Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Shelf of Shame

I have been on a decluttering binge over the past couple of weeks. Hmmm... I see Blogger is not happy with the word decluttering and has underlined it in red. I just checked the New Oxford American Dictionary and they agree with Blogger. Well, all I can say is they are both wrong. I have an organized stash closet and sorted bookshelves to prove it.

The title for this post is in reference to this.



As I was sorting through my many shelves of books I kept coming across books I had not yet read. I kept them in a separate pile as I did my sorting, and by the time I was finished I had enough to line one whole bookshelf. What is even worse is I had forgotten that I owned most of them. Thirty seven books with clean, crisp covers and uncreased pages. An untouched collection of at least a year's worth of reading. Here's a sample.

Dreaming In Hindi; From Churchill's War Rooms, Letters of a Secretary; The Thirteenth Tale

A Mountain of Crumbs; My Grandmother's Knitting; Put Out More Flags


I blame the item in the blue leather cover on top of this pile of books.




While I love the artistic covers, the smell of the books as they are opened, and the feel of the paper under my fingers as I turn the pages, when it comes to actually reading I prefer my Kindle. Which is why there are 37 books languishing on my shelf. It is a classic case of Kindle Kill.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Water, Water, Everywhere

June-uary continues almost unabated. We did have two lovely, hot days this past Thursday and Friday, but we are back to the same old today. Here's the Environment Canada forecast for the next five days. It looks like we are setting a trend. We will only be allowed summer every Thursday and Friday. Just to change things up from the usual, today's forecast even includes a severe storm warning.


Today

Showers
  • 19°C
  •  
  •  

Sun

Chance of showers
  • 20°C
  • 13°C
  • 40%

Mon

A mix of sun and cloud
  • 23°C
  • 10°C
  •  

Tue

Rain
  • 19°C
  • 14°C
  •  

Wed

Cloudy
  • 21°C
  • 11°C
  •  

Thu

A mix of sun and cloud
  • 27°C
  • 14°C
  •  

Fri

Sunny
  • 28°C
  • 15°C
  •  
Issued : 11:00 AM PDT Saturday 23 June 2012
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect
Rainfall warning in effect.


Kamloops is where the North and South Thompson Rivers meet. This is the time of the year when the snow is melting off the surrounding mountains and the Thompson River is at its highest. Because the weather has been unseasonably cold, the snowpack has been slower to melt than usual. Then we had rain. And some more rain. And then it rained again. Throw in a couple of warm days (remember, there is still snow melting in the mountains, which eventually ends up in the river) and then some more rain. This is the result.

Clockwise from top left: Alexandra looking at the beach, now completely covered in water; the river is just a bit below the train bridge; the riverfront path is covered in water; you can see the snag just behind me - just one of the things that make the river so dangerous right now
This is the parking lot for the park, partially covered in water

In the large picture you can see the flood marker in the distance; the inset shows the lines on it from previous flood years - the 1999 line is barely above the water level so I am sure it will be surpassed

Here's the view from the back of our house. The inset is the past couple of weeks of my Sky Scarf, just to prove I'm not exaggerating about how bad it has been.


Even the dogs look depressed.




There's no choice other than to grin and bear it. Maybe summer will come next month. This seems like an appropriate time for this quote from one of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries:

"Hell hath no torment worse than Constant Forced Cheerfulness."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Unconscious Enjoyments

A friend told me she was so sick on the weekend that she actually found herself watching golf on the TV. I said it would take more than a simple illness to find me watching golf. I would, in fact, have to be in a coma. And yes, I realize if I was in a coma I wouldn't actually be able to watch the golf match. That's the whole point.

While I was on the exercise bike at the gym today I was thinking about what other things I would have to be in a coma in order to enjoy. This is one of the downsides to exercise bikes - they are deadly boring. After the first five minutes all productive thoughts have been used up and the rest of the time is spent pondering these useless kinds of things. Here is what I came up with.

1. Listening to opera. I'm sorry, I know this makes me sound very uncultured, but I can't seem to get past the point where I want to plug my ears and/or pull my hair out.

2. Reading science fiction. If this genre of books got swallowed by a black hole it would be fine by me.

3. Eating lima beans or liver. When I was a kid my mom would cook these horrid frozen mixed vegetables that had carrots, peas, green beans and lima beans in them. I would carefully move each lima bean to the edge of my plate, making sure it wasn't in contact with anything I was going to put in my mouth. I loathe lima beans.

The only food I loathe more than lima beans is liver. Many years ago Jay and I were staying with one of his relatives in England and they made liver for dinner. Now the thin-sliced liver I had the misfortune of being exposed to in North America was bad enough, but this stuff was several inches thick. Even worse, it was not cooked all the way through. The second our hosts turned their backs I slid that thing onto Jay's plate. After all, they were his relatives.

4. Listening to Fordyce's sermons. Okay, I made this one up. But Jane Austen makes it sound pretty boring in Pride and Prejudice.

So, as you can see, my body is getting more fit by going to the gym, but I am clearly losing my mind.

I hope my list of unconscious enjoyments hasn't offended anyone. It's fine with me if you want to eat liver and lima beans with opera playing in the background. Please just don't invite me over.

Besides, I know some of you are thinking knitting would be on your personal coma list. And I'm fine with that. For those of you who do enjoy being conscious when around wool, these are Thujas, knit with Rowan's Purelife British Sheep Breeds yarn. Amazing yarn. Fun, quick to knit pattern.




Saturday, June 16, 2012

June-uary Blues

I saw the term June-uary used to describe our weather this month. I'm sorry to say it is a good fit. We are on track to set records for the least amount of sunshine, most precipitation and coldest temperatures ever for the month of June, and judging by the extended forecast it won't be hard to do. My garden is suffering, and yesterday while the sun was briefly shining I ripped out some sad looking plants and replaced them with lettuce and carrots, two vegetables that seem to not mind the cool weather. I have a feeling I am going to be very tired of salads by the end of this summer. If this summer ever arrives.

This week I drove down to Vancouver to load my Subaru with Rebekah and Anton's stuff. Anton is moving to Korea in a couple of weeks, and our house is going to double as a storage facility while they are away. I stayed with my dear fibre friend Ellen, and I had plans to show you some great pictures of our yarn dyeing adventure. Unfortunately, due to the fact we needed to do the dyeing outside and there was a little too much June-uary happening, there are no pictures and there is no dyed yarn. We had a wonderful time in spite of the rain though. It gave us an excuse to sit inside, knit, visit, and drink tea.

Loading the car was an interesting experience. Anton is extremely well-organized and had everything boxed up and ready to go. His organizational ability along with the skills I have developed in loading up vehicles (think seven people crammed into a van along with camping gear, food, and clothes multiple times over the years) and we had every nook and cranny filled. It was sort of like a real life version of Tetris. So, instead of lovely pictures of hand-dyed yarn drying in the sun you will have to settle for these. Blame it on the weather.

Front View

Side View


Rear View

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

If I Ran The World

This blog post was inspired by my latest batch of whipped cream. For the first five decades of my life I thought I didn't like whipped cream. I probably shouldn't admit this, but for the first three and a half decades instead of whipped cream I would use Cool Whip. I look back on that artificial topping time as my culinary Dark Age.

Then about three years ago I thought I should give whipped cream a try. Big mistake. I discovered that not only did I like the stuff, I loved it! The second unfortunate discovery I have made is that almost any dessert can be improved with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

As I spooned some whipped cream over fresh raspberries yesterday I had one of my "if I ran the world" thoughts. And, as so often happens, one thought led to another. So here, in no particular order, are five ways the world would be different if I was left in charge.

If I Ran The World:


1. Whipped cream would be a healthful way to meet your daily calcium requirements.

2. Life would have a Free Parking day once a month. I don't mean the kind you find on the street for your car. I mean the Monopoly kind. In real life this would be a day where you had no pressing matters to attend to, no financial transactions or worries of any kind, no meals to prepare, no messes to clean up, and life took care of itself in a most efficient and pleasant manner.

3. Grown-up children would not cause their parents any worry. Until my children were grown-up I suffered from the delusion that this was the way the world really did run. This was no doubt due to brain damage from all that Cool Whip I consumed in my younger years.

4. Moths would only be attracted to acrylic yarn.

5. Fergus and Jenny would always look this angelic.






Friday, June 8, 2012

Gym Update

Since my one week free trial membership at the YMCA has expired I thought I should give a quick update. For our first day at the gym Alexandra and I decided to do a circuit class. If, like me, you have no idea what this involves let me explain. There are stations set up around the room, each one involving a different type of exercise. While loud, annoying music plays you are supposed to do the exercise until told to stop. Then, before advancing to the next station, you do a short cardio workout.

This might not sound difficult, but it was. I was sweating profusely before the workout even got started. Here's the thing. The instructor is assuming the class has previous gym experience and will be familiar with the terms and specific exercises. I don't and I'm not. By the time she got to the fourth station, quickly demonstrating at each one what she wanted us to do, I had already forgotten what I was supposed to do at the first three. And there were seventeen stations altogether.

For the first two stations I had to ask her to come show me what I was supposed to do. Once I caught on that the trick was to observe the person in front of me so I would know what to do next the rest of the class went okay. I was pleasantly surprised to find I wasn't even that tired when it was finished. This might have been due to the fact I spent more time watching the person ahead of me than actually working out at the station I was at, but still, as long as you don't count those first two stations I managed not to disgrace myself.

The final verdict on circuit class was Alexandra liked it and will continue. I won't be going back. Aside from the fact I am not a joiner or a group person, it really wasn't what I was looking for. I want two things at the gym (well three, but they don't hand out salted caramels as incentives). One is a place to get a good aerobic workout on days when the weather is too foul to walk outside, and a place to do some strength training.

I had just about decided I was going to bite the bullet and pay a personal trainer to help me put together  a training program when it suddenly occurred to me I had my own personal trainer living under my roof. To be more specific, in my basement. David has spent years training in gyms, and is currently working out in anticipation of trying out for the TRU soccer team this fall. He very nicely said he would help me out, and even got out of bed early two days in a row to go to the gym with me. Doesn't he look cheerful considering the early hour? Not only was he cheerful, he didn't charge me anything.




So, after my free week, I decided to join. I am taking it a month at a time. I like some things about it, like the exercise bikes that tell you your heart rate and adjust the difficulty so you stay in your target heart range. Surprisingly I also like doing the machines. Well, except for the one I can't figure out. But there is one thing I really dislike, and that is touching all that stuff other people have sweated all over. Gross. I feel like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.

Here's my best gym story so far. Alexandra and I were walking in, and I asked her if she needed a quarter for a locker. She said she didn't because she had brought her old padlock from when she was going to TRU.




I asked her if she still remembered the combination and she told me not to worry, then showed me the bottom of the lock.




If you are thinking it doesn't get any more pathetic than that you would be wrong. I borrowed that lock today so I didn't have to waste 25 cents on a locker.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Royal Respect

As I sat watching the Queen's Diamond Jubilee flotilla make its way down the Thames yesterday I was struck, not for the first time, by the thought that I quite like the Queen. The American part of me sometimes feels this is an inappropriate response to not just the Queen, but any royalty. I think this is one of the main reasons I lived in Canada for over 25 years before applying for my Canadian citizenship.

To obtain citizenship a candidate must take the Oath of Citizenship, in which you are required to swear loyalty and allegiance to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I agonized over this for years. How could I ever say such a thing and mean it? As time went on though it became clear that my life is here in this country, not the country of my birth. My children live here, most of my adult life has been spent here, and I can't ever see myself moving South of 49 again.

So a few years ago I got my citizenship. I swore allegiance to the Queen. And you know what? When I said the words I really meant them. The judge who presided over the citizenship ceremony explained that by swearing allegiance to her, it wasn't so much to her as an individual as it was to what she represents. I know he meant things like the rule of law and how we are governed, but as I watched her yesterday I thought about the other things she represents.

She has lived through many things and come out the other side with grace and dignity. She has faced everything from the Nazis dropping bombs overhead, to the challenges some of her own children and grandchildren have presented as they have lived out their lives in the public eye. I am sure there have been many days when she has wanted to just sit in her comfortable chair with a nice cup of tea rather than go out for yet another public appearance. For six decades she has served, through good times and bad, whether she wanted to or not. For me the Queen is more than our head of state. She is an example of how life should be lived.

So yesterday as people lined the banks of the Thames to catch a glimpse of this remarkable woman, I decided to have a cup of tea and a gluten-free scone to mark the occasion. As I headed to the china cabinet I knew exactly which teacup I wanted to use, one purchased by Jay's mom some 60 years ago.




I hope the weather improves for the last two days of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I loved how the BBC announcer described the weather yesterday as "unrepentantly damp." Of all the pictures of Queen Elizabeth the Second that have come out in the past few weeks, this is my favourite. I saw this on Facebook, and one of the comments said how one Christmas when her children were small the Queen stayed up most of Christmas Eve finishing up a pair of hand knit socks as a gift for one of them. I wonder if that is true? Anyway, true or not, this picture proves that she is, indeed, a knitter. What more could one ask for in a monarch?



Friday, June 1, 2012

What If?

A few nights ago I woke up around 3:00 in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep. This doesn't happen to me very often - I am one of those people who falls asleep the minute their head hits the pillow, and I usually stay asleep until at least 5:00. I am attributing my wakefulness to pre-gym jitters since it was the morning I was scheduled to go in for my orientation.

Anyway, I was lying there thinking about how, if I was Alexander McCall Smith, I would pop out of bed and start writing a book. I don't know if this is still his practice, but when I heard him speak at an event in Vancouver two years ago he said his current writing schedule was to get up very early in the morning, around 3 or 4, and write until about 8:00, at which time he would go back to bed and sleep for an hour or two.

Then I started thinking about how, if there was just one author I could sit down and have a chat with, it would definitely be Alexander McCall Smith.

Then I started thinking about other categories of well-known people I would like to sit down and share a cup of tea with. I know. I should have been counting sheep, but then I would have started thinking about fibre, and that would have had me thinking about knitting projects, and who knows what might have happened then. Because we all know ordering yarn in the middle of the night doesn't really count, sort of the same way calories don't count on your birthday. So I stuck with my What If game.

Fast forward to today, which happens to be my son Kellen's 28th birthday. He came up this afternoon to play a game of Scrabble, the old-fashioned kind where you reach into a bag and pull out smooth wooden tiles to play on a board, and I was asking him some of my What If questions to compare answers. Just for fun, here are our answers to the question "If you could meet anyone, living or dead, from the following categories, who would it be?"

Writer


Me:     I already answered this one, but will explain. I have heard Alexander McCall Smith speak in person twice. As a speaker he is funny beyond belief, in that dry humour sort of way that I love. His wit and wisdom come shining through in his books, especially in my favourite - The No. 1 Ladies' Detective series. If I ever get to share a cup of tea with him my first question will be to ask him how he manages to write in a woman's voice the way he does. When he writes the character of Mma Ramotswe it is like he is inside her head. I wonder if this ability to get inside a woman's head worries his wife. Plus I want to know  more about that getting up to write in the wee morning hours thing.

Kellen:     George Orwell

Sports Figure


Me:     Jesse Owens

Kellen:     Wayne Gretzky

Scientist


Me:     Albert Einstein

Kellen:     Charles Darwin

Politician

Me:     Winston Churchill would have been my answer even before my trip to Britain last fall, but more so now after seeing The War Rooms in London, and then Churchill's home at Chartwell. The first thing I would ask him is how he managed to do so many things, and do them so well. He was a master of time management.

Kellen:     George Bush was Kellen's answer. I looked at him a bit strangely when he made his choice. He defended it by saying he would like to ask him just what the heck was he thinking. Yeah, I would sort of like to know the answer to that as well.

Celebrity


Me:     There wasn't a single actor or actress that came to mind. I have never been a star-struck kind of person.

Kellen:     Charlie Sheen, and the reason was to ask the same question he had for George Bush.

Musician


Me:     I had a hard time with this one. In the end I decided on Yo-Yo Ma. I never could convince any of my kids to play cello, and I still feel a bit sore about that. I couldn't talk any of them into playing the bagpipes either, but I don't know any famous bagpipers, so I went with Yo-Yo.

Kellen:     Chris Martin (I had to ask who this was.)

Notorious Person


Me:     Hitler

Kellen:     Hitler

Chef


Me:     Jamie Oliver

Kellen:     Gordon Ramsey

Person From The Future


Me:     The person who finally finds the cure for nephrotic syndrome.

Kellen:     The person who figures out the formula that gives the prime numbers. (We are a strange family.)

Knitwear Designer


Me:     Kate Davies, my very favourite designer, who also happens to live in one of my favourite cities - Edinburgh.

Kellen:     Oddly, Kellen didn't seem to be able to come up with a choice for this category.

Blogger


Me:     I am happy to say this is the one category where the What If became reality. Last fall I had a wonderful visit with Jean Miles, who is every bit as charming and lovely as she appears on her blog. And just so you know, when you sit down with Jean you don't have a cup of tea. You have a glass of cider.

Kellen:     My mom. (Okay, I have to confess I didn't ask Kellen this question. But I know this is the correct answer because my blog is the only one he reads.)

Happy Birthday Kellen!