Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas trumps progress

Christmas has taken over my life.

All the projects I have been working on over the past few months have been gift-related. Due to the slim chance that one of those potential receivers might actually read this blog (ha ha!), I have refrained from posting on the projects.

This will change in the new year. You just wait, Internet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

G and I have been together for awhile - this will be our twelfth Christmas as a couple. Twelve years of exchanging gifts that have wandered the range between simple, awkward, overboard, sweet, ill-thought out, and perfect. And of course there were different understandings and expectations around the term 'stocking,' and what that might contain.

The past few holidays we've taken different, more creative approaches to our gift-giving. Sometimes homemade or edible (or drinkable) components are required. Last year we adopted a Twelve Days of Christmas strategy - over the twelve days leading up to our leaving for Christmas with my family, we would place a gift under the tree. Most were small silly things, but it was fun to watch them pile up. Twelve Days. Twelve Gifts.

We liked this idea, and have adopted and adapted it again for this year. We came up with a list of twenty-four 'categories' (or 'themes'), and from those twenty-four we selected twelve at random. Gifts we buy this year must reflect these themes.

The inspiration for our gift buying for Christmas 2009 is as follows:

  1. Something we can do together
  2. Something they can do/use outdoors
  3. Something cuddly
  4. Something beginning with the first letter of the person's name
  5. Something that rhymes
  6. Something from the store 'Little Mysteries'
  7. Something reminding us of our childhood Christmases
  8. Something delicious
  9. Something from an art gallery
  10. Something they'd want to display
  11. Something practical
  12. Something they'd want to take to work
Obviously, many of these themes are open to interpretation (something cuddly: do I get him the socks, a bag of cotton balls, or a kitten?), and I'm looking forward to seeing what appears under the tree.

Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time coming up with clever ideas. This could get interesting.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Duvet Cover

I've noticed that my once beautiful white duvet now has a slightly-less-beautiful dinginess to it. This bothered me for quite sometime before I finally decided to do something about it. I thought about washing it - but the thing is HUGE, or at least it seems huge from a washing machine practicality perspective. So I've decided to make a cover for it - which is more work in the short term but less work in the long term, because the cover will be so much easier to wash.

I already had a large stack of appropriately gorgeous material that I'd acquired while still in Toronto:

I just needed a pattern. The first one I found that I liked was from (actually, now I can't find the link - it appears to have disappeared. Curious). It seemed straightforward, and easily adapted to the fabric I wanted to use. I would have to come up with another fastening solution, as I am clueless about buttonholes. I thought I was up to the challenge.

And then I saw this one. I really like the varied fabric sizes they've used, and it's got a tie closure. Unfortunately, I had already cut most of my fabric for the first option, and didn't have enough to start over again (nor did i really want to). So, I'm going with the first design, and have the first five rows of patchwork done:

It's progress, and I'm looking forward to doing some more work on it this weekend. Fingers crossed it turns out ok!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bonsai Maple (update)

All I grew was mold.

The mold did look healthy and it certainly flourished, but it wasn't quite the maple seedling I was hoping for.

Just for reference, because I didn't include it in the original post, this is the picture that I fell in love with:

Hardly a pot full of mold.

I will give it another try, because I love the results so much (so dramatic!). My next attempt, however, will certainly involve a pre-started bonsai.

File this one under Project Fail.

*Image is from Martha Stewart Living, and is certainly not a depiction of my living room

Monday, November 2, 2009

Adventures in Paper Piecing (also an Ode to Pressing)

My mother has been doing paper piecing (or 'foundation piecing') for years, and has developed quite a skill for it. She's done fabulous Christmas wall hangings with bright cardinals, precise star bursts, quilt blocks, and probably a zillion other wonderful things. And she makes it looks very, very easy.

When my mother finally bought herself a new sewing machine, I inherited her old Kenmore. It's a clunky piece of machinery that I have always mistrusted, but I was very excited to have a sewing machine of my own. One of the first things I wanted to try was some paper piecing, as it seemed a fun ticket to instant gratification. My efforts were not as successful as I might have liked:

(I intended to have a photo here, but apparently I kept none of my early piecing work - in theory, a testament to its crappiness)

I tried a few more times with similar results. I quickly got frustrated and moved on to other things.

Since moving and getting my sewing corner set up, I've decided to give the technique another shot - and do it right this time. I spent more time on colour consideration (not my strong point) and set the ironing board up in the most convenient spot for quick and easy access from the sewing machine (or 'directly in G's way'), pledging to press my little heart out.

I've found that it's easy to forget about pressing, or to ignore the ironing board - or to just be plain lazy about it. Pressing after every line of stitches seems far too daunting - surely it doesn't make that much difference? Right? Right?! Turns out, diligent pressing makes an enormous difference. It makes things easier, and turn out so much nicer and cleaner looking - and did I mention easier? Who knew?! Ok, everyone who's ever tried to teach me anything about sewing knew it - but now I believe it!

Also, turns out I like piecing after all, and am not so bad at it as first suspected.

I know, it's not great - but I think it's pretty darn good for my first attempt in awhile, and I'm pleased with it. So pleased, in fact, that I've already moved on to something much more ambitious:

This will be a ship, which will then be turned into a 'ocean view window' for my cubicle. In theory. The piecing went very well, thankyouverymuch, and I am pleased with my colour choices. But the assembly is offering up a whole new set of challenges. But more about that next time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Favourite Books - Reappraisal

I recently coerced G into joining Facebook - though it's a secret and will be short-lived. While helping him set up his profile - and by 'helping' I mean 'doing it for him' - I was asked about what sort of information he should include in his profile. I mentioned he could include work and school history or a list of favourite books, whatever he wanted. Though he declined to flesh out these details, it got me thinking about what I include in my online profiles. I should probably be thinking about personal information, public vs private content or copyright issues. But I'm not. I'm thinking about my book list. My Facebook 'Favourite Books' information is actually just a list of my favourite authors, as follows:
Julian Barnes, Jane Austen, Ann Patchett, Miriam Toews, Jasper Fforde, Sandra Gulland, Jack Whyte . . . but I'll read just about anything

That last bit is a lie, of course. I will not read 'just about anything', even when desperate. I recognize that I don't necessarily have the greatest taste in books - but I'm still a bit of a snob. As I studied this list, I couldn't help wondering if these authors and their writing continue to represent my 'favourites' - the best of the best that I've ever read. It's been years since I've read any Julian Barnes, especially something I would include in a 'favourites' list, and the same goes for most of the authors on that list. As you've likely already gathered, I intend to reappraise my list of favourite books. These are the books that I tell people are my favourites and that I tend to revisit:
  • The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, by Julian Barnes
  • England, England, by Julian Barnes
  • Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
  • The Magicians Assisstant, by Ann Patchett
  • Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
  • Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond
  • A Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews
  • Josephine B. trilogy, by Sandra Gulland
  • Dream of Eagles saga by Jack Whyte
I haven't included books that I love that I've already reread a number of times, such as Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter.

This is a fairly substantial list, and I'm really not a very fast reader. I'll keep you posted as I work my way through the list, but recognize that it will take some time.

Let's see what happens.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Project #4 - Embroidered Space Towels

I have been working on these embroidered tea towels (patterns from Sublime Stitching) for a long time. That's not to say that they took a lot of work - they were just something I puttered with when i didn't have anything else to work on. Unfortunately, this means there is little consistency in the colour choices and stitch selection. But they're done!

This is the first one I finished, and the one I am the least pleased with. Not saying I don't like it, but but I think the black looks a little too heavy. I think it would have worked better if I'd only used two strands, rather than three.

I like the robot. He makes me happy.

This is the second sexy space lady, and I like her the best. Still not totally happy with the skin thread colour - a little too orangey for my liking - but overall I am quite pleased. I like her purple outfit. I want her purple outfit.

This is the three of them together on my kitchen stove.

Done! Taking them off the Project Jar list!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where I lay my books is home

It has taken me longer to get settled into my new apartment than I had initially anticipated. I've been moved in for just over a month and a half, but only now is it starting to feel a bit like home.

I loved the apartment immediately, we both did - and the thought that we had just missed out on it made it seem all the sweeter, I suspect. The stairway up to the second floor flat is narrow, but it opens into a spacious, bright (two skylights!) landing. The kitchen is another large, open, bright space - I haven't had a kitchen large enough to eat in since 2001. Luxury! The appliances and cupboard space are ample, which I consider a big plus. The bedroom is large and has a working fireplace. The other rooms have much to recommend them as well. Pleased as punch!

Then we realized that the washer/dryer and dishwasher we had seen while viewing did not actually come with the apartment. Apparently they belonged to the previous tenant, a possibility which hadn't even occurred to me. Boned.

Then we left for Toronto for a week and a half, abandoning our only-just-moved-in-not-even-unpacked-box-filled apartment. Upon our return we started the quest for furniture. You see, we moved to Halifax in our little '98 Corolla, Snowball, abandoning most of our worldly goods in Toronto before we left. The few larger items that we decided to keep - the bed, a few bookcases and a couple of desks - were generally lugged cross-country by G's father (again, a million times thank you). We quickly realized that we were missing a few key items: dishes, for example. And chairs. Also a couch, television cutlery, bedside tables, sewing table, lamps and dressers.

We've since made these purchases (along with a number of others. A large number) and have gotten the apartment arranged pretty much how we want it. There are still a few things to do, like framing and hanging the rest of the art, but we're getting there. Nothing like stuff to make you feel at home!

I knew I was finally settled when I got my bookcases in order. I love my books, and I like having them out where I can see them. But how to display them was a bit of an issue, as I have a lot of them and didn't want to just mash them together onto shelves. I wanted the shelves to look like I put some thought into it. Once I got the books out of their liquor store boxes (the best for moving books), I decided to try something a little different. Rather than arranging the books by subject or author as I've done in the past, I opted to adopt the idea of a good friend of mine and arrange them by colour. I believe it turned out fabulously, and I love it. It makes me happy - my books are out on display and just look so darn good!

Homey, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Project #2 – What I Don’t Miss About Toronto (first installment)

i) The Squeal of the TTC Tracks

TTC drivers often develop hearing loss on one side only - due to the shrieking tracks out the drivers side window. I cringe just thinking about it. Do they get used to it? I certainly didn't. I often found myself plugging my ears as the subway screeched to a halt, or the streetcar ground around corners. I am mostly on Team TTC - but I just wish they would oil those things once in awhile.

ii) The Smell
The first thing G and I commented on during out most recent visit to Toronto was the smell that assaulted us when emerging from the subway. The garbage strike was long over, but the smell of hot, sticky, rotting organics was still clinging to the air. Toronto at the height of summer can be fabulous - and it can be gross. Yuck.

iii) The Smog
The sky turns brown. Sky is not supposed to be brown.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Project # 3 - Bonsai Maple

I fell immediately in love with a Bonsai Japanese Maple I saw in the background of a Martha Stewart Living article. So when I saw this, I got an idea:

The box clearly states that the resulting Canadian Sugar Maple can be tended and coaxed into a bonsai. I had to go for it.

I planted the seeds a few days ago, and quickly realized that I did it wrong. I hadn't fished the 'amended instructions' from the bottom of the box. I don't think it's a BIG problem, exactly. But I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first entry with the tag 'project fail'.

But who knows? Maybe I'm wrong and I managed to aerate the soil enough after all. We shall see, potential Bonsai. We shall see.

Project Jar

Sometimes I feel like sewing, but feel so overwhelmed by the possibilities and ideas that I just can't decide. And then I end up making nothing.

So I started this Project Jar.

It has ideas for projects (both simple and more complex) that I've seen in magazines or books, or just have an interest in creating. When I need inspiration or something to help focus my energies, I draw a slip of paper from the Project Jar and get started.

You can see the list of jar projects in the menu to the right. Let's get started!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Computer trouble

I have to post it because it makes me laugh - I want to post it in my office and just tap it when someone shows up with a silly question. You should do the same.

This is from the great webcomic xkcd (though I admit it's often too 'techie' for me to get, even when I follow the above flow chart).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Project #1 – What I miss about Toronto (second installment)

iv) Friends
When I first moved to Toronto, I didn't know a soul apart from the aunt and uncle I was staying with (in Mississauga, of all places). This, paired with the fact that networking is not exactly my forte, meant my first few weeks in the Big Smoke were quite lonely. I was fairly miserable, to be quite honest, and I hated the city as a result.

But slowly my quiet brand of fun and sparkling wit infiltrated the minds and hearts of those around me. I moved into the city proper with some great folks and forged some solid, amazing friendships that continue to flourish eight years later. I am thankful that they are the type of friendships that don't falter much through long lulls, and I have a feeling we'll be able to pick up where we left off when we do have to opportunity to get together.

Stay in touch. I miss you.

v) Ease of Getting Around
There were many, many times the TTC let me down - usually when I was in a hurry or trying to get to a Christmas party during a snowstorm (bbrrrrrr) or realized I was stranded in the wee hours after the subway shut down. Yet I remained fairly constant in my TTC fandom despite these setbacks, for the simple reason that I could get anywhere in the city with (usually) minimal effort or expense.

Toronto is also a very walkable city. From my home I could easily walk to multiple grocery stores, liquor stores, restaurants, libraries, parks and shopping. Coupled with the TTC I rarely felt the lack of a vehicle. I grew up outside a small town in Nova Scotia, where we had to drive for anything and everything. This caused me to feel rather trapped growing up, and is likely a contributing factor to the almost complete lack of friendships that have lasted from that detached era. Moving to a non-vechicle-focussed life was freeing.

I now find myself in a semi-car dependant situation - though it is far from a complete reversion, thankfully. I can still walk to work, to groceries, etc etc., but Halifax just feels like a driving city. I've already driven more in four months than I did over eight years in Toronto. And with the prospect of buying a house looming in the Spring, this will likely only increase.

vi) Recycling
Halifax doesn't recycle. It's gross.

There is a recycling program in place, but it is so convaluted and irrational that it is practically useless. So no one uses it.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

To Read

I always have a 'to read' list going - often on scraps of paper that get forgotten or misplaced. So I've decided to keep a running list here, which is posted at the bottom of the page. I will remove things as I read them, and will comment here on whether or not it was a worthwhile venture.

I am certainly open to recommendations, if you've got them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Project #1 – What I Miss About Toronto (first installment)

Just to clarify, these are in no particular order. I am actually drawing them out of a hat (though it's less of a hat, more of a desk drawer)

i) The Toronto Public Library
My neighborhood in Toronto had two fabulous libraries (one of them a Carnegie!) within easy walking distance: Riverdale Branch and Pape/Carlaw. And not only did I have access to the literary bounty within their walls, but to the entire TPL system - a world of information ordered to my doorstep. The website meant I had thousands (tens of thousands!) of books at my easy disposal - but DVDs and CDs as well. I went years without paying a movie rental fee, and the extensive catalogue of music meant I was able to sample many great bands I'd heard of but not enough to committ to a CD purchase. Free! Thank you, TPL for giving me Mother Mother, Great Lake Swimmers, Diableros, Luke Doucet, Golden Dogs . . .

* I have yet to get a Halifax library card, and they are not making it easy. This does not bode well for our relationship.

ii) The Prince Edward Viaduct
More specifically, that moment of the TTC ride home where you emerge from the tunnel darkness into the fleeting, floating space above the Don Valley. Many a sour post-work attitude was spoiled by that hit of sunshine and freedom, especially when I imagined the frustrated faces of the Parkway drivers as I flew overhead.

iii) Food and Drink: the LCBO magazine
The free LCBO magazine. I regret not keeping more copies when I moved. There were always great recipe ideas and interesting articles, and I eagerly awaited each new edition That's why I went to the LCBO so often, dontchaknow.

The Maritimes has the 'Occasions' publication, but it is a poor substitute.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Project #2 – What I Don’t Miss About Toronto

I did mention that what Toronto and I have is a ‘love-hate’ relationship. We didn’t always get along, didn’t always see eye to eye. Sometimes one of us was just a little too crowded, a little too smelly, or a little too controlling for the comfort of the other.

I give you Project #2: the things I am glad to have left behind.

Project #1 – What I Miss About Toronto

I have recently returned to Nova Scotia after almost eight years in Toronto. Eight years (!!) was certainly longer than I anticipated at the outset (especially considering I hated Toronto at first), and longer than I’ve lived anywhere since I left my parent’s home. I found that as I settled into the city time just flew by.

As time passed, Toronto and I developed a sort of love-hate relationship with one another. Thankfully, the love won out on most occasions and the City and I were able to work our way through the rough patches. Toronto just had so much to offer – especially to someone of my small-town origin but big-city dreams – there was no point fighting it for long.

That said, I am not sorry about my recent repatriation to the East Coast. I feel it was bound to happen eventually – I am a salty girl. Also, I love beer and fish cakes (and waves, samphire greens, tide pools, and my family). It turned into a whirlwind move where everything tumbled into place at the last minute, and I don’t regret it (hopefully I can still make this statement a year from now).

I did have my reservations, of course. Halifax looks painfully, depressingly small when viewed from the bustle of Toronto. I have embraced my new ‘city’ to the best of my ability. So much so that I don’t find I yearn for my Toronto life and its hullabaloo nearly as much as I had anticipated. Weird, huh?

But there are things that I miss, of course. And so I give you Project #1: trying to express some of the things I do miss about Toronto. Some of these are pretty obvious and boring, admittedly, but hopefully not all of them.

Thanks for your time, Toronto. I have no intention of forgetting our time together.

The birth of makeworkproject

Yes, I have started a blog. Does this mean I am slowly becoming the kind of person I scoff at? A ‘blogger’ (a group I had always brushed with one sweeping stroke of neediness, attention-whoring, pretention and self-indulgence) was certainly not something I thought I would ever identify myself as. I may as well buy skinny jeans, take a modern dance class, or wear teetering heels on cobblestone streets. But obviously this (at least the blog part) has changed.

Blogs slowly started creeping into my internet ‘favourites’ list about a year ago, with my mild stalking of a local craft shop. I have recently discovered that blogs now make up the majority of my bookmarks, as I am inspired and awed by like-minded individuals in crafting, track the thoughts of compatriots in my occupational field, and drool over gorgeous food porn.

There are still many things I dislike about the whole blogging trend – the bad poetry, prose and other demonstrations of ‘superior’ writing skills, the assumption that everyone in the webiverse will want to read your musings, or the documentation of every miniscule (non-)event in your life. Ugh. Not that there is anything wrong with that, exactly – but I will continue to roll my eyes in your general direction, silly bloggers.

That said, I make no claims that makeworkproject will be any less irrelevant or self-indulgent. I will be upfront about this from the get-go. This is for me. An outlet. It is a project to make me work (look – the name!) and to get me writing again. It will also document other projects I am working on – sewing, cooking, being ridiculous, etc. For my benefit (I honestly don’t think anyone else will be interested in reading makeworkproject).

Also, there will be random tidbits of information you couldn’t possibly care less about.

There – now I’m rolling my eyes at myself.