thought there had been something like mustard seed as well. I realized too late, when I was transferring the flattened-and-drained eggplant bits into jars (it's not like we ever cook eggplant and we don't even make our own baba ghannoush from scratch but rather buy eggplant already roasted and mashed in a can at the Lebanese grocery up the street, so I had no idea what it really looked like inside, or that there would be quite so many seeds.) that what Peter remembered seeing was probably just the seeds of the eggplant itself floating around in there, and by then I already had mustard seeds dry-roasting in a pan. So I put them into one jar and not the other two; who knows, perhaps it'll be one of those weird flavour blends that turns out to be perfect and wonderful.
I'm making a few changes to the pattern to suit me better: starting the ribbing higher, a little below the bust for the body (I really, really hope this ribbing isn't going to perfectly sculpt my amply rounded love handles, but am bracing myself for the inevitable and have added a bit of extra length to offset that) and just below the elbows for the sleeves; I ditched the collar and made a simpler ribbed neck that's lower on the shoulder and shows a bit more skin, because I feel like all of my cardigans are of the boxy type for wearing "over stuff", and I want to make a few that are more feminine and dressy. And I just like a boat neck better than a collar.
The yarn is a lovely red merino that I reclaimed from a secondhand sweater ages and ages ago; long-time readers who hang on my every stitch (yeah, there must be hordes of those, eh?) might recognize it as something you've seen before. It first made its internet debut as this ill-fated cardigan, and later on as a nearly-completed back of the Urban Aran. What you didn't see is the plain top-down number (inspired by Stefanie's Ubernatural, but with the gauge totally re-jigged); I finished the whole body on that one too before I realized that I'd made a mistake in the math and the fit was terrible.
So far this Forecast sweater fits, and looks lovely. I may run out of yarn but I'm not worrying about that just yet. If anything does go wrong, though, I think this time I'll just throw the wool in the garbage and console myself by eating lots and lots of eggplant.
December 08, 2006
Jessica's going to think I'm a complete tool for still being mad about this.
Yesterday I went down to the P.O. to mail some packages, one of which was a piece of art sandwiched between two rigid sheets of bookbinder's board. I asked to purchase insurance for the amount that I am being paid for the print, and the post office lady gave me a huge argument about how if anything happens to my package the USPS won't actually cough up that amount, but only the amount it would cost "to remake it".
What the fuck?
So she says, it's like, say you have a set of blueprints and you insure them for five hundred dollars. If they get lost or damaged, we'll only cover what it would cost to have them printed again.
Is that the way insurance is supposed to work? So I said to the lady, that's like saying that if you have a hundred thousand dollars life insurance and you die, the insurance company can say, well, it only costs fifty thousand to raise another child so we'll just give you that, it's the replacement value. No, you get the amount you insure yourself for. That's how insurance works.
Anyway. I know I obsess about this sort of shit too much and I should just let it go now that my package is on its way, and insured for the full amount. But what pisses me off is this: in comparing my work to blueprints, what she's saying is that the replacement value they would be willing to cover on my art is the cost of materials. If your blueprints get ruined and you have to go down to Kinko's to have them reprinted, you are paying a fee to Kinko's that included not only cost of materials but also labour, overhead and profit. If they ruin my art, do you think they are going to pay me a replacement value that includes profit? You bet your ass not. As it is, this piece was sold to a friend, at a friend price, and if I were to add up all of the time in this print including cutting the woodblock and sitting in the computer lab waiting for the Epson to print and multiply that by minimum wage, I could easily justify the amount I insured the piece for. (Of course, woodblock-cutting time is divided between all of the prints made from that block and I make many, many prints from each block, but that's not something I'd be telling the USPS, because they're assholes). It just seems to be another way in which artists get screwed.
Okay. Now I'm going to let that go. Deep breath. And centre myself.
See, I don't have anything more to stress about right now, so I've got to find something. Monday night, after collecting my students' portfolios and staying at school very late to get them all graded, I went to bed and dreamed all night about the students and their drawings. My students are all in their first semester of university and have to go through a portfolio review process to prove they're good enough to be in the fine art major (this review happened on Thursday morning, which is why I was grading portfolios before the last day of classes; I wanted them to have everything back in time for Thursday). So Tuesday night I dreamed that my students had all sorts of reading they were going to be tested on as part of their review, they were behind on it and really stressed out and I was trying to help them to figure out how best to budget their time and feeling terribly guilty because we'd been concentrating on drawing and not on the readings and I felt that I'd let them down. And the stuff they had to read was just awful, James Joyce and all sorts of other horrible crap. Ugh.
Up until last night when I was relaying this dream to Sandy, I thought I was just stressing for the students because of their review. But when I actually said the "I felt like I let them down" part out loud, I realized that the stress was actually about my meeting with my supervisor on Wednesday, because not only was I expecting to get in big trouble for a rule that I broke (I didn't get in too much trouble, and just have to, uh, not break that rule again) but he hadn't seen anything out of my class all semester and I was worried that he would think their work wasn't good enough. So, I thought that I was only thinking of my students but in reality it was all about me. Typical. (The meeting went fine. He was pleased with our work.)
But. All I have to worry about today is not getting to the airport on time, losing my bags, somebody crushing my big roll of Japanese paper that I'm (perhaps foolishly) flying with. None of which will happen, of course, and soon I'll be on a plane, worry-free, and on my way home to my beloved for almost a whole beautiful, blissful month.
Okay. Too many words and not enough pictures. I keep forgetting that the blog people are not all flickr people, and I do believe I forgot to show y'all this:
There are a lot of problems with this piece and the craftsmanship definitely falls well below my standards, but as it's really just a test piece, I'm okay with that. This isn't a piece that I will actually exhibit, but it has really helped me to figure out where to go from here, what my work wants to be about at this point in my career, and what I need to be concentrating on as I head into the home stretch towards my thesis exhibition. Expect to see more of these little rectangles, as I made about five times more than I needed.
Oh, and. I'm knitting a new sweater. It's going to be awesome.
December 05, 2006
I haven't really got any new work to show y'all. But my students have been working their butts off.
And look! I've put up some images of their work in a new flickr set.
Go have a look and comment and tell me what you think; I've been looking at their work for so long that I'm afraid I can't quite look objectively anymore, and am falling into the trap of the proud parent who thinks her child is smarter and handsomer and more talented than the other parents' children. But I can say with confidence that most of them have improved greatly over the last 4 months. I hope that my gentle guidance and hardass knuckle-rapping has contributed somewhat to that.
This is something I stole from Daniel Dingler: at the beginning of the semester I had them make a self portrait drawing as their first homework assignment, so that I could haul it out at the end and compare it to the self portrait they did as their last assignment. Tomorrow, in our last class, I'm going to put them all up so we can talk about how much they've grown; they'll hate me for that, I'm sure, because most of them are kind of embarrassed of those first drawings. But the new ones are awesome. In my not-quite-objective opinion.
December 01, 2006
day without art
I have closed my website for the day, but don't know how to close the blog. So instead of scrolling down and looking at my art today, visit the above links, give a donation, wear a red ribbon, use a condom. Be safe.