December 30, 2008

On the Sixth Day

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, we rested. We're fine here, and many thanks to those of you who dropped me a line to see if I was one of the 65 000 Ontarians with their power out from the storm. I'm not, and we've got no troubles beyond a few downed tree branches. (Just wee ones.) I'm sitting here recovering, since it still feels like there are mere minutes between social engagements, and I'm knitting a scarf (quickly) to give as a gift when we go out tonight. I'm almost done.


That's two funky yarns from Blue Moon, one row of each. 10mm needles. Whoosh.


Thanks for worrying about me, and I won't point out that emailing me to see if my power is out is a little bit funny.
(Hint. Computers plug in.)

Posted by Stephanie at 5:01 PM

December 27, 2008

Third Day

It's the third day of Christmas and I had a really wonderful and witty entry written up until about 4 minutes ago when my software crashed. I don't know what it's problem is- It's not like it's been knitting like a demon.
In any case, I have a single sock and a ball of yarn that need to be a scarf and a pair of socks by tomorrow at noon, so I don't have time to re-write it.


You would have loved it though. It was all about how we had just the loveliest Christmas day, and how I made all of my knitting deadlines (except for the ones above, and a few more after that, but let's not focus on what's yet to go) especially the sweater which was indeed for Hank, and had the zipper sewn in on Christmas afternoon before I wrapped it up and took it to him which yes, is a bit of a close one, but victory was mine.


Pattern mine - a top down raglan put together with help from The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns. (All the patterns in the book are bottom-up, by the way. I reversed it.) The body is in plain stockinette, the sleeves in 3X1 rib. Cardigan, zip front. Size 8 boys.


The yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted, in Pewter (3 skeins) Charcoal and China Blue (I think), knit up on 4mm needles.


It fits Hank great, and he loves it, which is a pretty exceptional compliment to get from a little guy who's other interests all plug in and have a screen.


In the lost post I also told you that he loves the sweater enough to do a little shazam! for you.

The other entry also gushed a lot about how impressed I am with the donation tally for KWB - and how you guys never let me down and are the best sort of people. It explained too- that just as soon as I'm released from the endless parade of family fun (if you're having half the fun that we are- then you're supremely lucky) that I'll give away more karmic balancing gifts and post an update on the total.

That post also talked a little bit about how yesterday everybody came to my house for a boxing day party, replacing our traditional day at Auntie Helen's with a day at Auntie Steph's.... and how I think it might work out, but it sort of cuts into the knitting time and throws the schedule off.

That post was great. Too bad you missed it.

More on the Fifth Day of Christmas. Tomorrow is for dancing.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:41 PM

December 25, 2008

An Unreasonable Goal

The solstice passed the other day, surrounded by days of darkness...the darkest days there will be all year. The night sky was marked, at least in this hemisphere, with nights where the trio of sister stars who make up Orion's belt all align with the great Northern Star, and together, they remarkably point at the place on the horizon where the sun will rise in the morning - if you can see it though the snow, which I bet a lot of us can't.

I learned to look for it in Girl Guides, and I remember Brown Owl shining a flashlight into the frigid winter sky, showing us the starmap. I went back home that night and lay in my bed and thought about what an incredible thing that must have been, back in the times when you didn't know that the there is always a return of the light, that regardless of human effort or failures, the longest night always ends. I imagine hundreds of years of humans, camped coldly in the dark, watching the spot the starts showed them, hoping for sunrise and the return of the light.

This season has been like that for me. I feel like I have to "do something" to ensure the return of the light in my extended family. Some rite, some ritual, maybe a knitted hat or socks for everyone, maybe a sheet of cookies. I have even borrowed a technique from my friend Denny, who reaches out hardest and gives the most to those that she feels no love for- erasing hurt feelings and harm with generosity and kindness. Rising above. Being the Change. (I'm sure you all know that one. If you can't get what you want, you can at least be the more noble being.) I feel somehow, that if I do all of this right, then happiness will be assured for all. It turns out, and I feel bad saying it out loud, but it's just not true. You can do everything right, and even make the best meringues you ever had (which I did. They're totally awesome) and things can still be unsure, scary or sad. This has bothered me. I'm a pretty effective go-getter of a person, and I do not care for things that are out of my control at all. I am also pretty alarmed by turns of events that can't be repaired with excellent baked goods.

The other night, during the solstice, I went to this annual show that Joe and I always go to. It's the Skydiggers Christmas concert and somehow if I didn't spend that evening every year with my friend Andy, then it wouldn't be Christmas. We took Rachel H. with us, and we went down there in the cold and the snow and stood at the sold out show with everybody else, and I found my Christmas. I found a little of it when they played "Hello Beautiful Life" (anybody at the Toronto Launch last year will remember that one - the rest of you can listen here. Right sidebar.) I found a lot of it when Andy played the trumpet, but most of it I found in a one liner that Andy tossed out into the audience. It was just a few words, but it changed everything. Everything I felt about the uncertainty of the next year, about money and jobs and family and lost souls and jobs all melted the minute he said it, and it has stayed with me for days and days - my new mantra for this season and the coming year.

Andy said "As we head off into a year of uncertainty, there is one thing I know is true. Things will be better if we all take care of each other than they will be if we don't take care of each other."

My house is warm. This morning, my lucky kids have presents. I have presents, and we're having a great big breakfast. (To be followed later by more presents and a great big dinner.) No matter how bad things get here, we will not be competing with 98% of the world for misery. Having trouble finding the money for car or washing machine repairs is a luxury. Having loved ones to miss speaks to the great gift of loving and having been loved. My children did not miss a single meal this year. We didn't flee from a war, we didn't need medical help and not get it. We have a computer and an internet connection, for crying out loud. The fact that I bought any yarn at all, even if it had been a single ball (which it so wasn't. I cop to that.) means I had extra money. I have people to take care of, and people who take care of me.

Tonight, when my knitting is done and my family is all together, I'll look up at the winter sky... find the North Star and check our money again. I'm sure that as we celebrate with an abundance of food, shelter, love and gifts, that I can extend Andy's thought to all the people on the earth, not just continue to give more to the ones who are already wealthy by comparison. This time next year I probably won't even remember the pinch I feel as I give it now - which is pretty stunning, because even one dollar can save someone else's child if I give it to MSF - and I bet that this time next year, they'll remember that.

In the spirit of taking care of each other...on the day of a wonderful time for many of us - when we will celebrate with an excess of food and gifts that is unimaginable to much of the rest of our human family, I have decided to do something that people have been urging me to do for months. I'm setting a new goal for Knitters Without Borders.

I'm making it One Million Dollars... which seems not just impossible to me, but barking mad. Insane. Crazy talk from the crazy people. (I remember when knitters had raised ten thousand dollars, and everyone was beside themselves with joy. Us.... MSF... everyone. I can't believe I'm even opening the door to this possibility. If we do it... well. I have no response for if we do it. I don't even know what I would do to celebrate.)

I know that this is a lot of money. I'm not completely nuts naive... but to me Andy's statement has become like the constellations pointing toward the place where the sun will rise after the longest night. Taking care of each other is simple. It's easy. It's sharing, and we all learned to do that as toddlers. I think we can do it if we all just take care of each other so things will be better. There are 50 million of us in North America alone. Surely that's enough.
I really think we can do it.

Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Blessed be. Namaste. Happy Chanukkah. As-Salāmu `Alaykum.

Posted by Stephanie at 9:00 AM

December 24, 2008

Eve of Victory

Good: I have finished the sweater.


Except: for the neckband, which really isn't a big whoop, and the fact that yesterday I totally lost whatever brain cells hadn't gone on strike yet and bought the wrong zipper for it. That means I have to walk back today, losing precious minutes to get the right zipper.

Good: It will very, very definitely be a white Christmas. This is my backyard before we got another 15cm.


Except: It's a little too white, and storm after storm has left the city really hard to get around. This will thwart some zipper efforts.

Good: We are all going to be together tonight for dinner.
Except: We have no groceries, and there is some debate about who is going to get them. There is reluctance all around (see above comment about whiteness) and the current consensus is that whomsoever leaves the house should do it, since they are "already out." I have a feeling that needing the zipper is going to mess with me.

Good: The penultimate scarf is almost done and I really think that if I finish knitting it tonight - then I can wash, block, dry (I have a radiator reserved for this purpose) and wrap it before tomorrow.


Except: It was supposed to be done yesterday which means I'm still seriously behind on the next scarf which has to be done the 28th. I'll worry about that tomorrow.

Good: We are done shopping.
Except: We have not wrapped anything.

Good: It is Christmas Eve.
Except: We have a lot to do.
Except: We are lucky to have the luxury of it.

Happy Christmas Eve to all of you. Don't stay up knitting too late. You don't want Santa to skip your house.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:41 AM

December 23, 2008

Instead of Knitting

Instead of knitting, I took my 8 year old nephew Hank for a day, and here is what we did. (Actually, if you are my mum, or Erin (Hank's mum) please move along. You can read this another day. Like.... the 26th. Thank you.)

1. We had a conversation about whether or not it could rain frogs. The answer is a definitive Yes- and Hank feels that there is a 95% chance you would survive. (The 5% risk of death would apparently be a result of your complete shock that it was raining frogs. Not that you would die of fright or something, but that you would be "so shocked that you would forget to take cover, and even a small frog falling from a great height could kill you." Excellent point.

2. We went on the subway.


My sister has a car. The subway is very novel to Hank. We stood in the last car and watched the tracks go out fast behind us... and we came up with a strategy (as all young Torontonians have before him) for what we would do if he fell onto the tracks. We sped under the city, guessing at what we were under.

3. We had hot chocolate and croissant at Bread and Roses in the Village. (Also maybe one candy cane cookie, but it was small, so it's not like it was really like junk food.)


4. We bought a few things, things for Hank to give to his mum. (When you are eight - you really need help with strategy.) We think she will be very surprised and wonder where he got the money and how he got to the store. She will likely, Hank thinks, wonder about this "for the rest of her life".

5. We almost didn't buy a picture frame, because as Hank pointed out to me, they were all full of pictures of people we didn't know. His mum wouldn't like that. Also, Hank told me that he has asked Santa for an ipod, which he is going to fill ONLY with songs by Mika. (I had no response. Still don't, although I admit that "Love today" is on my own ipod for running. Only for running. Well, running and the first day of school.)

6. On the way back home, Hank discovered an antique device, the purpose and use of which I explained carefully.


We left a message on Erin's phone telling her we were calling her from "a pay phone". Crazy. When I told him that when I was young there were no cell phones, he looked at me and said "That must have been hard to manage."

7. We made a Gingerbread house.


Technically, Megan and Hank made a gingerbread house. Then Hank called my mum and told her that he was bringing dessert on Christmas day. (Quote from Hank "There has got to be a way to get more candy on this.")

8. We made tee-shirts for Erin and Gramy.


This is something my kids used to do when they were little. It was really, really fun doing it again. The results are as fashion forward as they were the last time I broke out the fabric paint. (Don't tell me you're surprised I had a bunch of fabric paint lying around. C'mon. I'm crafty. Click to embiggen.)


9. We wrapped gifts.


(That there is a Gordon Ramsay Cookbook. When Hank chose it, I asked him if his mum liked Gordon Ramsay and he said "Oh yes. She says the only thing she doesn't like about him is his wife and kids." I almost had a spasm in the bookstore.)

10. Hank left... and I looked at the sweater.


One sleeve short... and I really don't care. People before things, and today was totally worth it. I gotta go knit though. Maybe all night.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:07 PM

December 22, 2008

In which there are four days

I think I might be flipping out a bit. There's four days left and I got up this morning and took an honest look at what needs doing, and dudes, the knitting might be the least of my problems. As a matter of fact, most of my problems may be the things in this house that are breathing. If someone experienced in these matters could stop by and offer a better answer to the teenaged statement "I can't wait to move out so I can do what I want", I would be eternally grateful, and possibly making better time on this Christmas thing. I offered SPS (Standard Parent Speech) #72a "I don't know what makes you think that grownups can do what they want" followed by #76 v.2 "Do you think I wanted to go to work today?" with the add-on of "It sure would be nice to live the way that you do", but I still got nowhere. I considered using "I wonder how old you'll be when you care that your mother is doing everything with no help" but I usually try to save that one for really big game, and the little one did vacuum, while the big one shovelled. No point in over-guilting. Leads to immunity.

The house is still trashed, though I reclaimed the kitchen today, (Poor first choice though, considering that we're probably going to eat sometime in the next four days and trash it again) and Joe claims he's going to do he bathroom today, so maybe we'll get ahead there. I've got the living room covered in yarn, which should be turned into stuff by Christmas, wrapped up and given away, and the dining room must be there somewhere. Joe has assured me that it's under all the paperwork he has all over the place. The baking is almost all done, and I've wrapped five things, which is a lot better than wrapping no things, and I've got two foray's into the world left to make, and if I do it right, I'll make one today and one tomorrow. While that's on, The Schedule maintains that the little sweater I've been working on should be done by midnight today.


Right. Not a problem. All it needs is TWO SLEEVES that I accomplish while shopping, cleaning and making dinner for family night. Excellent. I can do it. (That's a pattern of my own devising, and Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted -which I like.)
I finished the next pair of socks in the queue though...


and I'm pretty happy about that.


These are charming Hedgerow socks (I love the way the pattern continues onto the heel) in Fiber Optic Foot Notes - in "Black Coffee".


(That's another gift I'm going to be sorry to see go.) and I started the last pair of socks in this years list.


(Man. Did typing that ever feel good. The last pair.) Those are a version of an old Patons pattern, being worked in Dream in Colour Smooshy (Cocoa Kiss) I'll look up the details later. (You know. When my head's not exploding.)

I've got the penultimate scarf on the list underway:


Noro Silk Garden, #'s 284 and 47, and yes, it's the two row stripe thing again. People like them.
That only leaves one more scarf, but that doesn't need to be done until the 28th, so I might be ok. I really might.
Sleeves, socks, scarf, shop. Yeah- is it any wonder that Joe asked me yesterday "Why do you think we're going through coffee at twice the usual rate?" (He's as much to blame as I am.) Starting tomorrow we have got to get a grip.

To distract you from how distracted I am from the blog, I've got a big set of gifts to give away. Blue Moon Fiber Arts has generously donated THREE memberships to next years Rockin Sock Club world domination tour.

The lucky knitters are Ellen K., Adriana H and Lynda M. (I've emailed all of you.)

Sleeves, socks, scarf, shop. Gotta go.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:31 PM

December 18, 2008

Fallen and Can't Get Up

About 12:30 last night, as I sat trying to make knitting headway on that little sweater (which is crawling along) and contemplating Sir Washie's future, the phone rang. I answered, since a phone call at 12:30am usually means something very interesting is happening, and lo - it surely was.

Me: Hello?
Joe: You're not going to believe this.

Now, it's a week before Christmas, the washer's broken, we're under the gun to get Christmas ready, I'm on a "knitting schedule", the news is calling the snowstorms headed our way "Snow-maggedon", and we just found out that neither of us is getting paid before the end of the year. There's not much that I wouldn't believe at this point, and Joe knows that - so "You're not going to believe this" is a pretty bold statement.

Me: Ok. Go.
Joe: I've got the pickup stuck at my Mum and Dad's and I can't get it out.
Me: Really?

Now - see that? He's right. Joe's from Newfoundland. He can drive in any amount of snow. Joe never gets stuck. Ever. Dude knows how to drive in any amount of stuff, and he's experienced enough to not drive if it's really not possible. If Joe's actually stuck, then I am stunned. I'm also knitting, and it's after midnight and it's cold, so I'm also really not buying that he needs me to get him out. If Joe can't handle a driving problem, I really can't.

Me: Seriously?
Joe: Seriously. Baby, I'm stuck.
Me: Why don't you try a little longer, and if it turns out you're really stuck, then I'll walk over.

- because frankly... I just can't believe he is. I believe that what Joe's actually saying to me can be translated more like "Honey, I'm frustrated so I wanted to share, but I'll work it out like I always do because - well, I'm Joe." I mumble something sort of sympathetic, like "I'm sure you'll get it" and hang up the phone and finish my row. It's about 20 minutes later when the phone rings again, and I'm pretty sure it's Joe calling to tell me that he's out, and I should never mind and he'll be home in a minute.

Me: Hello?
Joe: Baby, you gotta come help me. I'm really stuck. I'm so stuck. This is Bad.

Bad? Joe doesn't get into bad trouble backing out of a parking spot at his Mum's. It's not like she lives in rural Ontario and he could be in a ditch. It's not like there could be a 10 foot snowdrift he's stuck in or he's got the car hanging off a cliff over the sea. He's 3 minutes from home in a back alley drive. Bad?

Me: Bad?
Joe: You gotta come.
Me: Joe, what's going on?
Joe: Well, I was trying to back out, but there was a BMW, so I didn't want to hit it, you know? So I pulled up between the garage and the light pole, but the truck slipped on the snow and ice.
Me: Slipped? Why don't you get out and dig yourself out? Why don't you give up and we'll deal with it in the morning?
Joe: I told you Steph. It's really bad.

We keep talking, and here's what I come to understand. I have drawn you a small map.


Joe had the pickup truck (which is a completely eccentric piece of junk which starts every day because there has been a small miracle) parked at the bottom of his parents garage. There was a BMW (which we can't afford to breathe on, never mind hit) parked behind him, so he pulled forward slightly, between the light pole and the garage, and was then going to reverse out. Unfortunately for Joe, as he drove forward, a most unexpected thing happened. The light rear end of the truck suddenly fishtailed out, the front end swung in (what with them being attached like they are) and whammo...

The truck was suddenly and entirely wedged in between the garage and the lightpole - which are - in a remarkable co-incidence, spaced exactly as far apart as the truck is wide. Joe pulled forward, spun on the ice, tried to rock back, spun on the ice and somehow, in a trick that reminds me of that crazy Chinese Finger Trap, only succeeded with every miniscule move he was able to make, in wedging the truck more deeply between the garage and pole.


Every move he made smashed the sides of the truck in more, and by the time he called me, he was entirely and hopelessly stuck and further to that, had reconciled himself to the fact that any solution at all was going to involve ripping the mirrors off and further demolishing the sides of the thing. (Which, it turns out, he preferred to wreaking the side of his parents garage, because even at 40, wreaking your Dad's stuff is A Big Deal.)
He couldn't leave the truck because his parents couldn't get their car out, and they're flying out of town today (and also, it would be best if they didn't see this, just for the sake of the parental/child relationship) and just to make sure that this event had reached catastrophic proportions, he was blocking the alley so that nobody in the whole neighbourhood could get their cars out. He was right. I didn't believe it, and it Was Bad.

Me: Holy %^&*(!
Joe: Exactly. You gotta come over here.
Me: Okay. Walk over and get me and I'll try to rock it and you can push it.
Joe: ......

The silence is deafening. Joe isn't he sort of man who shirks for a second at walking over to get me at 1am.
Is he too frustrated? Is he too upset? I don't want to walk over alone.

Me: Honey?
Joe: ......
Me: Honey?

Joe: Steph. You don't understand.
Me: Sure I do. Truck stuck. Very Bad. What aren't you telling me?
Joe: Steph. Think about it.

Joe: Steph. The truck is wedged between the pole and the garage.
Me: Got it.
Joe: Honey.... I can't open the doors.

This finishes me. Entirely. I'd managed to hold it together until then, but that does it. The man has somehow gotten his truck wedged in an impossible situation, and not only have things gone from bad to worse, minute by minute, but this whole time, for the hour that he's been trying to find a way out of it....
he has been trapped in the truck and avoiding telling me.
I collapse on the floor, practically laughing myself sick. I keep laughing as I pull on my boots, coat and mittens. I keep laughing as I jog the 5 minutes over to his parents. I've almost got ahold of myself as a round the corner to the alley, but dissolve helplessly again when I see him. Truck wedged, sides deeply lacerated, mirrors askew, deep holes dug into the dirt and snow beneath it - with my husband sitting patiently - trapped in the dark.
(For some reason- he isn't really laughing much.)

I shove the truck hard while he rocks it, and somehow we manage to get it out of the rut its dug and he can finally back up. (We do not hit the BMW.) I come around and join him in the truck, and we begin to drive silently home. As we round the corner and he slows the pickup, it shudders a little and makes a new noise, another variation on an automotive death rattle, sort of a "urrrrhhhhgggg" and it lurches around a bit. I look at Joe. He looks ahead. We drive. At the stop sign we slow again, and the truck repeats it's mechanical-sea-cow-with-indigestion noise, and this time I asked Joe when that started. "At the 30 minutes stuck mark." he replies, and we drive on.

We get home and park, walk together quietly towards the house, and I'm thinking about his ordeal. Any other person, I think, would have expressed some sort of hostility or loud frustration by now, but Joe's a good natured rock. If it had been me, trapped like that, trashing a truck in the dead of night, obstructing traffic and listening to the transmission try to vomit itself out of the hood, you would have found me crazed in the thing. Thrashing around screaming in a way that would have shamed the snot out of my mother... and she can compete at the Olympic level of obscenity herself, should the occasion demand it. I think about that, and the bruises both the pickup and I would bear from my fists smashing off the interior in rage had it happened to me.. .and I look at Joe. "You ok?" I ask him, trying to broach the idea that if he had a little anger to share I would listen, and he looks at me. He pulls off his boots. He smiles a bit, and he says:

"Honey. That was a little demoralizing."

I love this guy.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:57 PM

December 17, 2008


I had a post all good to go today. A post about how when I told you I was knitting a sweater, I should have clarified a little. I wasn't clear enough. I made it sound like I had just abandoned my very reasonable Christmas knitting plan and hauled off and added a sweater to the plot - which would be in clear violation of the rule about not putting anything onto the Christmas knitting list... and for the record, this sweater was on the schedule, and Lene, the almighty keeper of the schedule didn't even flinch when I put it there. I figure that means that she thinks it's reasonable. (Or, I've finally gotten to her. One of the two for sure.) I estimate this sweater will take about 20 knitting hours (not including putting in the zipper, which I am going to get Ken to do. I haven't told him that yet exactly.) I had this whole thing ready about how I was going to tell you that it's not a big deal, that this sweater is possible and easy and no big whoop, and then the planet saw the cocky on me, and the planet decided that obviously I wasn't having things be complicated enough... and the planet looked for a place to give me a come-uppance, and dudes, it hit me where it hurts.

See, I'm not just behind on the knitting. I'm behind on the everything. The shopping, the housekeeping - I'm perpetually behind on the laundry, and this morning, just after I started writing about how it was all going to be all right, that it was really just a matter of applying myself - keeping to the schedule (and maybe finding a few more hours in the day or night to get caught up) I realized that we're at that place where soon people are going to have to stay home because they don't have clean underwear, and so I tossed a load into Sir Washie, my faithful 30 year old washing machine. Now, Sir Washie is my dearest friend in the world. He's done more to help me with this family than anybody else ever has, and we've shared many a fond moment together- doing what it takes to keep everybody clad. We've been together through my kids childhood puke-fests, where it was just me and him, cleaning up at 3am and hoping that we could get a load of clean sheets and towels together before the next tsunami of misery headed our way. He's pulled his weight, and he's a fine appliance I'm deeply committed to. (I admit, I'm mostly committed to him because there's no way to replace him. We remodelled the kitchen many years ago and foolishly installed built-in's in a way that means that we can't get him up and out through the doorway to the basement anymore.) Still, even if I didn't have to love him I would. (I also admit I've had some pretty warm feelings about a few sexy front loaders I've seen - but that's like still loving your husband even though you think Pierce Brosnan is hot. Totally normal.) In any case, I tossed a load in and came upstairs and got on with my day, and just now I went down to switch things over to the dryer (for which I hold no affection at all) reached into his innards and discovered, with the sinking heart and feeling of impending doom that any laundry slacking mother can identify with... that the clothes are all sopping wet. Soaked. It would appear that the aged Sir Washie has suffered some sort of episode which has left him able to agitate and drain, but stripped him of his critical ability to spin. (I think that means it's a belt. Can you knit a drive belt?)

I'm sure that I don't have to tell you that this is a full blown crisis, and one for which I accept all responsibility. I had noticed that Sir Washie was making an odd noise, but truthfully I didn't look into it because I thought it was just age - I mean, Joe makes all sorts of noises he didn't used to when he was a younger guy and there's nothing wrong with him. I should have known, after all of these years of appliance ownership, that washing machines don't make odd noises. Washing machines make expensive noises, and I should have gotten him help right away. Instead, I looked the other way and now, because I am not just the sort of woman who ignores an appliance in need, but am also the sort of woman who doesn't wash anything until people have no pants or towels, I am screwed. I personally am screwed while wearing yesterday's tee shirt and pants with coffee spilled on one leg. (Admittedly, I work from home, where it doesn't matter if you're wearing strange clothes, but this is going to be harder to break to Joe and the kids -who have to leave the house each day wearing something other than last years elf jammies.) I looked at the budget and what with Christmas and the fact that things are slow on all fronts, I realized that unless this sucker is fixable for about $1.46, somebody's Christmas present is going to have to be the gift of this family not smelling funny. That bummed me out for about six seconds, and then I thought about it, and considering how I feel about Sir Washie and his contribution to the family....

I'll take it. Wrap it up a fixed washer and stick a bow on it. I'll be thrilled. Anybody in Toronto know a reliable repair company?

(PS. Do you think wanting a repair guy who would like to be paid in sock yarn is too much to hope for?)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:58 PM

December 14, 2008


I had this brilliant plan this weekend, that I was going to get all caught up and today I would be all gleeful and cocky again. That just wasn't how it went. I'm not sure what happened, but somehow the girls doing a bunch of baking took up tons of my time, and there was an incident that involved a lot of gingerbread dough stuck entirely to the countertop. (Flour. You need to put flour on the counter before you roll it out. I can't stress it enough, and it's really not an optional step. Flour.) I went to Zellers to buy underpants for Christmas (as gifts, not an outfit) and the nightmare that is a big store twelve days before Christmas has me pretty badly scarred and might have slowed down the knitting a little. I saw two women argue over the last tube of blue wrapping paper. I don't care what you're wrapping - or if that's your "theme" this year. There's absolutely no reason on this earth to treat each other that way over paper. See? Scarred. This is why I don't go shopping at Christmas. That moment.
I had to knit practically a whole pair of socks to get over it.


I don't know if you know, but knitting a gift is the spiritual opposite of ripping a stranger a new one over blue wrapping paper. Snowmobile socks. Misty Alpaca Chunky 2 ply. Half (almost exactly) a skein of black, one full skein of periwinkle. Worked according to my sock recipe over 32 stitches on 5mm needles.

Those done, I boogied along and wrapped up the next pair of gift socks.


Earl Grey socks, 2.25mm needles. Men's size 10. (Really big on me there.) Madeleinetosh Sock in Glacier.


Then I worked on this bad boy,


which is an entirely crappy picture of a pair of Hedgerow socks in a new to me but really yummy yarn called Fiber Optic Foot Notes" - in an entirely charming (and appropriate) colourway called "Black Coffee." Reader Sarah sent it to me and it's knitting up into socks I want to keep. (I won't though.)

As if that weren't enough, I cast for a sweater.


Yes, I know. It's just a few days before Christmas and I'm casting on a sweater. I'm going to tell you what I told everyone else who flipped out. It's a small sweater. It's going to be fine - I think, though when I cast that on I was only three knitting hours behind (which you can really come back from) and then I spent the morning working on the billions of emails you've all sent for Knitters Without Borders. I've added all the names and amounts up to the 10th of December and that, my friends is hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of emails. I was going to wait until I was caught up to give away karmic balancing gifts, but dudes. I don't think that's possible. As fast as I enter them, you send them, and I see the folly of it now. I've decided then to just keep entering as fast as I can, and just keep giving away gifts as fast as I can because if I wait to be caught up I'm just going to be chasing my inbox forever. The fact that the tally is up to (brace yourself )

$ 560 379.00

is more than enough of a reason to celebrate with some presents. As always, the knitters were chosen by way of random number generator, and as always, donating anything at all puts you on the list. Donating more doesn't get you more chances, and donating less is no less worthy. We all give to the best of our abilities. No judging.

The exceedingly generous and talented Eloise did these beautiful illustrations for the Twist Collective, of lovely beasties of all sorts wearing knitted things, and she's had the good sense to turn them into a set of 12 notecards. (You can see a set here) and she's very kindly donated five sets to knitters without borders, and a set each will be going to: Evie M.. Ellen S., Sarah H., Harriet O. and Tammy W.
(If you think that's you, check your inbox. I've emailed the five of you.)

Not to be outdone, the lovely Mary (from Lady A's Crafts) has offered up either of the two kits (Learn To Knit Socks or Jackie's Baby Sweater) in the winner's choice of yarn, and she'll be shipping that to Rebecca H. (I emailed you too.)

Happy Monday everyone, and thanks!
(More karmic balancing gifts tomorrow.)

Posted by Stephanie at 9:47 AM

December 12, 2008

That thing is springing eternal

I'm still behind, and thanks to the schedule, I know exactly by how much - and that's about 3 knitting hours. Three knitting hours ago I should have finished the Madeleinetosh Earl Greys, and I haven't.


Three hours is about what I lost with assorted disaster, upset and distractions, and I find it sort of encouraging that there's really no more than three hours of knitting left to do on that pair, which means that I'm behind in a realistic way that can be accounted for, instead of that horrible way that that has to do with having crazed expectations that can't be met at all - schedule or not. (By the way, Lene's posted about what it's like to make my schedule on her blog here) I did finish the hat that was supposed to be done yesterday, and I even finished it yesterday, bang on time.


Unoriginal Hat, Blue Moon Fiber Arts "Leticia" in Farmhouse. (I think maybe that's a discontinued yarn, being modelled here by a 17 year old who doesn't want to show her face today. )

I've decided that it's appropriate to have hope that I can get back on the train, especially since a reprieve of sorts has come from an unexpected place. About 12 years ago, I knit someone I love a pair of very warm socks for snowmobiling out of a yarn called Patons Diva. It's discontinued now (though I bet it lives in many stashes - immortalized for all time) and it was a chunky weight acrylic/mohair sort of thing. Super soft. Most of you know that I am not the biggest fan of acrylic that there is, but at the time I was so broke that a yarn that retailed for $1.99 was a pretty superior thing as far as I was concerned, and I remember being thrilled, thrilled I tell you, that a whole pair of socks (and therefore a Christmas present) could be had for $4.50, tax included. I knit them up, gave them away, and little did I know that these socks have apparently gone on to lead very cherished lives. So cherished, that this year when they have finally worn out (Twelve. Years.) a replacement pair has been requested.


I don't have anymore Patons Diva (and if you told me last week that I would be absolutely disappointed that a stash dive didn't turn up chunky mauve acrylic I would have laughed) so I bought the best replacement I could come up with. Misti Alpaca Chunky two ply, and I'm going to knock off a quick pair of socks to thrill her to death. (I hope.) The best part? What I was making her took up 16 knitting hours, and these will only take 4. Crazy.

I might make it yet.

(PS. Even though the old thing was 16 knitting hours, and the new thing is 4 knitting hours and the sock only needs 3 knitting hours - and my math is good enough that I notice that I now had an extra 9 knitting hours, I'm resisting the urge to add something to the list or declare myself ahead. I think I'm getting smarter.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:35 PM

December 11, 2008

Dear Everything

Dear Everything:

I believe that I have made my complete and total dedication to the schedule very clear. Please note that the schedule does not allow for unscheduled things... yeah verily, unscheduled things are the antithesis of the schedule.

Therefore, please consider this my formal request for the immediate cessation of all unscheduled entities. This includes, but is not limited to: dead batteries in the alarm clock leading to oversleeping (Me), doctor's appointments for a sore toe (Sam), the necessity of 24 cupcakes to be produced by daybreak for the music council bake sale (Megan), editorial crisis (my editor), tax forms that are somewhere in the house but must be produced by 5:00 even though I am not the person who is in charge of tax forms (Joe), and indiscreet puddles of barf on carpet (mercifully - the Cat, although I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that one could have been much, much worse had it been produced by anyone else.)

Thank you,

(officially behind schedule)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:04 PM

December 10, 2008

Just don't fight it

I knit holiday presents. Lots of them. I think they're good presents and that my family likes it, in fact, many of them look forward to their yearly influx of woolly things. I know that there's a growing movement out there to save sanity and time by not knitting presents, and I respect that. I really do. Knitting Christmas gifts is not a game for the faint of heart, and it's not something that should be done willy nilly without consideration for some of the pitfalls. It is a lot of knitting and a real challenge, especially if, like me, you don't do anything about this until mid-November. I have therefore prepared a collection of Things That Should Be Considered Before You Decide Knitting This Much Is Smart™.

1. Get yourself a list. I can't stress the planning and neurotic oversight enough. There must be a list. The list must be carefully considered. The list must be constructed weeks in advance when there is no pressure or panic. The list must be revered. My list contained 15 items to be knit before Christmas. The list is now sealed. Nothing will be added to the list during the execution phase, for that way lies madness.

2. Do not put people on the list who do not like your knitting, use your knitting or have dissed your knitting in any way in the past. This includes people who have said that your stuff looks good enough that "you could have bought it", People who have said that they "bought a scarf just like it" as well as people who say they love your knitting, but have never worn it even once. They are not knit appreciators, and the knits shall not be bestowed upon them.

3. Do not use your knits to try and convince people of the power of the knit. If they do not like knitting and have underappreciated knitting in the past, knitting them more and better things is not smart. I can't stress that enough. I know it's hard to believe, but some people just don't like knitted stuff and giving them more won't change that. Think of knits like brussels sprouts. Some people love them, some people don't but inviting someone to dinner and serving up a whole meal of them after your guest said that they think they're gross is insensitive at best. Buy those people something else. Let go. There are just some poor people in the world who don't think knitted stuff is nice. (Admittedly, I still have to work on not thinking of them as damaged and confused people, but I do respect them.)

4. Be honest. If you have only ever managed to knit a third of a sock in a day and you've got nine pairs of socks on your list, you just have to grow a brain. You're not going to make it, you're going to feel bad and you're going to end up in the mall freaking out trying to find something as good as a pair of handknit socks (and there is nothing as good as handknit socks) at the last minute while feeling crappy about yourself. Take a reality pill. Look at the list. Ask yourself what the odds are that you are suddenly, in a busy season full of many other responsibilities, going to miraculously triple or quadruple the amount of knitting that you do. Then take people off the list and put them at the top of next years list.

5. If you are not the sort of person who can't function on less than 8 hours of sleep, this may be a game that makes you cry really hard sometime around the 22nd of December when it's crunch time.

6. If you are the sort of person who gets a cramp when you hear the words "crunch time", you should be at the mall.

7. If you are the sort of person who is going to be really, really , really hurt if your presents are not received with the complete amount of enthusiasm with which they were knit, you should probably not take the risk.. and you should definitely not knit for anyone under 16.

8. Have you ever insisted to someone that you were not at all competitive while they rolled around on the floor convulsed with helpless laughter? (Double points if you then insisted that you were the "least competitive person in the world" - since that's sort of competing to be not-competitive which is really funny. ) If so, a race against time may be fun for your sort of temperament.

9. Do you drink? (I actually don't know if that's vital, I just can't imagine doing it without a little nog to take the edge off.)

10. Make a schedule. This much knitting in the month of December is something I can't manage without an over-controlling, all-powerful, omnipotent schedule. Left to my own devices, I flip out, panic and start thrashing around. For years now my schedule has been made by my friend Lene -who frankly really has a gift for being over-controlling, all-powerful and omnipotent, and would really be happiest if she were in charge of everything. (The scary thing is that if Lene were actually in charge of the world - it would all be sorted by tea-time. A little cluttered maybe.. but sorted.) I tell Lene what I have to knit and by when, and provide her with a list of all the other things I have to get done and because Lene used to knit, she can totally put it all together into a schedule that makes sense. A schedule where I'm knitting plain socks at a concert because Lene knows that I can knit plain socks in the dark. The beauty of the schedule (which includes baking, knitting, cleaning and other seasonal chores) is that if I do as I am told... if I follow Lene's word as though it were law - If I get up every morning and look at the schedule and do what it says on the schedule and only do what it says on the schedule, then - get this.

I will finish everything on time.

It's like a Christmas miracle every year. Following Lene's schedule, here is the last couple of days here, as represented through knitwear.

This yarn, Corridale from Lyman's Sleigh Bell Farm


became this hat. (Pattern mine. 2x2 rib over 100 stitches for a long time. Decrease. Stop knitting.)


The leftovers from the hat got combined with a little skein of handspun made from a Sanguine Gryphon batt.


and turned into the Star Tam from Homespun, Handknit.



This pretty ball of Madeleinetosh Hand Dyed Sock in Glacier


became this whole sock . (That's the Earl Grey pattern, and the good thing about knitting it again is that it gives me a chance to proof it for a pdf. and that's a good thing.)


Finally, the sailor's rib socks (my plain vanilla pattern with sailors rib jammed on it) out of the Shibui Sock (in bark) are all done too.



See? No problems. I do what the schedule says and whammo. Christmas. All knit up. All I have to do is surrender all control for every moment of my entire existence and I won't have any trouble. All control. All the time. Surrendered.
No problem.

(For crying out loud. Stop that laughing and get off the floor. I can do it.)

Posted by Stephanie at 9:41 AM

December 8, 2008

Much Better

The top ten reasons I am much happier.

10. I put the largest possible tree that would fit in my house.


9. That rather big glass of wine can't hurt.

8. Christmas knitting, on the needles and off the needles, as per Lene's schedule. Right on target. (Admittedly, it's only day one, but I'll take my successes where I can get them.)

7. Erin told me that my nephew Hank is definitely old enough to appreciate getting a knitted thing for Christmas. (This means that he passed through the "knitted presents are sort of lame in a world that contains a Wii" phase very, very quickly.)

6. I finished socks and a hat over the weekend. Pictures to come, but I love them.

5. I forgot about this Sockumentary, made back when we were doing the sock scavenger hunt all over Toronto. It's genius, and it makes me happy all over.

4. Kim got David Suzuki to hold a sock. (I just donated to MSF again because --- well, frankly I love David Suzuki so much that this picture turns every crank I've got.)


My mum has an actual real live crush on him, so I expect she'll freak right out, and if you knew my mother, you'd know how hard that is to achieve. Kim - Excellent job.

3. I made really excellent bread.

2. I got a whole bunch of emails and comments from really decent people making really excellent points.

1. I hardly have time to blog because of the BIG PILE OF MONEY THAT KNITTERS DONATED to MSF. Seriously. Check out the sidebar, and know that I'm putting the total up again tomorrow, and that I'll be giving karmic balancing gifts out this week too, and that once again I'm blown away by what I'm seeing all of you do.

It's enough to make a knitter weep with Joy. Which I did. You guys are awesome. Changing the world. How about that.

Posted by Stephanie at 7:36 PM

December 5, 2008

In which I realize what to do

This Christmas is proving to be a difficult one for me. Joe told me this morning that I am both sensitive and resistant to change, and he's right. I notice everything and then take it all way, way too hard, and then, once I'm upset, I start looking for corroborating evidence for my thesis (because not only am I sensitive and resistant to change, I also like to be right) so that I can prove, to anyone who might be trying to cheer me up, that all is lost and things are hopeless. I usually wind up this sort of thing with a rousing game of "and if you're happy, you just don't understand what's happening and you're all in on the plan to ruin Christmas."

This is not my best trait.

Usually my best trait is my enthusiasm and stick-to-it-iveness, and I'm proud of that. I can really get behind an idea and stay behind an idea, no matter what it is or how absolutely stark raving mad it is, and I think what I'm feeling this year is some sort of perversion of that, where I've managed to really get myself behind the idea that Christmas (and I know this is a rather vague sort of complaint) "isn't working." It's true that this Christmas is going to have challenges. I've never really adjusted to the loss of Janine at this time of year, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do when the whole family doesn't go to my Aunt Helen and Uncle Don's for Boxing Day for the first time in my life. Amanda moved out (though I'm sure she'll come home for Christmas... right?) We had to cancel our annual Gingerbread party due to scheduling problems, and my brother has (hopefully temporarily) separated from his wife...whom I adore and feel the absence of rather keenly. (There's also the fact that this makes my brother a pretty miserable guy at present, which I respect - poor buddy, but it brings down the Christmas cheer level substantially.) To top it all off, this is the year that Joe's parents are making a wonderful trip to Spain to visit Joe's sister Kate (she lives in Spain) which you can hardly begrudge them for a second... but that means they're gone for the holidays too.
All of this together has me moaning around, whinging about our crappy Christmas and how every thing's changed and too many people are dead or gone, and all of my attempts to connect with the parts of Christmas that really do it for me, like family and friends and all of the traditions I adore are totally arsed, and being one big misery case until this morning, when I realized that I have got to get a hold of myself because I'm pretty much guaranteeing that I'll suck what joy there is for me to find in this Christmas right out of the world of possibility and there won't be anybody to blame for that except for me, a big whiny, ungrateful, overly sensitive crybaby, and frankly, I hate people like that. I really do.

I got to thinking this morning that there has got to be a way for me to find the joy in this season again. That I have got to put on my big-girl panties and pull myself together. I thought not just about the traditions that aren't going to be possible this year, but about the chance to really enjoy the ones that remain, and to embrace and generate new ones to replace the ones... like Boxing Day with Aunt Helen, that really aren't ever coming back. The world turns, I'm on it. I should try harder. Change is inevitable. I thought all of that in the dark - because frankly, in Canada right now it feels like it's dark all the time, and that reminded me of this post- The Return of the Light, and I started thinking that other than the feeling I have when I am surrounded by my family during the holidays, the Knitters Without Borders work has filled me with a joy that is almost unsurpassed. The feeling I get as yet another knitter drops an email in my box that says "I'm really broke, but I'm grateful anyway. I found a few dollars and I gave." lifts my heart up. Another knitter. Another, and another - I've never not been entirely awestruck by how much knitters will do, understanding as we do that a whole monumental effort is made up of one simple thing... repeated many, many, many times.

Knitters, in my experience, are not an easily defeated bunch. Tasks that would daunt other mortals look like child's play to us, because we've learned from knitting that accomplishing big things isn't really all that hard. You just have to stick to it. One stitch is small. One stitch is almost nothing. One stitch is hardly worth doing... unless you put it with hundreds, and then thousands and then tens of thousands of others.
Knitters know this without being told, and this is what makes Knitters Without Borders a force to be reckoned with.

Starting today I'm going to begin re-updating the total - and brace yourself. Dudes. We're going to do it again. Bigger. Better. More karmic balancing gifts. More changing the world. The world needs us, MSF needs us, and we're the best people to do it. One stitch at a time.

The instructions in the Return of the Light post still work. Let's make a little more history.

PS: Still working on the beautiful brown socks, which are a cobbled together pattern of my own, created by ramming the traditional "sailors rib" onto my plain vanilla sock recipe (in this book, thanks for asking) and Shibui Sock yarn in the elegantly named colour " 7533".


I'm thinking of calling it something else in my head - like Mocha-Swirl or Bittersweet Chocolate. (This is likely why my job is not naming yarns.)


Oh. Wait. I just checked the Loopy Ewe page while I was adding the link, and apparently it's called "Bark." Fair enough. Much better.

PSS: I'm still working on a hat too, seen here in the light of the setting sun. At 4:00. I told you about the dark:


100 stitches on a 4.5mm needle, round and round in 2x2 rib. I'm knitting it with some beautiful Corridale from Lyman's Sleigh Bell Farm, bought two Rhinebecks ago. It's lovely stuff, and the knitting of it is remarkably restful and calming, which is probably safer for everyone.

PSSS: I'm starting to feel badly for mentioning it, but the final round of the Canadian Blog Awards is winding up tomorrow, and if, after you see my competition you think I deserve your vote, I'd love to have it. I'm nominated in two categories, Best blog here and Best Activities blog here ... and while you're there, Lene's nominated for best Disability blog here, Knitnut's up for best local blog here and best Local blog here (us knitters gotta stick together.) Happy voting, and thanks for even considering it.

PSSSS: Today's gift for knitters? These knitting paintings (if you've got the coin.) Thanks for the link Lene.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:29 PM

December 4, 2008

53 Days

The Governor General (and I really am glad I'm not her) decided this morning after an unprecedented 2 hour meeting with the Prime Minister, to prorogue parliament, without any limits, for 53 days.

I was going to make a chipper return to knitblogging today, but instead I'm going to take a break until tomorrow and knit my nice little hat, and my really beautiful socks,


(See? Aren't they nice? Don't you feel better looking at the wool?) and I'm going to thank Meredith for my new favourite phrase that sums up how I feel about this whole thing really nicely. I think I have "rage fatigue".

I don't know if the Governor General did the right thing, I know she did a legal thing and that she was likely very well advised by persons of greater experience and education than myself. I don't know what the Prime Minister will do with his 53 days, or what the opposition will do with theirs, but I do have some very strong feelings about the precedent set by allowing a public official to avoid our duly elected MPs for that time. I'm not a Conservative - or a Liberal for that matter... but I am a very strong believer in the concept of "responsible government", which is the cornerstone of our system, and is the idea that the government is responsible to Parliament, and I'm not sure how I can translate what's happening now... where Parliament has been prorogued and the doors locked so that a Prime Minister doesn't have to be responsible for his decisions to the house. One would hope that the man was strong enough in his convictions that he wouldn't play with the concept of responsible government, and who knows, he will have to face them in the end. He's an educated and intelligent man (just because I don't agree with him doesn't mean I hate him) who does head a minority government that was legally elected, so he's certainly within his rights to ask for it. Joe points out, and he is right, that taking a thoughtful break for intelligent reflection until cooler heads can prevail is certainly very Canadian.

I hope that they all return in 53 days with a plan that reflects a new spirit of compromise, concession and noble behaviour. I know that I am not the only Canadian who will be devastated if this 53 days is used for further hurtful, divisive, attacks and campaigns, particularly the ones we've seen directed at the province of Quebec and the citizens of Canada who live there.

Peace out. Knit on.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:41 PM

December 3, 2008

What is happening in Canada

From reading the comments yesterday and today, it's pretty obvious that there is confusion over what's happening in Canada's government. This is a primer for non-Canadians (and some Canadians) about this mess. If you didn't care about this yesterday and you still don't care about it today, know that I am knitting a very beautiful brown sock and a great brown hat and this blog will maybe be interesting to you again tomorrow. (Or maybe not, since I don't know if I can count on a brown sock and a brown hat to put the zip into it.)

The first thing you need to know is that Canada has a parliamentary democracy, and that we are a Constitutional Monarchy. This is a very, very different system than the US uses, and it allows for a lot of interesting political variation. The most significant to the majority of my readers will likely be that our head of Government (The Prime Minister) is not the same person as the head of state (The Governor General). The Governor General is the Queen's representative in Canada, and plays an important role. (She's also the Commander-in-Cheif of the Canadian Forces.) In addition, we vote for parties not individuals. (Edited to add: There's been some debate about this in the comments, and as usual, the commentors are right and I was unclear. When I say this, I mean that we do NOT vote for a Prime Minister in an election. We vote for the person at our local level, they represent a party, and then the party's leader becomes Prime Minister. Clearer?) We vote at the local level and elect a Member of Parliament, and the party that gets the most MPs wins, and the leader of that party becomes Prime Minister. (Yup, that means that if the party choses a new leader while they are in power, we get a new Prime Minister without an election. It happens.) Because we have several valid, effective parties, the vote is split into several pieces, usually five. The Conservatives (Canada's "right" although not as far right as Republicans.) The Liberals (Canada's centre/but left leaning party) The New Democratic Party or NDP (The left) The Bloc (a Quebec Party that only operates in Quebec. They're allegedly "separatists" but it's been a while since that had a lot of momentum. They're left of centre.) And the Green Party (left of centre as well.)

Excellent. So an election is called (more about that later) and we all go vote (or most of us go vote. Shame on the rest of you, and I hope you aren't bothering to bitch right now. You gave up that right when you couldn't be arsed to go to the poll.) Now, one party will get more MPs elected than the others. That party will form the government and the Governor General will appoint it's leader our Prime Minister. The runner up forms "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition." and everyone else forms the opposition and everyone goes to the house of Parliament and all the MPs sit in the house and vote on stuff, and for a motion to pass the majority of the MPs need to agree it's a good idea.

If the winning party has enough MPs that they can pass stuff without help from any opposition MPs, then they have "a majority government". These governments tend to be very stable. If the winning party has enough MPs elected that they need the co-operation of an opposing party to get things passed... they are said to have a minority government, and those tend to be unstable, and the Prime Minister of a minority government needs to operate in a more co-operatie spirit, or he/she won't be able to get much done. In either case, the Prime Minister remains Prime Minister until one of 5 things happen.

- Five years are up.
- Their party decides they shouldn't be leader anymore.
- They die.
-They go to the Governor General and ask her to call an election.
-They lose the confidence of the house.

We are largely concerned with the last thing on that list. This is an important part.

If the government (majority or minority, though you can see how it's more likely to happen with a minority) tries to pass something that is a sort of a motion that has "a confidence motion" attached to it, and they lose that motion, then they are said to have "lost the confidence of the house", which means "the majority of MPs, and therefore Canadians, think that you're not doing a good job, and we have no faith that you'll improve. We want someone else." At this point, the Prime Minister goes to the Governor General, tells her that he's lost the confidence of the house and asks her (usually) to prorogue (suspend) parliament and call an election, which must happen within 8 weeks. Some important things, like how the government spends money, or how they use the Canadian Forces, are automatically "confidence motions", but (and this is so important to the rest of this) a confidence motion can be attached to any other motion.

Our current Prime Minister is Stephen Harper. He's a conservative, and he's been Prime Minister since his party won a minority government in February of 2006. The Honourable Prime Minister has taken an unusual approach to running said minority. Instead of operating in a co-operative spirit, the Prime Minister has been rather aggressive, and instead of moderating his motions to the point where the opposition might vote for them anyway, he has instead taken to attaching a confidence motion to just about everything. This means that every time the house votes, they can either vote with him, or force an election. All last year, this strategy worked beautifully. The opposing parties (particularly the Liberals, who were having leadership troubles) didn't want an election. Forcing the opposition to choose between forcing an election and agreeing with him rammed through a lot of legislation, but bred a lot of contempt. (Depending on whether you are a conservative or not, this strategy has alternately been called "being an aggressive parliamentarian who makes the most of the system" or "being a big fat bully".)

On September 7, 2008 the Prime Minister asked the Governor General to call a federal election, saying that there was no spirit of co-operation in the house (which is true, although debate rages about who's fault that is.) He won a second minority in October (vs his hoped for majority) but spoke of a renewed sprit of co-operation and productivity. Last week, immediately following the resumption of parliament, he reverted to his same strategy, and put forth an "economic strategy" which included, among other things, the removal of federal election subsidies to all parties. This would have effectively hobbled the oppositions ability to campaign, and guaranteed that they would be unable to oppose him in parliament, since they wouldn't have the money to launch campaigns.
There's a lot of debate over whether or not this was ethical. The Prime Minister made this a confidence motion, essentially saying (to put it mildly) to the opposition "either do it my way, or we'll have another election, which you will lose, will piss Canadians off, and will cost the country another $300 million dollars." ($300 million is the cost to the government of an election.)

The opposition cried foul. Not just because they were unhappy with the funding cuts, but because they claimed that the Government was not responding properly to the economic crisis by failing to provide (among other things) an economic stimulus package, and because they realized that Mr. Harper clearly intended to continue to govern by hanging the threat of an election over their heads every time he wanted a motion to pass. They said they had had enough and would vote against his motion, therefore causing him to lose the confidence of the house.

Mr. Harper responded to this by removing the funding cut, but the opposition did not back down, saying that their other problem had been the lack of response to the economic crisis, and that it still was. At this time, it is supposed that Harper, knowing that the Liberals (who lost badly in the last election and have leadership problems) were not only unwilling, but likely unable to manage an election, rolled the dice, believing that he had the other parties on the ropes, and stuck to his guns.

Meanwhile, the other parties formed a coalition... a combination party consisting of the Liberal party and the NDP (supported by unofficial members - the Bloc and the Green Party). Together, this constitutes every MP in the house who is not a conservative, and represents two thirds of Canadians. This coalition went to the Prime Minister and told him that he had "lost the confidence of the house" and that they were willing and ready to form an alternative government.

Re-enter the Governor General. The role of the Governor General is to appoint a Prime Minister, dismiss a Prime Minister, to prorogue (suspend) parliament, to call the house to the hill, or to dissolve parliament. She has the constitutional right to override the Prime Minister (although traditionally, she doesn't) and within the confines of the Constitution, she acts in the best interests of Canada as she sees them. For example, if a Prime Minister wanted to prorogue parliament, she could say "No. I don't think that's right." or if a Prime Minister asked her to call an election, technically she could refuse, or (and this is the important bit) she can ask a party from the opposition if they will form another government, should she believe this is a better choice.

What's relevant here, is that The Prime Minister essentially has two choices at this point. One way or another, he cannot continue to be Prime Minister, at least not without another election. He does not have the confidence of the house, and the rules of parliamentary democracy say that he's cooked without it. His choices are to either go to the Governor General - Madame Jean, and tell her he quits and ask her for the next step, or he can wait until there's a vote on something - anything, at which point the opposition will attach a vote of confidence to it, and his government will fall, thus automatically turning the next step over to the Governor General.

When a party does not have the confidence of the house, the Governor General has two choices. She can call an election and we'll all vote again... or she can, under the constitution, ask the opposition if they are ready, willing and able to form government. Obviously, if the opposition held few seats or was ineffectual, she wouldn't bother, since Canada would soon land in the same boat, when the new house couldn't agree on squat. It is not her job to do the bidding of the Prime Minister, it is her mandate to protect Parliamentary Democracy. Triggering another election mere months after the last one isn't good for democracy (because nothing can get done) and selecting a powerless alternative government also sucks (because nothing can get done.)

As the opposition (all of it. Every MP) has agreed to work together if they form the alternative, she can be reasonably sure that they will form an effective government, one that (at least theoretically) represents more Canadians than the current Conservative government, it is possible (we don't know if we can go so far as to say "likely" that this is what she will do.) The new coalition party will rule, and the Conservatives would become the opposition. Deep breath.

Obviously, the Prime Minister thinks that this is a pretty bad idea, and he is wigging out, mostly because of three things.

1. He doesn't want to lose his job. (Totally understandable.)

2. He says it is undemocratic. Many conservatives have called this a "coup" or "overthrowing the government" and have implied or claimed outright that it is illegal.

3. He claims that it is especially wrong because it includes the Bloc, a Quebec only party, claiming that it is a "betrayal of the best interests of our country."

There are several things wrong with that.

1. Well, there's nothing wrong with that. I don't want to lose my job either. Fair enough. You can't pick on the guy for that.

2. It isn't undemocratic. It is perfectly legal, has precedent in this country, has worked well in other countries with a Parliamentary Democracy and is a proper application of the principles and laws of that system. In fact, the current Prime Minister himself suggested the exact same thing to the Governor General in 2004, when he was the opposition. (There's a copy of his letter here.) He obviously didn't feel that it was an "undemocratic seizure of power" then, or a "betrayal" then... and it isn't now. He just doesn't like it and ... well. See #1.

3. The Bloc is NOT part of the coalition. They support it, they like it, but they are not a signatory. They will have power under the coalition, but, as many Canadians like to forget when we talk about the Bloc, they do represent an entire, enormous province of Canadians who's participation in parliament is appropriate and daily. Also, if you read that letter above, where Mr. Harper himself suggests forming an alternative government, you will note that he said himself that he would form it with The Bloc. If he was willing to align the Conservative party with The Bloc, then the Liberals aligning themselves with The Bloc can hardly be the mark of Satan upon them. He's just upset. See #1.

Where we are now, is that The Governor General is flying home (she was on a State visit to Europe) to deal with all this, and nobody knows what she will do. She must act within the confines of the constitution, and in the best interests of Canada as she sees them. Apparently, Mr. Harper, looking to avoid the official vote of confidence on Monday, is going to ask her to prorogue (suspend without dissolving) parliament until January, so that he can have more time to fix this up, or come up with an economic strategy that won't get voted down. This suggestion enrages a lot of Canadians, who are trying to figure out how the Prime Minister can believe that the best thing to do in the middle of an economic crisis is to not only fail to come out with a plan for it, but to then compound the trouble by having no parliament in session during said crisis. On the other hand, this suggestion thrills other Canadians who don't want to see this Government defeated. The Prime Minister will go to Madame Jean, the Governor General, and ask her to do.... well. We think it will be the prorogue thing, but he's a hard man to predict, and Madame Jean will pull the plug on parliament or not, call an election or not, appoint an alternative government or not. Usually a Governor General grant the wishes of the Prime Minister, but the question she faces, is "Is that reasonable if a Prime Ministers motivation is to avoid a legal vote?"

It all rests in the hands of one woman. Governor General Michaëlle Jean.

Dudes. I love this country.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:07 PM

December 2, 2008

Gifts for Knitters: The First

Dear Non-Knitters who need to buy a present for a knitter sometime soon:

I am a knitter. I've been a knitter for a long time. I've gotten a lot of gifts, knitterly and no, from non-knitters at the holidays, and I thought that I might take a couple of posts this year to help you choose a gift for your knitter that they might really love. I know that misconceptions about knitters abound, and that the ways peculiar to our breed might seem odd to the uninitiated, and that this confusion can lead sensible and loving people to do desperate things when it comes to gift giving. (Desperate things like novelty waffle irons. Just saying.) I'm hoping to providing a little guidance by giving you some ideas for things that your knitter might love to receive this year, and grant you superhuman status, scoring you some knitting street cred (and maybe another pair of socks). A knitters undying love and gratitude is a wonderful thing to have. Remember that although I'm going to make some suggestions about what your knitter might like to have as a gift, one of the things that makes us hard to shop for is that we all have different likes and dislikes. There's very little I can suggest to you that will be a guaranteed score, although I urge you to remember that a fourth bathrobe is probably not a great solution to that either. To guide you in your shopping, I want you to know that if you find this (or a future post) printed out and left lying about the kitchen (and the living room, and the bathroom, and the bedroom), that this would be a pretty good indicator that your knitter might be trying to tell you something.

Knitting is a craft, and your knitter is a craftsperson. Buying them really, really beautiful tools is like buying a woodworker a really, really excellent saw. Beautiful swifts, ball winders, needles and such are always good. To that end, boy, do I have one for you.


Signature needles. These needles are, for knitters, like a car person getting a Ferrari, or a cook investing in a set of Henckels knives. A pair made the rounds at Knit-night a while ago and we all boggled. They are so well made that frankly, I'm surprised that they don't keep knitting by themselves for a while after I put them down. These needles are expensive compared to other needles, but they are extraordinarily well made, hand-crafted, hand polished tools. (They're made at a machine shop where the president is a knitter.) These needles come custom made, the length your knitter likes, with a cap your knitter likes, and (be still my heart) a tip your knitter likes. (I have a pair with the stiletto point, which is supremely pointy. It's also likely dangerous, so if you have a knitter who likes to leave socks-in-progress on the couch, you might want to think about your personal safety on that one, and think about getting the "middy" or the "blunt".)

The dpn's (double pointed needles) have a microscopically ribbed shaft (get your mind out of the gutter) and while the yarn slides smoothly across them, this provides a tiny bit of traction, keeping the needles from slipping free of the work the way that they do on ordinary metal needles. The straight needles - the ones that I adore more than I can tell you, are slick like an expert car salesman. I won't kid you. These needles are a luxury item, straight up. They cost a lot more than regular needles, but they act like it. If your knitter is serious about knitting, if they spend a lot of time at it, and if they love metal needles, these are going to thrill them the way that an unlimited text message package flips out a 15 year old girl. There's just nothing like working with a beautiful tool like this for the serious knitter. The beauty of these needles is that they're made to reflect the knitter intimately, so if I were going to buy them as a gift, I'd leave the computer open to this page, and let my knitter work out a wishlist. I think they're too personal (and expensive) to just take a shot. When I'm knitting with these, I feel like I'm taking what I do seriously, and I can't say enough about the vibe. (I'm sort of hoping Joe reads this, since I'd really love another pair or two of these, and the price tag makes it hard for me to justify buying them for myself, no matter how seriously I take knitting. I think that's one of the reasons that these would make such a great gift. It's decadent.)

Note to knitters: I know this reads a bit like an advertisement, and I guess it sort of accidentally is - although if it were a real ad I suppose I would be paid to write it. I was just totally surprised by the love that sprang up unbidden for these needles. I hate finding out that expensive things sometimes really are much better than their cheaper mates. Generally speaking, there's no point in developing champagne taste if you have a beer pocket, and test driving a Rolls Royce only makes you feel worse about your old clunker, so I usually avoid high end products on the theory that you can't miss what you don't know. These broke me. I'm going to keep right on loving my ordinary everyday needles, they've served me well and make things just as well as the Signature needles do, just the same way that you can cook a really awesome dinner that tastes great, no matter what your cookware is like... but just like having other beautiful things to work with, these needles are a real pleasure - and I suppose that compared to the price of yarn (and considering that they don't get used up like yarn) maybe I'll start a gradual replacement plan.

Not all knitters will like these needles. (It was hard for me to write that.) If your knitter prefers circular needles (the ones that look like two little needles joined by a cable) exclusively, these might not be for them. I think they could make converts out of anyone else though.

Darned nice.

(PS. I gave up and asked Lene to make me a knitting schedule for the holidays. There's confidence, and then there's failing to understand the daunting nature of a task.)

(PPS. Thanks to all of you, this blog made it through the first round of voting for Canada's best blog, and Canada's best activities blog. Round two has commenced. Thanks so very much for not letting me get my arse kicked. It's lovely.)

(PPPS: If you're Canadian, WOW. Can you even believe what's going on? I'm flipping.)

Posted by Stephanie at 4:34 PM

December 1, 2008


I'm trying something new this year. Every year I worry about the Christmas stuff, and I try not to invite the planet to smack me for having confidence. I say "I hope I make it" and "Gee, it's going to be tough but I'm giving it a shot." and every year I get smacked anyway. The planet apparently hates a woosie-pants who doesn't have confidence. This year, my approach is going to be something else. This year, I'm putting it out there. I HAVE Christmas under control. I AM going to finish. It IS going to be something I get licked. The Christmas knitting IS NOT going to get the better of me this year. I repeat, I have it licked. I know that some of you think that this is inviting an arse-kicking, but considering that I get my arse kicked every year anyway, I figure that I might as well dwell in the happy place of delusion for as long as I can. To that end, I am still whipping out the knits in a knit-fate defying way.
See this?


A full pair of socks. Done. Off the list. A full pair of socks in only a couple of days. Hear that Knit-fates? See that? A whole pair of socks for Christmas and they are done and I put them on the pile with all those scarves and there is nothing you can do to undo them.


Yarn is "Muddy Autumn Rainbow" an exclusive STR sock club colour, Pattern "Holidazed" from Anne Hanson, also a STR sock club pattern. (It'll be available to the rest of the world next year. For now, it's sock club only.)


They're a little big for me, which is perfect since they aren't for me, although I love these enough that I'm bummed about that. One gift down - but wait! There's more! (Anybody else hear "it slices, it dices...." in the back of their head?)
I bought Laura's Just Enough Ruffles Scarf, and whammo! In the span of just a weekend...


(Quote from the photoshoot "Sam, try to smile like you don't resent your mother". Sam's answer?
"But I do resent my mother." Ahh, the joys of parenting teens. At least she's honest.)


Pattern: Just enough Ruffles, yarn, Beroco "Cuzco" 2 skeins in "Quenko Sky", though I didn't buy enough (simple math failure on my part, not a problem with the pattern) and needed to add another yarn for the INDETERMINABLE last few rows and cast off. I used Lorna's laces Shepherd Sock, in "Quadra Island" held double. It's a perfect match.


I'm supremely happy with it, and even happier that something else is off the list. See that knitting fates? ANOTHER ONE off the list and there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing. No matter what happens after this, you can't take the glory of this moment away. I've tried "not tempting fate" by cow-towing to your vindictive nature, I've tried not inviting your festive abuse in the past because you can't resist the smackdown, you immature and small minded holiday-achievement-haters. I've tried putting my expectations in the dumper and saying that I'll just do the best I can to avoid you seeking acrimonious revenge on me for my haughtiness - but this year? This year I'm not buying it. I know that I made a whole bunch of people nervous in my last post when I said "I have this Christmas thing SO licked" but what they don't understand is that I've tried to please you, I've tried to fly under the radar and not one year have you allowed me to finish my gifts on time - even though I've totally played it your way.

This year? This year I am going to drown you in my confidence. This year-you can bite me.

(Now if you'll excuse me, I'm just going to go make sure that my box of ornaments didn't just implode in the basement. I'm cocky, not stupid.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:04 PM